on budgeting (the right way)

as i mentioned in my last post, my “nesting” this time around has taken on a different form: it’s about financial planning, budgeting, and preparing to buy a new home. i’ve been thinking a lot about money and working a lot with numbers (filing taxes, gathering financial documents for mortgage applications). in some ways, i’m thinking, “who AM i? doing all this work with numbers… weird!” but i have so much energy for it right now, and it feels so much more important to get right at this point in my life than it ever has before.

i’m working with self-employment income (read: lots of expenses to keep track of + nasty taxes), but also a husband who is about to become a certified minister and will then qualify for the mysterious and complicated manse allowance and some other odd tax statuses that are totally over my head. and i’m working with the soon-to-be reality of owning two homes and renting one of them out (we’ll be landlords(!) and we hope to do that with integrity). so, there’s a learning curve here. a steep one.

we’ve been technically budgeting for our entire marriage. but the budget has been an excel spreadsheet that tentatively maps out the costs of all living expenses and bills and things to keep money on hand for (e.g., unexpected car or home maintenance stuff). but, that spreadsheet — while it does give us a ball park estimate of how much money we can afford to spend on groceries or entertainment in a month/season while still managing to pay the bills — has had no power to track where the money is actually going. consequentially, there was so much falling through the cracks, and all those “save-up-in-case-of-emergency-or-for-a-vacation” sections of the budget were basically not happening because of that. still, i liked the system because there wasn’t much accountability (well, that’s honest). if i felt like we had a little extra money, i was excited to be able to buy a few more cloth diapers or stock up on some other useful but ultimately unnecessary item for our home or family. and i could get away with it. but then a week later i’d find we didn’t quite have enough to pay the gas bill because i forgot it was coming up and instead went thrift store shopping.

and, by God’s grace, we’ve gotten by this way. we’ve never missed a payment on a bill and when the emergencies have arisen — like having to replace a water heater and a furnace within about a year of each other — somehow we have always been able to pay cash to replace it. we haven’t even been relying on credit cards. and i have to tell you that this really is purely grace and the kind provision of a Father who is really patient with His daughter’s misguided budgeting efforts. i can’t explain how it has always all worked out.

still, it seemed time to get serious about getting a handle on our finances, to steward well what we’ve been given, and to be mentally freed up from keeping track of so many moving parts in my little brain. tim saw the need first and suggested a system called You Need a Budget (YNAB). i was reluctant (remember how i loved that lack of accountability), but after a few friends — quite independently of tim — joined in on the chorus of praise for YNAB, i read up on it a bit and realized i was ready to surrender. 🙂

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and now i am SO. EXCITED. about the budget. it might be ridiculous. but this system makes so much sense and it makes me giddy. here, just a few days into it, i have this sort of peace from knowing exactly how much i can spend on what. and knowing that every bill is accounted for. i will almost never have to look at my checking account balance again. and this system will even help us navigate the next few months of changes that come with moving, paying two mortgages, receiving rent, having a baby, and switching jobs (tim) and tax statuses.. AND it’s going to help me stay focused in our goal of saving up enough money to pay the [ginormous, rather depressing] taxes we owe this year [because i didn’t fully know what i was doing when i was trying to put aside money for self-employment taxes, apparently].

i have been looking at my YNAB budget spreadsheet several times a day and just appreciating its elegance, and the fact that it does so much math for me (hehe). and though i know that right at this moment i have zero money to spend just for funsies, at least i know WHY: i know that the money i might otherwise have felt free to spend here and there is assigned to a few really good and worthy jobs, jobs that i wouldn’t want to take them away from.

this isn’t supposed to be an advertisement for YNAB, though i wouldn’t mind if you took it that way. this is supposed to be more of an honest conversation about the untouchable subject of personal finances. i wanted to share my journey, along with my shortcomings and sinful attitudes, surrounding money…and to share the way that we’re stumbling into the light in these areas. feels real good, folks.

how about you? what has your journey/struggle/triumph with personal finances/budgeting been like? i’d sincerely love to hear about it.

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One thought on “on budgeting (the right way)

  1. Pingback: 1 year after stepping back | first the kingdom

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