Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living on a budget

It will be no surprise to anyone who has ever lived on a budget that it is not fun to live on a budget.

On many levels, I do not like living on a budget. It's annoying at best; I find it frustrating and difficult.

But we're doing it. We really are doing it, and we have a plan to get out of medical and credit card debt and live a debt free (except the mortgage, which has a good rate and is 30 year fixed, so we've got that in our favor) life, and I am holding that goal close to my heart. I know that we can make some fabulous inroads on our finances, and that we can accomplish our goals. That is why our budget is a worthwhile venture....even when I'm not enjoying it.

A case in point? I want to go grocery shopping today, but it's not in the budget, so I'm not. This means that I have to eat the cereal that's left, and not the cereal that we just ran out of. This means that we HAVE to eat the salmon that I purchased at Trader Joe's, because we're running out of other options. This means that tonight or tomorrow we need to have frozen (gasp!) green beans as our vegetable, because we're running low on fresh veggies. This means that we can not have cheese and crackers as a snack, because I just ate the last crackers. This means that we will be eating apples, apples and more apples because that's the only fruit left in the bowl (no more bananas or pears). Tessa won't get "Mama's oatmeal" tomorrow because today we used up the rest of the maple syrup (she'll get scrambled eggs and toast, or cereal, or yogurt and fruit, instead....or she could have traditional oatmeal with milk and brown sugar and raisens).

When I put it like that, it's the abundance that I see - the fact that we still have so much left in the cupboard, that we have plenty to eat, that our choices are not just rice and beans. Still, it's an adjustment to live within a budget, and to not just pop in to the grocery store the minute that I want something different.

So, I'm putting crackers, and maple syrup, and bananas on the grocery list, and on Friday (next day of the budget cycle) I'll go shopping.

It's funny how budgets boil down like this - the way to get ahead is to eat the apples, instead of buying more bananas. Huh. Put like that, I think I can do it.

Even when I'm craving a banana.

I feel comfort knowing that if I *needed* to go grocery shopping, I could. I take comfort that I'm making a choice: I am choosing to live withing a budget rather than break the budget and buy some items I want. I'm also learning to redefine wants and needs: we do not need maple syrup when we run out of it, we want it. I also think that as I get better at this budget game, I'll learn not to run out of maple syrup....but I guess I'm not there yet.

It is interesting to me that at the age of 39 I'm finally facing true budgeting, and I'm realizing how easy I've had it for most of my adult life. Still, I'm eager to face this challenge and to rise to it, no matter how late of a bloomer I may be.

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