Friday, November 11, 2011

A Penny for My Thoughts :: Musings

Before I get to the real task that brought me to this chair, namely balancing my computer-based envelope system budget, I thought I'd share a few random musings.

Musing: to be absorbed in thought (that's the definition on my computer; i have a Mac; it helps me be smart)

I included the definition because that's what good bloggers do. Right?

So, what was I absorbed in thought about? Oh yeah, I was thinking about a recent dialogue I had on email. Then, I thought about another dialogue via email. Seems I've had lots of little dialogues by email lately.

The first one was with my kids' school. I wanted to find out from someone in authority how they thought we, as parents, were expected to handle all the plethora of requests we get for financial contributions. Recently it's been a school field trip, teacher appreciation items, a Thanksgiving lunch, a canned food drive, and money for supplies for a reward day. Honestly, that's after several other things...and we're only on week 12 of school. And, I have three kids at the school. I just wanted to let them know I was feeling squeezed.

I was re-reading the dialogue and saw that my first email ended with me saying "I'm guessing I'm not alone in this struggle, though I have to say it took me pushing my pride aside to even email you this note. Therefore, I imagine not many other parents are willing to just say "this is not working for us"." (extra emphasis added)

That single statement got me musing. We are so afraid to talk about money. We are so hush-hush about it. We're afraid other people will see how we spend our money, will know how much we make (or don't make), will scrutinize our decisions with our money, will ask for money, .... It's crazy! We know we will be judged.

Yet, Jesus understood this so much. He talked more about money than he did about heaven and hell! So, money must be pretty important.

Money represents so much. For me, it has a way of unearthing the ugly things in my heart.

For the sake of being real, let me explain something and then share something.

First, explain...I wrote at the beginning of the year about moving to a cash envelope system. You can read that post here. We have kept up with it fairly well. We lasted through May, then went off cash for our trip to the east coast in June. I didn't get us back on track with cash until August. That's also when we started getting our paychecks directly deposited. So, I've had a hard time getting a system in place to be "on" with it again, but I've been trying. Can I say here that having a baby throws a whole new dimension into my life? What ever was I thinking when I thought one more would just join the rest in our routine? Not so! The boy needs to nap all the time and I can't get nearly as much done anymore! Okay, so back to money. We have been sluggish with discipline lately.

Second, share...we have $24 cash to last us until Tuesday (next payday). Now, when I say that, please don't think I mean we have no money in our account and just $24 cash. What I mean is that between all my envelopes of "spending" money, we have $24 left. I didn't use cash at the grocery store this week (two stores in two trips) and spent more than I probably would have had I used cash. In addition, I was a little loose with my card because I didn't have cash and bought a pair of shoes for myself and one for Jett, along with some clearance costumes and candy. I "needed" the shoes (in other words, I don't have any brown shoes I can wear with khakis, so I could "justify" "needing" the shoes) and then got amazing deals on the costumes and candy (like less than $10 total). BUT...if I had opened an envelope of cash and saw a limited amount of funds, I don't know that I would have bought those items. Maybe, but I'm not sure. BUT, I did. It's done. So, now we have $24.

What's my point? Just to tell you. Whoever is reading. We struggle with money. We struggle with decisions. We make dumb choices and regret it. We want things we can't afford. Sometimes we buy them and then have to forgo other things to cover our tracks. One good thing, we are committed to no debt. So, I always pay off our card balances. It's not an option and hasn't been for years. So, we don't lack complete discipline. But, we still struggle.

We were going to go out for lunch today because Joel gets a free meal (Veteran's Day! hooray for amazing men and women who serve our country). But, with just $24 cash in hand, we aren't. We decided to change our plans.

As my email said (excerpt above), I'm guessing I'm not alone in this struggle, though I have to say it took me pushing my pride aside to even email you this note. write this blog post. Therefore, I imagine not many other parents of you are willing to just say "this is not working for us."

[I just saw this cute comic on XKCD about money and savings.]


  1. Megan: Once again you are talking about a subject we all can relate to... no matter what amount of money you bring in.. there is always a struggle. When I first started working as a social worker, yes a 4 year degree and I made $7 an hour working for Head Start in Atlanta, GA. I had to pay for my own health insurance, part of my rent in my apartment I shared and 1/3 of all cost of heating, phone, etc My two roommates at the time borrowed money from me from time to time for rent and would quickly pay me back like two days later. I was often jealous of their cool cars, awesome wardrobes, neat purses and all the events they attended on the weekends. I spent most of my time in our apartment or watching TV because that's all I could afford. I was young, 24 and I wanted to being living it up more but I knew what my budget was and how to stay in it. Now that I am a mom and a wife, I'd like more for my kids but I know in my heart all my kids really need right now is me on the floor play games with them, or on the couch reading to them or at their school spending time volunteering (when I could be working extra hours for $$$). What they need is me and what I need is them. I thank you for your honest post and I pray if there are other moms out there in debt that they would listen to your advice on how to use the money system. I think the temptation to think we NEED something is always there... my prayer is that the Lord would stop me and focus my thoughts on Him and His choices for the money HE provided our family. All the money in our account is His, it is my duty to use it well and use it wisely.

  2. PS keep on keeping on mama... you are one reason we stay in our budget. You have given me thousands of tips. I was just talking to my dad today about you and he said, you are lucky to have such a resourceful friend and I said "YES i am!"

  3. Megan~
    We have been doing cash only for over 3 years now and it has been amazing. We have paid off tons of debt, went to Disney World, and no longer have to sweat about how we are going to pay for this and that. On my blog I have a label on the right with my posts on money, cause like you I think it is so important that we don't hide our money issues. And I agree that the school bleeding us dry gets OLD! Next year I will have 3 at our school and it will be really really tough to manage the onslaught of financial requests.

  4. Megan,
    I so agree, we are a hush hush society when it comes to cash. 2 years ago in November Tom and I listened to Dave Ramsey's book on tape. At the moment were debt free... But the house... I'm not sure how long that is gonna last... :-/ were on baby step 3 and its gonna have to go on hold. Sweet potato needs her Vest Respiratory Airway System to the tune of ???? Insurance is getting back to me on how much of $16,900.00 they are going to cover. But being debt free these last few months is so awesome.

    Don't worry your not the only parent to complain I know I have... My solution was to make a new line item in the budget I averaged it all out.. field trips, donations etc.. it came to 20$ a month for one kid. Tuck it away and when it piles up and you have left overs in June take DH out to a nice meal :-)

    Oh I have a can full of box tops your welcome too, maybe they would take those instead of Money they are worth 10 cents a piece right???

  5. What a great post. You're right; we are embarrassed to say, "No, we can't go to lunch because we don't want to spend that money right now." Maybe if a few of us start being more honest, it will encourage others to. Hmm....

  6. Thanks for your post and your honesty...I just renewed my subscription to DR total money makeover...planning to move back in to town and cut $800 off the rent!! Talk about a make over!! Love you guys and will talk soon...when I get a free minute!!