January 3, 2013

My Budget Stubbornly Refuses to Balance

We've been meeting with a financial planner.  He is a very nice man.  It's not his fault that my proposed budget doesn't balance, so I am trying to stop secretly projecting my anxiety onto him, as if it's his fault.  His affable apologies suggest I'm not the first of his clients to want to blame him for telling me the truth.

The thing is, I thought I didn't worry about money.  One of my parents was a very careful saver and spender,  the other a spender who has chosen to live for the moment.  I tend by my nature in the direction of the latter. Thankfully, I married the former.

In the early years of our marriage, like many people, we scarcely had two nickels to rub together (as they say).  He was a volunteer right after college, just before we got married.  Then he worked for peanuts while I did a little more school.  Then we both worked for peanuts, me only part-time.  Then we had a baby, and I stopped working altogether.  We didn't have much extra cash in those days.

I wasn't a good sport about it.

During the few years of young adulthood I'd already put behind me, I was practicing "living in the moment" -- by which I mean, doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, even if I couldn't afford it.  I had accrued a little debt, but before we got married I came to my senses and paid it off.

What I couldn't put behind me so easily were some bad habits.  I liked (still like -- let's be honest) to eat out.  To go places.  Do things.  I didn't like (don't like -- more honesty) to be told, No.  We ended up in this vicious cycle where I would whine and feel sorry for myself, in classic-child-mode, and he, having to Dad-up, would end up feeling like the bad guy.

Over time things improved.  I decided to grow up.  He could then loosen up.  But we still operated for years on a budget plan that could be summed up as Don't Spend Money.

Of course, we spend money, and over the years, we've steadily spent more.  Some of it is about having kids.      Some is about putting our money where our (ahem) mouths are and buying organic.  Some of it is just spending-creep.

We've stayed out of debt.  While we owned a business, we squirreled away a tidy sum.  We live in a modest home and have modest stuff -- cars, one (27") T.V., clothes from Goodwill and Target.  I thought we were doing great.

I was wrong.  At least according to my financial planner.  And my budget, which still doesn't balance.

I like to think that I trust the God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:25-34).  My recent panicked consideration of the Craig's List job board suggests otherwise.

Jesus does not mince words on the subject:  "But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (v. 33).

I brought my calculator with me to Costco today, because facts are facts.  But I'm trying to remember that time spent striving for the kingdom of God will reap a lasting reward that worrying over last year's receipts cannot supply.

And if you're looking for a financial planner, I know a very nice, honest guy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, we are familiar with the financial planning software that lets you see your grim financial future after 5 colleges, 5 weddings, inflation, insurance and after working to age 105 enjoying a long, relaxing retirement.

    Then it comes to my mind, that my appointed time may come at anytime, now, 2 years from now, 60 years from now. None of us know the day or the time. Like your last comment and the verse you referenced; lately I have been taking greater stake of the investments I have been making in His Kingdom. You know, stuff that you can actually take when you go to be in His presence. And I must say, when I do that, all of my worldly concerns for my / our financial future pale in comparison to the feeling I get that I may have missed something BIG in this life that He wanted me to accomplish. A moment with my wife. An encouraging word to one of my children in a hurting moment. A listening ear to a fellow employee going through a hard time. An invitation to a friend to attend church. A handout to someone in need. All of this a challenge to capture each and every day as the world demands our attention. But Christ can empower us to hear Him, to embrace Him and to answer His call to act in these moments. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes these moments do include spending less, saving more and giving out of the great abundance that is really not ours anyway...

    Great post, thanks for sharing, this topic has clearly been on my mind lately (just ask Kristen)...