My hubby and I have been in a sort of evaluation mode for the past several weeks. Well, to be honest, it's probably more me than him since I'm slightly obsessive (read sarcasm) and an over-the-top perfectionist. I'm always looking for places we can improve.
Adding a second child has put some additional strain on our family. Pudgy, blue-eyed adorable strain, but strain nonetheless. So, of course, I knew it was time to evaluate!
I started with our monthly budget. We'd been using a free online service called Mint for tracking our expenses. It is wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone. It gave us a real look at how much we spend each month on variable expenses like eating out, groceries and gas. It also helped us track recurring expenses like that pesky mortgage and cell phone bill. Mint also churns out some neat graphs and charts that just made me feel totally legit. Seriously, check it out.
Despite it's versatility, however, we still weren't sticking to our budget and were always coming up short at the end of every month. Now, for the first couple of months I gave us a big ole out that went something like this: "We just had a baby. We're still getting our bearings. Things will shake out eventually."
Can you hear my denial? Yeah, me too.
So, I started looking for alternatives. Our church recently spent a few weeks discussing wisdom from Proverbs. We spent a whole service on budgeting. Exciting, right? It really was! Money is a big deal to God, in case you didn't know.
During his sermon, our pastor mentioned budgeting resources available through Crown Financial Ministries. Eureka! I'd found my alternative! (Ok, I didn't actually say eureka.)
Crown's resources were different than any others I'd seen because they worked with percentages. They provide recommendations on what percentage of your bring-home pay (after tithe) should be spent on things like food, recreation and housing. Their recommendations are based on how much money you make so they're not the same across the board. A family that makes $60K a year, for example, can spend a slightly greater percentage on housing than a family that makes $100K. However, both families should be saving the same percentage of their income every month.
After using Crown's resources to evaluate our budget, I made a not too surprising discovery. We were spending 105% of our bring-home pay every month. No wonder we felt broke! I knew we were spending too much, but I hadn't ever thought of it in percentages. It really helped me.
It also got me thinking about other areas of my life where I consistently over spend. Even if it's just by 5%.
Just a few extra calories every day. Just a little less sleep every night. Just a little less quality time with my hubby.
We think those little bits don't matter, but over time they really add up.
My little evaluation has reminded me that living within limits is important.