Guest post from Ann of Modern Mrs Darcy
Last year, our household income nearly doubled overnight — that will happen if you pivot from ministry to tech, as my husband did.
We are both born savers and committed to living frugally. We caught up some long-deferred expenses (hello, retirement accounts) but didn’t start dropping cash on big-bucks purchases simply because we could.
However, we did make a new budget.
Now that we’re firmly settled into it, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what’s changed over the past year — and what hasn’t.
- We increased our giving.
- We increased our savings. We promptly set up a twice-a-month automatic deduction from checking to savings, putting nearly all of the “extra” income towards our big financial goal.
- We increased our grocery budget (again). This change didn’t happen in a vacuum: my four kids have gotten older (and hungrier!) But I also made the conscious decision to spend a little more for the sake of convenience (by choosing easy-to-prep meals and doing my shopping all in one place), and use the hours I’m saving to write and blog.
- We spend a little more on childcare and household help. This was a practical move that feels like a luxury: having some help in our four-child homeschool helps me keep my sanity and frees up time for me to work. While hiring help made good financial sense, It was much easier to take the plunge once we had wiggle room in our budget.
- Our transportation costs have gone down. My husband’s commute is much shorter, and we’re seeing the savings at the pump.
These changes are real, but my husband and I agree that the biggest change isn’t a line item on the budget: it’s our attitude.
Our budget worked before, thanks to foundational decisions we made a long time ago (small mortgage, old cars, modest lifestyle). But we didn’t have much margin for error. Now that things aren’t so tight, I’ve relaxed about the small stuff. I review receipts but I don’t scrutinize them. I don’t freak out when my husband makes a few impulse buys at Target.
To borrow Dave Ramsey’s terminology, we didn’t have an expense problem before, we had an income problem. Interestingly, now that our income is up, we’re just as committed to living frugally than we were before — perhaps even more so. We’re inspired by our rapid savings progress, and excited about what we’re able to give.
It’s definitely nice to not have an income problem at the moment, but I’m grateful for the many lessons we learned because of leaner times. Three of these stand out: to focus on the progress I’m making even when I feel stuck, that living frugally is worth it, and that even when I can’t change my circumstances, I can change my attitude.
Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She’s putting a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or with her nose in a new favorite book.
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