Over six months ago Mark and I started our new budget, and it’s been harder than I’d hoped to live within it. We had some unexpected, and therefore unbudgeted, expenses and we’ve cheated a fair amount on our $150 a week kitty money. But, on a positive note, everything we’ve charged with our credit cards we have immediately paid off.
I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to living within our budget is that, other than going broke at the end of the month, we don’t have a huge incentive to save money. Don’t get me wrong, not going broke is a pretty big incentive in and of itself, but it’s a fear-based incentive rather than a reward incentive. When we created our budget in January, we didn’t budget for anything fun — no trips, no big purchases, nothing — because after looking closely at our finances, we felt like it would be financially irresponsible to include these things in our budget. Consequently, sometimes it feels like we’re trying hard to save money without a little carrot at the end of the stick to keep us going.
Early last week Mark suggested that we go to a baseball game — Charlie’s first. Ordinarily, I would have flinched thinking of the cost, but we had some unseasonably cool weather (which for North Carolina means that the weather was tolerable as opposed to hideous). I knew that if we didn’t go then, we wouldn’t go all summer. So I agreed and Mark went out with Charlie and bought the tickets for a game a couple of nights later. I didn’t ask Mark how much the tickets cost, and when we got to the ballpark we spent a fair amount on food, drinks, and some over-priced games for Charlie. The truth is, I didn’t want to know how much it all cost. I just wanted to have a good time and create some memories. I felt like we needed it.
So the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past six months of living with our budget is that we need to revise the budget to accommodate fun activities, including a vacation. These things don’t have to be hugely expensive, but they need to exist in order to make budget living a lot more palatable.