Note: This is a guest blog post from my beautiful wife Stacey Figueroa. In honor of Valentine’s Day I asked her to share what our financial journey has meant to her. Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day! – José
This spring, my husband and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage and 5 years of being debt-free except for our mortgage. When he asked me to write about how being debt-free has changed our lives, I started thinking about how differently we live now, and how our goals have changed since we started on the debt-free journey.
We actually have money in the bank, so that when the water heater goes out or the car needs new shoes, we don’t have to panic. We have been able to participate in special offerings at our church, beyond our monthly tithe. And we’ve been able to travel more than we used to. We’re not wealthy, but we don’t devour every bit of income that we earn.
That brings me to the ‘B’ word. The budget. I know that for many people, the word ‘budget’ has different meanings. Some people think that budgeting means scrimping and saving to barely get by, or being thrifty. For some, it’s a great idea, but it never goes beyond a mental plan that is forgotten the minute you enter the store. In our world, it means a written-out budget that we both agree to before the month begins, and we stick to it! It’s the only way we have found to exert control over our money. But, it’s far from being a prison that my husband and I have made for ourselves. The budget means freedom. Really.
I begin the month with a certain amount of money for clothing, which for me includes shoes and purses as well as clothes for my body. (It’s also supposed to include clothes for my husband, but thank the Lord he only needs new clothes about twice a year! Yes, I’m still selfish but working on it.) The sure-fire way to stick with this line in the budget is to put all the money budgeted for clothing into an envelope. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Having a clothing envelope really made me spend only on things that I really loved. It sparked a new discipline in me that hadn’t been there before.
Here’s where the freedom part comes in. When I would arrive back home, I didn’t have to explain why I had been out shopping again. I didn’t have to show my husband the receipt, because the money had already been accounted for in the budget. I didn’t have to hide anything in the trunk of my car. All he cared about was how happy I was with my purchases. That’s it. No arguing. No guilt. Freedom.
The clothing category is just one example of how using a budget takes away spending guilt and brings freedom. It works the same in every category. It allows the two of us to talk about our money, and that drives us to be honest with each other. Freedom. All because of the ‘B’ word.