Friday, 1 May 2009

Complacent Budgeting

I have been reminded quite often lately of the good provision that is given to me and my family and I have been struck at just how easy it is to become complacent about what you've got and how simple it is to become flippant with money and how it's spent.

The past year, having probably been my most unhappy emotionally, has been steadily improving financially. But for four or so years prior to that, money was incredibly tight. Tight to the point of sometimes having to rely on my mother to buy groceries as I just couldn't seem to get through the last week of the month to put food on the table. Dire, dire times. Times that were out of mine and Andy's control and no fault of either of us.

But tight budgeting became a challenge for me. I'd meticulously look at our incomings, work out the tax credits and child benefit dates of payment, match them to Direct Debits and Standing Orders going out, to ensure that enough money was in the account at various times of the month to meet our financial obligations and then set myself a weekly budget for food and petrol.

As food and petrol prices increased, my disposal income for these decreased in real terms and I found myself becoming more and more thrifty and almost adopting the mantra of the 1950s housewife and slowly turned into the Mrs Beeton of Lower Earley.

And in a warped kind of way, I found myself actually enjoying the challenge of walking around the supermarket with my calculator being determined to get all the things on my list within my budget. I abandoned using my debit card, withdrew cash and boldly paced the aisles knowing that if I didn't get my calculations right, I was on my way to looking a complete dork at the checkout if I had to put items back.

I look back now and I see that all through these times we were carried. At times I'd be in tears wondering how on earth I was going to provide packed lunches for the children, how I was going to give them hot meals at night with barely anything in the cupboard and at times Andy would withdraw completely from the problem. I understand now that it wasn't due to uncaring, it was panic and worry. Worry that his family were suffering. But through it all, I'd constantly tell him that I believed we were being looked after, that something would always come along and get us out of the mire we were in. I knew what I was talking about, but I never had the boldness to actively say that I believed God was looking after us.

But I find myself now in a position where financially we're a little better off. Not a lot. We can afford our bills, petrol and food. That's it. We don't have money left over for luxuries. I struggle to send children on school trips, I feel guilty at buying things I don't really need and I feel totally frivolous that a new sofa has been ordered, despite the fact the one we have is uncomfortable and falling apart.

However, it's easy to fall back into the trap of complacency. It's easy to sit back and just take it for granted that you're in a secure job and the pay cheques will follow one after another. It's easy to nonchalantly put things in the shopping trolley because you've just been paid and it's easy to get carried away when you pop into town for one item and come back with three bags full of things you want, but don't really need.

So, I've realised lately I need to get back to budgeting. I need to sit in the study, pull up the accounts and set my priorities straight in the money department. Not because we're struggling, but because I've been stirred by something I heard at church. The money has been given to me to use wisely. It's not really mine and abusing it is abusing the one who has given it to me so generously. It's only right that I pay due respect and honour by responsibly allocating it.

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