Truth: I am not good at budgeting. Numbers make me tired. Plus, when I budget, then I have to balance that budget, which means I have to do math and see that I spent a number of dollars at Starbucks. And Target.
After I do the math and see the number, I feel badly. This is inevitable. And I don’t like to feel badly. I like to drink yummy beverages and find cute doo-dads that I don’t really need but say I need. Then I like to swipe a plastic rectangle through a machine and be done with it.
Here’s the tricky thing that has been happening to me, though, as I think about Generous 2015. Generosity is annoyingly practical. I have something–time, forgiveness, attention, food–that I give to someone else. Hopefully in doing so we are mutually graced. But the sticking point is that the more I have, the more I am able to give.
As in, if I were to stop spending my money on myself, I would have more money to spend on others. My capacity to be generous is influenced by my budget.
Of course generosity is not strictly financial. Indeed many of the best gifts are not tied to a dollar amount.
But some gifts are.
And sometimes, I can use the ‘best gifts don’t have a price tag’ logic in an attempt to excuse my spending habits and ignore the equally true dynamic that if I managed my money differently, I could use more of it for others.
So January has been about prep work. There are two kinds of preparation, I’m finding. First, there’s the ‘last meal’ type things. For instance, I bought some final ‘approved but not strictly budgeted for’ items, like pretty bedding for our room in the new house. We took a vacation to California and ate Double Doubles and Wahoo’s.
Then there’s the ‘getting ready to live a different budget’ stuff. Step 1: Make a budget.* Step 2: Download spending tracker app and AmEx app. Step 3: Spend less.
*Pre-step 1: Head to an all staff meeting where they spend 2 hours on financial health and show a heap of Dave Ramsey clips. Follow up with church on the weekend with a sermon on faithful stewardship in practical terms. That’ll get you.
I don’t totally know what this means, in a day-to-day sense. Past No Spend Months have been valuable, and maybe that’s what February holds. My hunch is that it is.
What I know right now is that I want to be able to feed people around the table in our new house. I want to be able to hit “Donate Now” when someone I care about fund raises for a cause that matters to them. I want to pick up the latte for friend who could really use a good cup of coffee. I can’t do those things if there is no financial margin in my life. Margin, in general, does more for us than we realize, I think.