Is Your Budget Doing More Harm Than Good?

Do you stress over your money?

Is your spouse under the impression that you are constantly fighting over money?

Are you constantly fighting over money?

Have you completely eliminated your quality of life?

Do you spend hours each week analyzing where your money has gone?

A total budget can have a negative effect on the other parts of your life. If your spouse isn’t 100% on board, maybe he/she needs some “blow money” that doesn’t need to be tracked.  If you aren’t spending enough time with your children because you are tracking expenses and adjusting your budget every day, you need to automate something, or at least loosen your standards.  Maybe tracking every penny isn’t the right method of budgeting for you.

Don’t let the perfect budget destroy the rest of your life. If money is still a fight, you’re going to need to compromise on something, now, or you’ll end up compromising with the help of a divorce attorney.

Don’t forget, you are living now, not in the future.   Plan for the future, but live in the present.  There is a balance there, somewhere. Find it, or you and your loved ones won’t be happy.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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February 30 Day Project #1: Romantic Gestures

For the month of February, I had two 30 Day Projects: Do 100 pushups in a single set and another, that I haven’t posted.   Until now.

The reason I haven’t posted anything about the second project is because it would have ruined it.   I set a goal to do something nice for my wife every single day.   It’s really a much harder goal than it sounds.   Between juggling wrestling practice, crabby kids, the usual winter illnesses and deadlines at work, finding time to arrange for anything special presents a challenge, and I wanted it to be a surprise.

This morning, the last day of the month, I made breakfast in bed.  While she was eating, I handed her a letter and set a present on the floor next to the bed.  The present was one of our wedding invitations, framed, and the closing of our wedding ceremony in a matching frame.

The letter reads:

Dearest,

As you know, I’ve been working on a series of thirty-day projects.   In January, I got up at 5 every day and read to the girls almost every day.   If February, my project has been to get to 100 pushups in a single set.   Almost.

I worked at that and accomplished it, but it was really a cover project.  I love you and wanted a way to express that.  So, my main project has been you.

In the first week of the month, we had two snowstorms, do you remember?  For each one, I made sure to get your truck cleaned off before you were ready to go to work, with fresh coffee.   At the beginning of the week, you got a full 30 minute backrub, with absolutely no hidden motive.   At the end of the week, I sent you a letter expressing my feelings.  Over the weekend, you had no diapers to do–I think you ended up with one–and I let you sleep in as late as you wanted on Sunday.   It was a good first week.

The second week, there was another snowstorm on Monday.  Combining that with the grocery shopping kept me from having time to do anything on Monday, but Tuesday, you woke up to a clean truck again.  Wednesday, there were flowers.  Thursday, dinner.   Game night at [friend’s house]?  That was planned, by me, 3 weeks in advance.   Over the weekend, I watched the kids so you could go to [cousin’s] to relax, and you got breakfast in bed on Sunday.  I may have missed a day, but the week was still a success, I think.

The following week, while you were getting ready for bed, you saw me go outside and asked about it.  Thankfully, the girls woke up, because I had just put a note in your truck telling you 10 things I love about you.   I also took all of the kids to wrestling–twice–to give you some sanity time and gave you another long backrub.  This was also the week you got sick, which meant a day in bed for you, instead of me being able to plan something nice.

This week, the last week of the month, I took all of the kids to wrestling again, giving you a chance to take a nice, relaxing bath.  Those were originally planned to be two separate nights.   Instead, it was combined into one night.   I also managed to go shopping to buy the components of the present I am giving you, put the present together, and write this letter.  Last night, our date was a part of this, and today, so is breakfast.

My goal has been to do something nice for you, every day. So now, for an entire month, you have been the focus of my dedicated attention, nearly every single day.  I’ve felt closer to you, than I have in a while.   Have you enjoyed the attention?

Happy Valentine’s Month.

The actual expenses were the flowers, the frames, dinner and a movie, and a buy-in for Texas Hold ‘Em at her cousin’s house. Everything else was done with what we have, gifts of time and energy instead of money.

Total cost: $159 for an entire month of romantic gestures. Money well-spent, for sure.

Update:  This post has been included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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March 30 Day Project

For March, my 30 Day Project is to do 100 sit-ups in a single set.

Based on the results of my February project, I will be doing 5 sets, morning and night, as follows:

Set 1:  Half of my maximum amount.

Sets 2-4: 3/4 of my max.

Set 5: Do sit-ups until my abs start to cramp, thus setting my max for the next session.

This month, I only have one project.

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Avoiding the Downside of Saving

Like all good silver linings, saving often comes with a storm cloud. Too often, people fall into the trap of forgetting to live while they are digging out of debt. Once you get into the habit of spending every spare cent to pay down debt, retirement, or a college fund, it gets easy to ignore the present in favor of the future. The downside–or potential downside–to saving, debt repayment, and frugality is a deferred life. Whether it’s deferred fun, deferred education, or deferred personal development, it can be detrimental to you and your relationships.

Changing Reality

Changing Reality

My wife and I have had this conversation. We’re in the groove on our debt repayment. We are making excellent progress right now. Since we’ve got it all automated, it leaves us time to plan, dream and consider our options. We’ve been looking at converting a hobby into a business venture. Doing so will involve a $1-2000 investment. If we can make it work, my wife will be able to quit her tolerable, comfortable, soul-sucking job within a couple of years. If we can’t, she will still have moved her hobby into an advanced–and more fun–level. That’s a win either way, but our initial reaction is to postpone. We already know we’ll have to postpone the purchases until we’ve saved for it, because we refuse debt in all forms. Our initial reaction has been to postpone saving, effectively deferring development with long-term potential to improve our lives until our debt is completely gone.

We’ve been discussing this, off and on, for months. We have finally decided to start saving, but only when we have money that is purely extra and we’ve tucked money into all of our other savings goals. It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to be an acceptable compromise given our situation and values.

Regardless of your situation, it is important to remember not to defer your life while you tackle your debt or savings goals.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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