Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prioritizing Spending

Ted and I were in a wedding together last August. It was in Ottawa, and seeing as we live in New Brunswick, we had a lot of time to talk on the way there as well as the way back. I'd say this drive was a pretty pivotal point in terms of our relationship and how we see finances. It was after this drive that we implemented a weekly spending budget, and set up our allowance jars.

Weddings are expensive. We had spent quite a bit on the clothes, meals, getting there and all those other incidentals that add up. On the way back we got on the topic of saving for a house, and how we were going to have to change some habits to put save the kind of down payment we both wanted to make. Inside I was cringing at the though of tightening our belts, and on the outside I was...well pretty obviously upset too. My fear was that we were going to put our life into saving, and not LIVE in the time between then and buying a house.

When Ted puts his head into something, he goes for it very intently. He gives it 100%. I was afraid that saving would become all he was focused on, that numbers in the bank account would be put ahead of having new experiences, of doing things as a couple, and making memories together. But, I know myself, and if I were left handle our family finances alone I would swing too far the other way, and put most of our focus on living, rather than looking ahead to the future. I guess that's where a team mentality comes in. The next week we sat down together, multiple times, and worked out our incomes and expenses. We cut out a couple of things that I struggled to let go of, like a trip to Ontario after our son was born, but Ted gave some ground as well, and let us keep our babymoon before our son was born, and our trip to see my Mom after he was. Letting go of that Ontario trip was so hard for me at the time, but it worked out so well, my brother and sister in law and his parents came to see us at our home instead, and we didn't have to worry about packing up a one and a half year old and travelling with him.

We set aside a large chunk of our variable budget towards house savings, and that sacrifice means that we will have a manageable mortgage payment each month, and therefore we'll be able to have experiences when we are in our house. We were able to look at houses that were a little higher priced, and ended up finding the perfect house for us, the house that was meant to be OUR house. Compromising then meant having more later.

The lesson that I took out from all our struggle to find balance is that delayed gratification really does pay off. The things sacrificed by us, like dinners out, new clothes, and trips, means that our quality of life will be higher going forward. I still need to remind myself often, that we can find things at home for free to enjoy, that stuff is just stuff, and things don't make me happy. I still need to remind Ted that sometimes we have to let loose a little, to make the decision together that we will spoil ourselves, that saving will always be there, but experiences as a family at this stage won't be. It's a work in progress.