Budgeting, Being Happy, and Stuff We Need

by Merissa on September 7, 2010

in Thrifty Living

I felt guilty the other day. I was sitting with my husband at a restaurant and the waitress brought the bill and I felt guilty. I looked at it and thought, "Ok, I spend $25 a week on groceries and here I am spending $16 on ONE meal." I looked at my hubby and said, "We have to stop doing this." And he replied, "Well aren't we supposed to spend money on the little things that make us happy?" He was referencing my post from a few weeks ago.(HERE)
I've been thinking about what he said for the last couple days. Yes I did agree with that article, to spend money sometimes on little things that will make you happy. But then I thought about being in debt....the only debt we have is our mortgage and our car loans(which I wish we didn't have but hubby insists on driving nice cars). The loans make me unhappy. So even if I sit here and spend money on small things all the time to give myself momentary happiness, in the end I will still be unhappy because I have the cloud of debt over my head.
The mortgage is something that doesn't bother me as much. We are young, this is our first house, it's normal to have a mortgage debt at our stage in life. We planned for it well. I paid off all school loans and extra loans before we bought the house and we bought under our price range so we knew we could afford the house, even if we had a low month.
The car loans bother me, yes we can afford them, even in a low month, but growing up I didn't have a car loan, I drove a junker and I was perfectly happy with it. On another note though, we are one of those couples where one of us is way more thrifty than the other.(Can you guess who?) My husband had several vehicles before we got married and he paid more for them(even if it wasn't that much compare to today standards) than I would even dream of paying. I bought my grandparents old hail damage clunker for $500. Before we got married my husband spent money on clothes and whatever he felt like. He never had a savings account. I had a savings account since I was born. I followed the envelope system and I put away money each paycheck. By the time I left for school I had several thousand dollars in my account from working a part time job. Unlike the other kids at school, I was paying for my education, instead of my parents.
People are different, it's just a fact of life, and when you get married compromises have to be made. I let my husband pick out our cars, which might not always be the smartest move but I know he's not happy when he doesn't have the car he likes to drive. I don't like the debt but I like him to have the car. Anyways, the point I'm trying to get at here is this, he gets the nice cars, that makes him happy. I'm going to use money that may have been spent on something else to pay off those cars sooner, that makes me happy. That's our compromise. You may not agree with it but it works for us.
Going back to my original story...spending that extra money made me unhappy and feel guilty. So even though it was on something fun and extra I shouldn't have made myself spend the money. For me, I will be happier debt free. Then I will feel like I can spend money on the little things and not feel guilty about it.
All this morning I worked on coming up with a budget and some new plans. My get-out-of-debt plan. I've made these before but they haven't been fully agreed upon so they fell apart. The budget I've finally come up with helps us to pay off things that need to be paid off so I have less stress.
We don't make alot of money, which I'm sure you can tell by my posts. I'm not one of those rich people that are thrifty just because, we are thrifty because we have to be. I do everything I can(most of the time!) to save us money in all aspects of our lives. Along with my new budget I've also come up with some goals I want to follow. Here are my goals for the next couple months:
  • Take whatever produce I can get for free and USE it. My mom recently asked me if I want another box of apples to can up. I thought about saying no because we don't eat alot of apple stuff and then I thought about it. We don't eat alot of apple stuff right now, but if it's free, shouldn't we try? We like apples, I can them in several different way, there is no reason why I should be turning down free food! So I took that box of apples and I'm ready to take more if I find more.
  • Stick to my $100 a month grocery budget, see if I can have some leftover at the end of the month. I started this one a couple weeks ago and I may have strayed off course here and there but I know we can stick to it and still eat well. That's the glory of couponing!
  • Start a savings account and work on a emergency fund. No we don't currently have a savings, we used to but moving 4 times in 3 years can take its toll on you. I know we can get there again and I'm determined to do just like I did in high school, set aside a certain amount from our paychecks each month and put it in savings and NOT take it back out.
Those are my goals for the next few months. Yes, there is only 3 but I think they are some good ones to start following. I work well when I have a plan. And I know that if I continue with this plan we will be debt free someday.
I love to hear your thoughts on my ramblings. Do you and your spouse agree about money? What are some compromises you've had to make? Do you have budget goals for the rest of the year or for next year?
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annie September 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

You guys sound like my husband and I! I’m also more of the thrifty one and he likes to enjoy smaller, nice things to keep happy. I grew up with a savings account that I deposited babysitting & PT job paychecks into; I’ve always used direct deposit & set aside money from the get-go when I started working at 17.
I think the best way we have found to be thrifty is to stick to the cash-envelop system; we each get set “fun money” amounts each month, plus $100 grocery; then we pay our bills & fill up gasoline directly from our account, either at Kroger (up to $2 off a gallon of gas, up to 35 gallons; cheapest: $47 and change) or Giant Eagle (can get up to FREE fill-up – limit 30 gallons; plus you get 1% off food per 10 gal). We keep gas in cans in our garage and fill up our cars when we get low through the month. I also try my hand at “extreme couponing” when I can (building up fuel points), large backyard garden in the city, and preserve [can] produce from my garden as well as nearby farms’ u-picks. (Have you tried canning homemade applesauce? I use it in place of oil, equal parts, in any recipe I can). And I’m slowly but surely building up my Etsy shop, Knittedhome. I’d love to have a sustainable income for when we start our family.
I really hope we can build up our savings account for a small addition on the back of our kitchen for a third, master bedroom.
Sorry to ramble; There’s a lot to answer, I suppose. I’m really enjoying your blog! Can’t wait to read more :)

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2 Candas January 4, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I need some help in learning how to really budget. I just went part time and I’m really wanting to get out of debt and save. Any suggestions?

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3 Merissa January 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

Candas I will be focusing this entire year on ideas for getting out of debt! I’ve got a starter post coming up on Wednesday so keep watching!

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4 Peggy Stenglein December 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm

That’s wonderful, and exactly what I need to do! I lose sleep worrying about how to pay this or that! My one and only goal for this coming new year is financial health! When I don’t worry about money, I myself am much more relaxed, happy and carefree, which in turn makes everyone in the house the feel the same way. I’ll be eagerly watching your posts! And Happy New Year!

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5 S.L.Lockhart December 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I too have had the problem of my hubby not agreeing on a budget, but…since I was the one who had control of the money, he brought the check home I divided it up where we needed it and he received an allowance per pay. He finally went for that and I controlled the rest, groceries, utilities, etc. I paid our bills all on time or earlier than they were due. We actually paid off a vehicle 18 months early by paying 1/2 payment every payday, which was every other week. Our banker teller told us to do this and it really helped. I divided the monthly payment in 1/2 and then evened out the amount. $300.00 every other week. Paid off that bill really fast. Hubby really liked that and was hooked on my plans from then on.

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6 Lynnanne March 12, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Hi Marissa-

I just stumbled upon your website recently and just wanted to let you know I think it is really great. You are doing an awesome job.

10 months ago my husband left his postion to stay at home with our 2 kids under 2 FT so I could return to work (we felt strongly that one of us should be present as the full time caregiver in the home until our kids are school aged at the least and I had the more family friendly job).

Since then we have been working dilligently to get our budget under control, pay down our debt and put some money aside for savings and for the kids future while adjusting to living on a modest single income family.

One nice thing is that we have both found that identifying what’s important and what’s not (in terms of material needs) has become much easier since having our children…they managed to put everything in perspective in a snap!

I just wanted to say that I appreciate some of the posts you have made about gift giving and not wanting kids to be inundated with gifts and toys at every turn.

Mu husband and I both see the value in living a simpler less materialistic life and I am fully appreciating the many successes and challenges you are writing about.

It is sometimes very difficult to stand up for these types of values in a peer and family network that places a high value on material items and that sometimes look upon you with dirision for not following suit.

Wondering if anyone has run into this type of problem with your social network, family, extended family? How have you handled it?

Thanks again for everything Marissa. You are helping so many of us, keep up the amazing work!

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7 Merissa March 13, 2015 at 9:04 am

Hi Lynnanne, depending on the person, yes we’ve run into family and friends that do not understand our way of living. We’ve found that these people are generally the ones that don’t know us quite as well, haven’t spent much time actually in our home and really haven’t seen the results of our minimalistic living. Some family we’ve been able to talk to and tell them we love that they are thinking about our children and want to give them something but we know that our kids would be so much happier spending time with them so if that’s an option that’s the best one. Some family is defensive on this topic though so I’ve found it’s just better to leave them be. They will give our kids gifts (mainly shiny plastic things that the kids will look at for a minute and be done with!) and once the kids have passed the toy aside we give it away to someone else. It’s hard when those around cannot respect your lifestyle but if you know that you are doing the best for your family that you can then there is nothing to be ashamed of if you have to talk to them about it. :) Good luck with everything!

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