Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Good to Miss Them a Little Bit

Last month Paul and I decided to finally bite the bullet and really take control of our finances. We made a budget and are committed to sticking to it, saving up and paying cash for purchases, keeping an emergency fund for necessary but unexpected expenses, not using credit, paying off our bathroom, cars, house, etc.

Before that our financial planning relied heavily on . . . guesswork. And denial. Finally the stress of not knowing became greater than our distaste for managing money and we got serious about changing our habits. It's going well so far.

Jumping back a bit.

Last February I told Paul that I was planning a kind of expensive Valentine's gift for him. (This ruined the surprise, but we don't make big expenditures without checking with each other.) When I renewed our public radio membership, I was going to take advantage of the fund drive donation deal and get us an overnight stay at a nearby bed and breakfast, OK?

Not OK. We can't afford it.

(Remember, this was before we knew what we could really afford or not afford. Pre-budget.)

Sigh. OK, I said. It doesn't have to be now and it doesn't have to cost money but I want you to know that I'd like us to have one night alone together some time in the next year. I want to find someone to watch the kids overnight so that we can have a full night and morning without actively parenting.

He heard me!

My birthday was this past weekend, and Paul told me that we were "going away." I didn't need to know any of the details. Gradually, a few of them became clear. My mom and youngest sister would come to our house and stay with the girls. Yay! That's all I really needed to know. I was psyched.

Then I learned that Paul was considering an overnight trip to Mexico. Or maybe Puerto Rico. Or possibly just driving up to Hannibal and renting an entire house for the two of us for two nights (only one of which we'd use but then we wouldn't have to hurry out in the morning).

My turn to say: Not OK. We can't afford it. (This was after the big budget meeting, so we both knew I was right.)

We ended up in . . . Fulton, Missouri. I think everyone we met was a little surprised that we were there solely as tourists, not visiting our nearby college kids or participating in the MS 150 bike ride. Just us, visiting a small Missouri town.

I went all the way, wearing knee-length shorts, tennis shoes, and a big straw hat. Sadly, I did not have a fanny pack to complete the tourist look.

Of course, we had a wonderful time. We could have done nothing and stayed at the Motel 6 and had a wonderful time.

But we stayed in a cute B&B, ate great food, cooked nothing, cleaned nothing, and put no children to sleep. And I didn't plan a thing!

It was restful, rejuvenating, relaxing. We walked around Westminster College and scouted it out for our children's futures. (Too much Greek life for my tastes, but small and not too far and with a great program for students with learning disabilities.) We stepped through a big chunk of the Berlin Wall (the real deal! in Missouri!). I had a massage. We read on the porch before walking downtown (four blocks away) for dinner. We meandered through wine country on our way home and stopped for a tour and tasting.

Fabulous, perfect, rejuvenating. And I came back home to happy children, my comfortable house, a fantastic freelance project, TWO generous gift certificates for shoes (plus great books and a book light) and a strawberry-strawberry-strawberry birthday cake.

Thank you Paul, Mom, and Grace, and the rest of our families for a fantastic birthday!


RobMonroe said...

I'm so glad that it was everything you wanted (and needed!) it to be!

ccw said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip and knowing you don't have to worry about how to pay for it must only make it better.

Glad you were able to relax and enjoy some time together.

Sarahlynn said...

Rob, I think I could handle doing that at least once a year!

CCW, that's it exactly! It felt luxurious and responsible at the same time. Such a surprising combination.

Brigid said...

It sounds like you guys had a great time! Congratulations on setting up a budget like that -- it takes so much discipline. My husband runs the budget in our family (I'm a licensed financial rep, so when I get home I don't want to see a dollar sign), and, like you two, we discuss all major purchases, and we have line items for just about everything. At first it caused some heartache and mutual irritation, but now, five years later, I'm so glad we did it. When our roof started leaking six months ago and we needed a new one, we were able to pay cash. When my husband told me we had plenty in the emergency fund to cover it, I just about fell over. I never thought I'd be an advocate for the family budget, but here I am, living proof of how happy it has made us as a couple.

Okay, I'll shut up now. :-) Thanks again for your blog. I just enjoyed your planetarium post, too. My little boy is 27 months, so I might have to check that out when he's a little more...uh, sedentary. :-)

Sarahlynn said...

Brigid, I hope your son has learned to love the planetarium! It's high time we went back, I think (although my distinctly non-sedentary 10-month-old son might not appreciate it yet).

I have no idea how we got by without a budget, before. We're still not meeting all of our savings goals, but at least we know where we ARE and there's not this background panic of the unknown.