13 May Heartfelt Budgeting for a Family
I spent the weekend reviewing and revising our family’s budget. It was a much-needed exercise in consciousness. I noticed how quickly our family’s expenses had crept up on us, namely due to the busy-ness of our lives. People often think that since my business is in the market of helping individuals and families with their own budgeting needs that my family is immune to the chatter all around us about the hectic pace of our day-to-day lives and the constant connectedness to technology. However, we all fight the same battles, and with that in mind, I do love spending time with those fact-based numbers, that tell the story of me and my family’s life and choices.
With that in mind, I reviewed our expenses from the past year in search for two different things. First, I reviewed the convenience purchases we made in efforts to keep up with our busy lives. I wanted to understand if those items really did make life “easier and more convenient” or if I just was spending money out of carelessness and rush decisions. With 3 busy kids and 2 working parents, I wanted to make sure that what we had chosen to spend in areas to make our lives flow better were actually doing their job. Here are a couple of results that I was able to pull out of the pile of data from which I reviewed and I wanted to share some of my real-world findings.
1. I decided against my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Plan. In efforts to make sure that my family eats enough vegetables, I have been supporting a CSA where I pick up a box of fresh, organic locally grown veggies once/week. However, in the past year, I have found that it was no longer a fit for me. Too many of the veggies were not within my cooking repertoire and therefore, I was spending much precious time and money finding recipes for the unusual veggies for which my kids ended up not eating.
2. Instead I opted to continue the meal prep and delivery company that I had started using in 2015. They handle all the shopping, chopping, dicing, slicing and other necessary prep and then they deliver healthy meals to my home. I have come to love it! It costs slightly more than cooking myself but it has saved me time, energy and fuss in meal planning and preparation. In addition to that, my family gets to eat home-cooked meals around a family table that are healthy, often organic and preservative-free. A win-win for the family budget.
The second thing I wanted to review in our expenses of the past year is if the activity/expense were a heartfelt representation of our family’s interests and goals. I find that this is particularly hard in my own life and in the life of my clients. On a day-to-day basis, I am meeting with families to discuss their spending habits. Being in-tune with both the everyday finances and the passions of each individual family matter is a balancing act of the highest proportion. Our kids today are invited and encouraged to participate in a plethora of extracurricular activities. The larger the family budget, the more often I see the kids involved in more and more things. However, it comes at a different cost to the family by way of time and commitments. Many families find that even though their children are heavily involved in various sports and special interest programs, their relationships are not deepening. At a minimum of once per year, I try to review whether or not each child is involved in the “right” mix of activity and free time for that individual. This consideration has little to do with money available and much more to do with their development as a person. Every time I do this heartfelt exercise, a lightbulb goes on about those things that have reached full lifecycle and new interests developing.
In the end, I consider my review of our household budget as the biggest gift I can give our family. It is a chance to do more than just crunch numbers, it is a chance to look into the pulse of my family and what serves us best as a working unit. It keeps us on track with amount of activity and amount of rest and replenishment available to every family member. It keeps us working toward the future in one cohesive unit, respecting the limitations of time, technology, and money resources. Our budget keeps us grounded in the present while planning for future education and retirement plans. Our budget is the fabric of our lives and it tells our story, including all its warts and beauty.