Don and I had one of those talks about finances tonight. He had been to a great presentation today on life insurance and was concerned that our coverage was insufficient. When you work in the industry and talk to people on a daily basis who have had to collect on a death benefit, the ability to compartmentalize and think 'it will never happen to me,' goes right out the window. We got some quick figures together and then pulled out our budget to see where we could fit it in.
We knew that we had not been sticking much to our budget lately so we actually went through the exercise of pulling up Quicken and looking not just at our projected "goal" budget but what we were actually spending on an average basis. Boy were we shocked! We were way farther out than we possibly could have imagined. There was no room in our budget for additional expenses! We knew we had set an aggressive and unattainable budget to begin with that had required us to have exceptional discipline and did not account for unexpected expenses. And at the end of the day we were mostly being frugal with just a few occasional impulse buys so the idea of what to cut and where was a bit overwhelming.
We wallowed in the stress for a bit. Then we tried a few brainstorming exercises about what it is we want out of life and how finances will help us get there. A few things that came to mind were more traveling, less job stress, the ability to go out and experience life, and of course a nicer wardrobe. But we just couldn't latch on to a singular driving motivation that would keep us focused and disciplined. So you'll never guess what we decided to do. We decided to give more money away. It sounds a bit antithetical to what we were trying to achieve. But it's the only way we could think of to stop obsessing about the limited means we do or don't have and how we are going to make the most out of it. I couldn't think of a better way to reconnect with the value of our hard earned dollars then to increase our tithing. (Mind you this is not bragging as we are still way far off from where we should be but it is a step in the right direction nonetheless.) When faced with the option of eating out at an expensive restaurant, or feeding 10 people who otherwise might not have a meal tonight, well, suddenly those dollars have value in a whole new way. And there is the motivation we needed to inspire us to do better with our budget.
So the sacrifice we are taking on is a rather exciting challenge. We've decided that for 40 days we are absolutely committed to not eating out for breakfast or lunch (we may allow for one or two dinners especially since we have some really good coupons). It will be difficult with Don's work schedule and traveling and will require quite a bit of planning ahead and working together. But with the right motivation, which I think we have found, I think this will be a great exercise in financial growth for the two of us. I am hoping there might be others who want to take the challenge and share in a similar journey. We'd love to all celebrate together when it's over with a potluck or something else low cost of course!