blessed budget

Christmas is a handful of days away [if we're talking about sloth's hands, that is]. In the pit of my stomach, I feel like I'm 5 years old. I can't help it. It's almost CHRISTMAS. It's such a joyful, skipping, bouncing, happy time of year. In honor of this once-a-year time of giddiness, I have painted my nails [my left pinky and index fingers (pastel-y green) and my right thumb (dark teal)] for the first time in... well over a decade. This is what happens when I receive free nail polish in the mail. I am now a force to be reckoned with.

Each weekend since Thanksgiving, we have been checking all kinds of Christmasy things off of our to-do list.

  • Tree chopping. Check.
  • Christmas bulb swapping. Check.
  • Snow bunny hopping. Check.
And then, there was only one:  Christmas gift shopping. 

Unfortunately, gift giving is not one of my strong points. I am generally terrible at coming up with gift ideas that are not perfectly spelled out for me. It is most likely due to practicality: Why risk getting someone something they won't like/need/appreciate? When it comes to gifts, I know spontaneity and thoughtfulness ["Oh, I saw this and knew it was perfect for you!"] are admirable traits. It is just hard for them to overcome my more boring/practical/this-just-makes-more-sense side. I fluctuate between thinking of this as a flaw and thinking of this as a very, very good thing... Ahem. Anyway. Luckily for me [and even more so for Jason], most people do not mind listing various things they would like to receive. Christmas lists are good. Christmas spreadsheets are even better.

My next gift-giving obstacle is a little less... excusable. I could attempt to paint it in a better light, but I always hate those "present your flaws as a strength!" exercises. Ugh. Demanding does not always mean focused. Impatient does not always mean driven. Talks a lot does not always mean good with people. And, in  my case, while I consider myself frugal, I am honest enough to recognize that I may actually have a stingy streak.

I have to work for money. I go through frustrations for money. I don't have mounds of money and I have yet to discover a dollar bill hanging from the branches of either Mario or Luigi [who, by the way, have lost all of their leaves and look rather forlorn now], so I am ever aware of how much I have versus how much I need versus how much I would like. I don't like to spend more than I need to and I have pretty stringent requirements of what makes it on the Need To Buy list. Gifts are always borderline items. I know this is terrible. I know this. I am a work in progress.

Luckily [for all who know me], there is a treatment. It is quite simple, actually. It is a solution that engages and satisfies both my head and heart so that stinginess is not a factor and practicality rules the day. The magic cure? Practice generosity, but practice generosity within the safe parameters of a blessed budget. Good golly, it works.

Jason and I probably have a much more rigid definition of "budget" than most, but to us, it just makes logical sense. To us, a budget is not just knowing how much money you have. It is not just knowing where you are spending your money. To us, having a budget is having predetermined amounts of money being set aside in numerous spending categories based upon percentages and need and, obviously, paycheck size. It is honestly defining what are actually needs and what are wants. It is always having an exact idea of whether you can rationally afford to not cook dinner at home or to buy that neato gadget and, even further, if you should.

To us, a budget is a detailed spreadsheet and organized receipts. It is knowing that our first 10% goes to Tithes and the next 10% goes to Savings; no negotiation. It is knowing we can spend up to $225 on whatever groceries we feel like each month. It is knowing that when we finally need that new pair of shoes or those new tires down the road, we'll be okay because we've been setting aside money each month in our Clothes and Auto categories. Ironically perhaps, having such a meticulous budget gives incredible peace of mind and... freedom. We control our money and not the other way around.

It is our excessively detailed budgeting that gives that final touch of Awesome to this entirely joyous time of year. I recognize I have tight-fisted, stingy tendencies, but due to my understanding of the value of money [thanks so much, Mom and Dad!] and Jason's spreadsheeting skills and slight OCD tendencies [he's not that bad, really], I do not have to be bound by them. I can deliberately practice generosity without losing my peace of mind. Knowing we've set aside a specific amount of money each month in our Gifts category makes Christmas shopping completely freeing. I know how much we can spend with zero amount of guilt or stress attached to any of our purchases. The money in Gifts is supposed to be spent on gifts! It just makes sense.

So, yes. I am extremely grateful for all of the Dave Ramsey courses my parents made me sit through and all of the envelope budgeting of my allowances and just the common sense that was bored into my head as a kid. I appreciate it so much more now when I have more than $10 to divide into 15 categories, and now that I have Jason to do all of the painstaking accounting.

Moral of the story:  Thanks to our blessed budgeting, everyone on our Must Shop For list will receive a gift on or around Christmas.

I wish you all a guilt-free, stress-free, gift-giving-filled Christmas!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Owl see you in 2014.

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