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Tightening the Belt

Necessity, Convenience, Luxury.  These are the three headings on the piece of paper staring up at me.  It is not the first time these headings have caused me grief.  Every year these categories come roaring into my head space to force some decisiveness.  

    Every year about this time, I begin to work on next year’s budget.  With any budget, there are questions you must ask.  First, how much money do I make?  This is the ceiling.  This is God’s provision for this season.  Second, how much money am I spending?  This is where I am actually living.  Rent, gas, electricity, water, groceries, gasoline.  But you gotta include the dumb crap.  Netflix, cable, the gym, car payments, credit card minimums, college debt, etc.  Put all that money that is being sent out into a pile.  How tall does it stack?  And then you gotta see which pile is bigger… the money you got, or the money you are spending?  

    Every year the spending pile wants to grow.  So every year I have to look at it and keep it down.  I want to make sure I am living well under my financial ceiling.  So every year I make this list of necessity, convenience, and luxury.  I break down the things I am spending my money because some of them have to go.  Some of that money needs to be reclaimed.

    Necessity.  This should be the smallest list.  What do I actually need?  Many utilities are in this category.  Mortgage is in this category.  For me, health insurance is here.  These are things that are priorities.  Unlike many, we place our generosity and giving here.  The amount can change, but we view our spending as a way to become the people we wish to be.

    Convenience.  This is stuff I really like and makes my life easier.  Internet is a real convenience for me and my family.  As is my grocery allowance.  We could get away with 100 a week… but I like having more than that.  For snacky snacks.  So I put things in this category.

    Then there is luxury.  This is stuff I just like.  This is hobbies and fun stuff.  This is Spotify, and comic books and fast food.  This is Hulu and the NFL.  This is cable and the newspaper and a massage.  These things aren’t bad.  Actually, they are awesomely fun.  But if I have to trim the fat, this is where I am gonna start.  They might come back in another season.

    So, I look at all the money I am spending, and all the goals I have in life, and I have to make them fit.  So it is time to cancel some subscriptions.  Time to change up the internet speed.  Cause we have goals we have to meet.  We want to be a family that is saving.  We want to be ready for that rainy day.  We wish to be wise stewards of what we have been given.  My red pen is in hand, and we are ready to begin.  Are you?