Sarah Warren: The Uncomfortable Budgeter
Everyone, meet Sarah Warren! I am beyond happy to share the first of several guest posts for An Uncomfortable January. Sarah has been a friend of mine since college. We were freshman who were equally obsessed with Jane Austen, fine china and bowls of pad tai. She went on to get her masters in writing and now writes at The Accidental Okie. This means that she sees the hundreds of grammatical mistakes I make on my blog & loves me anyway. Sarah also is the one who did the design for Lark & Bloom, for which I am eternally grateful. Give her a big Lark & Bloom welcome & join in her discomfort.
Sarah- The Accidental Okie and Uncomfortable Budgeter.
I’m on an uncomfortable journey: learning to budget. Let’s not mince words. I hate it. I’m growing to embrace it, but I still mostly hate it.
A combination of being a stereotypical creative right brainer, not excelling at numbers, and hanging on to hefty emotional baggage led me to pass off budgeting responsibilities to my husband.
Last semester he started teaching a college class for extra income. That’s on top of being a high school science teacher. He didn’t have time to do the budget anymore. It was ignored for a few months and gross overspending ensued. I needed to take something off his plate and we realized the person spending the money really should be the one setting the budget. Since I do all our shopping, I was the natural, albeit reluctant, choice.
I’ve already had a few successes and failures, which I’ll be documenting on my blog over the coming months, but here is a preview of what I’m learning in this uncomfortable journey.
For several years of my childhood from middle school to the first year of high school, we were poor. To this day, thrift stores and canned soup literally cause my heart to beat faster as I momentarily relive those meager days.
Most people walk into a thrift store and think about cool vintage finds. I remember the year I had to buy my new school clothes at a thrift store and nothing fit my awkward mid-puberty body correctly. I remember having to work three weeks of babysitting jobs after a friend stole my graphing calculator because she thought it would be funny. I remember my friends asking why we always had the exact same groceries, and me never telling them that we stood in line for our box of groceries every week at the food bank.
For me, budgeting equaled counting pennies, which equaled feeling all those things again.
When I think about budgeting, I think about my parents arguing about money. Any time my husband brought up the budget, I was sure he was mad at me. Our monthly budgeting meetings consisted of him trying to talk and me defensively evading every question. Not super productive.
The practical steps of setting up a budget are important, but for me identifying and dealing with my own junk and establishing new ways of thinking have been equally necessary. In my soul searching, I realized I’ve been more secure overspending than budgeting because if I could overspend, it meant I wasn’t helpless like before.
I’m not doing this alone. Once a week I meet with a mentor at Barnes and Noble. Pat and her husband’s life story revolves around coming out of major debt, and now they enjoy helping young couples avoid the traps they found themselves in. We drink coffee, pour over my budget, look at spread sheets and share tips – well, she shares tips with me and I write them down. Bottom line - if I was doing this alone, I probably already would have given up and gone back to my old ways.
It seems that no matter the uncomfortable journey you find yourself on, there is someone who has wisdom to share.
These days, I’m a reluctant budgeter. Maybe someday I won’t be so reluctant. It seems the only way to get from here to there is to continue on this uncomfortable journey. I might even go shopping at a Thrift store by the end of it all.
You can keep up with my triumphs and missteps – budgeting, gluten-free cooking and otherwise, on my blog. And if you have any budgeting tips, I’m all ears!