Six Months Under the Spreadsheet

Well, it’s several days into October now, and we’ve not posted our September budget blog. Sometimes it seemed that the end of the month would never come. It started so well; vacationing with Kathy’s folks in Texas, many of our grocery and household expenses were covered for the first 9 days of the month. You’d think that would give us enough of a buffer to coast easily to the 30th.

let's smile together now

If only our money would last as long as this balloon.

Nope. We came to the 30th with $1.15 in Groceries, and a negative in Households. Both Kathy and I were low on our Unaccountable’ funds. Everything seems to cost so much, and we find it very hard to continue to say ‘no’ to the things we want.

Of course, in the current economic climate, we’re very glad that we have reduced our debt as far as we have. I would be rather frightened if we were still as deeply in debt as we were back in April.

I’m not very good at managing our finances, truth be told. Over the years, responsibility for paying the bills has shuttled back and forth between Kathy and I – I’ve been ‘fired’ at least twice. Kathy is more reliable at recording financial transactions, and she seems to derive some satisfaction from it.

school time

Does coloring count as school?

On the other hand, I seem to do better than she does at shrugging off the burden of debt, and managing the larger financial transactions. Kathy seems to be more easily oppressed and discouraged by debt than I am, so I have generally managed ‘strategic’ financial details while she sticks to ‘tactical’ matters. We rarely pay more than 2% or 3% interest (including transfer fees) on the debt we carry, because I learned to play the shell game with the credit card companies, moving money around from card to card as the ‘promotional offers’ allow.

Sometimes I become hostile, viewing each bill as a personal attack, and have occasionally been quoted, referring to creditors: “they’re lucky if they ever get their money!”.

give me money or i'm heading to the closet

Joshua knows to hide when bill hostility arises.

My bark is worse than my bite; I really don’t intend to default on my bills. Still, it is not unusual for me to wait until the last possible moment before paying a bill that is due, riding the grace period to its limit. Sometimes this ‘brinksmanship’ bites me in the form of late fees or other penalties.

This month we were overdrawn in one of our checking accounts, because I wasn’t aware of a couple of checks that Kathy had written. Happily, my bank provides ‘overdraft protection’ and ‘loaned’ me $300 from a credit card that has somehow been associated with my bank account. It is a mixed blessing: the checks didn’t bounce, but they charged me $10 for the privilege of the ‘loan’, and I’m sure they’ll gleefully collect usurious interest on the $300, even if I repay it quickly.

I feel vaguely sullied by the use of this ‘protection’ on my behalf – I didn’t really want to use credit like that. It is my own fault – wanting to make more progress against our debt, I paid out a little more of our ‘cushion’ than I could afford to. We keep our emergency funds (and our savings for Christmas and a new roof) in another bank – perhaps I should link the two so I’m not charged overdraft ‘protection’ fees. But we like keeping the money separate – it helps us to pretend that we won’t dip into it for day-to-day expenses.

we love to color!

David and Sarah are good companions.

It was a good month for debt repayment, though – we’re down to less than 40% of our debt, thanks to my overly-enthusiastic payments. We’ve now reached the six month mark, which was how long Kathy and I agreed, originally, to submit to this discipline of budgeting. As much as I yearn for the days of unregulated spending, I think the nation’s financial markets are painting a vivid picture of the long-term payoff for that kind of behavior. We’ve pledged to continue budgeting at least long enough to get out of debt, which we hope will happen sometime between now and the end of March, 2009.

Praise God our trust is in Him!



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7 thoughts on “Six Months Under the Spreadsheet”

  1. Persevere! The relief and joy of owing no man anything but the debt of love will be worth the difficulty and self-denial!

  2. I am very proud of you, Tim. You are being a good head of your household and steward of God’s gifts. keep it up!!

    I love you Edgrens. Aunt Kate

  3. Oh and one more thing. I bet after you get it all whittled away you’ll find yourself liking the budget so much you’ll just keep on plugging away at it and pocketing $$ for a car, vacation, or other things since you no longer need the $$ for debt reduction.

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