I was bemused, and even a bit amused, when I read the comments on yesterday's post, much of which
referred to us needing to be more responsible and budget and save more, prompting this post. I don't disagree. However Ryan and I have been making that a priority for months, but you couldn't have known that because I don't think I've ever blogged about our finances much, except maybe just stressed out references. Truthfully we talk about money and have been budgeting and saving like crazy. It's a huge priority over here. But it's a topic I find stressful so it's not something I blog about. We also have a very young marriage and come from very different mindsets when it comes to money, both from our personalities, families as well as cultures. (Remember Indians, including Ryan, make a heck of lot less than Americans, and while some things are much cheaper here, like rent, some things cost about the same.) Therefore it makes sense, at least to me, that our budgeting was not smooth from the onset, but I think it's improving and should only continue to do so with time and communication.
|the things of most value in life are generally the|
least financially valued and most common things
like nature and people
But the truth is I stress about money too easily.
Actually, I remember reading once that everyone has issues with God as "God the Father" and the author of that went to list common father related issues people tend to have and none of them resonated with me and I was thinking I didn't have any of that... and then God taught me better. Soon after I was praying about something and I was basically begging God to provide me with whatever my request was (my heart saying I was audacious to expect so much) and God struck me with conviction that I treat God as someone miserly, who I was reluctant to ask anything of out of guilt, when the Truth portrayed in the Bible is that God is a loving Father eager to give if we'd only ask.
Now don't get me wrong, my earthly father isn't a miser. But basically we weren't well off growing up. We had our house burn down, years of parental unemployment, my mom had cancer, cars breaking down... every time my parents got their financial feet under them some tragedy would knock it out from under them. So my parents ached to give us more, but they didn't have it. So unless it was totally one hundred percent necessary, no way I could do without it, I didn't ask them for money. Not because they were Grinches, but because I knew it hurt them when they had to say no and I felt guilty for doing that. While we weren't the poorest family in school or anything, we often seemed like the poorest family in our advanced classes (as sadly often income level follows scholastic achievement) and it stung to be the kid who never bought the class pictures or got a class ring or who had to opt out of the big field trips, but it was what it was. So asking for things fills me with guilt and makes me feel wrong for the asking somehow. The idea of a Father God that says yes more often than no and is delighted to be asked for thing still is very hard for me to wrap my mind around, emotionally, and God revealed this as my "Father" issue.
Long time readers may remember that I was unemployed for a long time. Like a freaking long time. In the 4 1/2 years between graduating college and moving to India I worked for less than a year total when you add the months up. I had one job that I was laid off from, two jobs that were temporary from the onset, and then just a few random days of work (like a one day gig cleaning out animal cages.) None of it paid living wage. The result of this is I have a poverty mindset I definitely struggle with where I don't feel like I deserve a lot and at the same time just feel like I'll never have enough. God was walking me through it though and it was hard because so many times I was receiving flack and pressure from the people in my life on one side to try harder and do better, and then hearing from God telling me to stop worrying and did He command me to take those actions? (No He didn't, and that's why He refused to let them be fruitful.) It was definitely a time in my life where God was exposing my pride to me and commanding me to not let it rule me, since God does not find pride to be a virtue but a real sin. It was a confusing and harrowing time, emotionally. I should mention that God was re-defining the meaning of "employment" to me, that is, He wasn't encouraging idleness but instead was asking me to serve Him in ways that didn't seem like employment to the world but with the understanding that He would see my faithfulness and take care of me in ways the world didn't understand.
|Might seem a strange example, but here is|
where I made our cats a cat tower out of
cardboard boxes and crocheted toys instead of
spending the money to buy one.
Anyway, not having a stable income in a long time and not earning living wage ever I get super anxious about money. That is not right of me, it is a flaw, but I am being honest here. I also feel totally guilty buying something I can make or paying for a service I feel I should do myself, which is a legacy that is really trying here in India because often I do not have the tools/resources to make things I'd easily have access to the materials for in America and the culture encourages hiring people to help you do things that in America most people would do for themselves. And example of this is last year we hired people to install a window ac in our house... I felt SO WEIRD about that. I'm also very good with money, believe it or not, and super, super frugal most of the time since I've had to make teeny tiny amounts last months. There's a difference with being bad with money and not having it, after all.
Ryan, on the other hand, loves working with money. He budgets all the time. Early in our marriage we tried to sit down and budget together but we soon found it didn't work well. See since I see money as a tool with no real... enjoyment I suppose? That is I want to sit down like once a month, hammer out a budget, stick to it strictly with no wiggle room except in emergencies and be done with it. Dealing with it more than that just stresses me out.
Ryan on the other hand runs numbers to de-stress and literally goes over the budget probably 4-5 days a week. Seriously. He also likes to keep things flexible telling me at the beginning of the month "we'll prioritize X, Y, and Z" and then at the end of the money I'll be like "Oh we haven't done Z yet, let's do that" and he'd be like "yeah, but we decided to do B, so Z went out the window." Uh, WHAT??? If you prioritized Z then nothing, not B or C or whatever should make you spend the money you need for Z. Not ANYTHING you didn't budget for except a real emergency.
Sooo after fighting over this and having it be a big issue I finally said fine, you know what, you have the budget. And I was hands off for the next many months. This was very early in our marriage. However, I really saw me stepping back and being hands off as being submissive. I didn't agree with what he did all the time, but I was allowing him to make the decisions and respecting him in that way. I don't think that was an entirely wrong way of viewing it, but I was also just avoiding conflict.
For the sake of our marriage (and I honestly believe God, since He tells us to leave your mother and father) we had to move out of his parent's house when we did. However, Ryan (though I had been warning him I had to get out) hadn't taken me seriously and thought we'd live there a while longer and save up. Living there was stressful for both of us, but less so for him and I can't really discuss it more than that except to say that I do not think I could have stayed any longer, for my health. So we moved out but it took every scrap of money that we had, and a bit more. I had already turned the finances over to Ryan so I actually didn't know about the "bit more" until afterwards, or I would have made a few less expensive choices, though I still would have made it happen. I had assumed when Ryan said we could afford something, since he was the one overseeing the finances, that we had it in the bank, not in credit, as if I was the overseer I would have never said we could afford something if credit was involved without being explicit about that. Regardless, it is done and we learned something about communication through that.
Truth is Ryan is not horrible at budgeting, he's just less frugal than me. His way isn't always wrong, though I don't think he was applying it well. My mindset is actually very anxious and born of fear from the experience of poverty and I am very aware that at any time our income source can just dry up. But fear is not of the Lord and so while I'm being honest about it I'm not advocating it's a righteous mindset in anyway. Ryan is more of a "let's not worry about tomorrow" person (while at the same time bemoaning that I'm "not a planner" which is sort of funny, when really it's that I'm just not a person who enjoys planning) and he just keeps barreling through. In some ways my way is better and in some ways his is, and I think God probably paired us together so we both can learn.
But consequently we were pinching pennies from the day we moved out. We had just started to get some excess each month when I got dengue and had to have all the blood tests and stuff. Then three weeks after dengue we found out I was pregnant. That certainly changed our priorities, but we found out in October. The trip with Lydia in November had been planned since before I even moved to India and honestly had been getting me through the hard times, thinking about seeing her. You must remember that I hadn't seen anyone from home in a year, and what a rough year it'd been. There was certainly no way I was cancelling that and I do not regret that decision in the slightest. That is the kind of thing I meant when I said you don't do things you can't afford, except specific priorities outlined in advance, and you adjust other financial decisions around that priority. Her visit was definitely a priority. And as she did come bearing gifts I think if we had cancelled her trip and spent the money on the baby we probably would have come out about the same anyway, though it's hard to see that sometimes in that since the baby isn't here yet we haven't actually used any of that stuff yet to see the savings in action.
Then I got paid work on the blog! AND I won a small prize in a contest! Neither of these was very much but both were totally unexpected and gave us a tiny boost in income just when Ryan was really starting to have a mini-meltdown thinking about how much the baby would cost. I pointed out to Ryan that God was clearly and unexpectedly showing us He would provide and Ryan saw it too.
So around that time is when I stepped up because part of me submitting to him as my husband had been letting him go it alone, but when he really started to stress out about it I knew I'd be a better help meet as an active partner than a silent supportive one. So I stepped in and we tried. And we fought. And we tried again.
And we really started making it a priority.We had already made the decision to use cloth diapers and breast feed. We dropped our cell phone and internet plans down to more basic places (no data plans for example.) We prioritized a dating fund for our marriage's sake, but set it low. We got really strict on the food budget and I tried to look into meal planning though that has not been very successful as most resources I found were for Americans and did not translate as most of the food that is affordable in America is expensive or even inaccessible here. I didn't see a lot about Indian sources and plus I don't know how to make a lot of Indian dishes. We got better about using electricity... and honestly I don't think there was much else we could do. We already had never been living the high life. We rarely go anywhere (it might seem like we do a lot because I blog about it a lot, but that's cause there's not many outings I don't blog about. Truth is I almost never leave the house and Ryan just really goes to work. The reason that I don't go to expat meetings, have Hindi lessons or such is because we can't afford them.) We have never had a television or cable or anything like that. I have always been super frugal, with occasional small indulges. Ryan usually has to peer pressure me into spending money without having a total guilt attack (and often I have the guilt attack when we get home and annoy him. "Should we have spent that??? Can we afford it?? Do you think we should take it back??") But remember when I said we were pinching pennies from day one? We'd never really stopped, when it came to our bills we'd not really changed anything, we'd just had occasional indulges like a date. Now we were just having to pinch more pennies.
We set priorities and the first one was move out. Our lease was going to be up before this baby was born anyway. Now I was strict about something and that was we had to find a cheaper apartment. I didn't know where else we could find extra money each month, but lower rent made the most sense. Ryan on the other hand, wanted a bigger apartment as he thought it our current one was too small for a baby.
Our old apartment was very central so I figured if we looked a bit farther out we could get one about the same size for a lower price. I thought the old apartment size (540 sq ft) could work with an infant, though I admitted when the baby started to walk it'd be pretty cramped. But next year we'd hopefully be able to upgrade. Ryan was willing to look but was doubtful we'd find anything he'd be comfortable with...
We were just starting to think about looking at places when Ryan's parents were moving to a new complex. They wanted us to move into the same complex. They were taking a two bedroom (they were downgrading from their former four bedroom since they didn't need to be paying for space they weren't using) and they wanted us to take a one bedroom unit in the complex. Truth is though, they were higher than what we were paying, plus the complex had maintenance fees on top of that.
But while we had their broker for the afternoon we just decided to go looking at apartments in the area. The first place he took us to see was an airy, spacious two bedroom sightly above what we were currently paying. It was a great price for the square footage and neighborhood, but I was like no, we wanted to pay less than we currently are and it's too high up (we wanted to be on ground or first floor, this was second. Where we were currently living was third.) Then he showed us one bedrooms, but they were all smaller than our current place and most the same price or even higher. I think one or two may have been cheaper, but not dramatically and we'd not have been able to fit our current furniture in it, let alone add a crib or other baby items.
Everyone kept going back to the first place and I admit my mind did too... it was a steal. And aside from the price and being second floor, it hit everything on my wish list, with room to spare. I had wanted a place within walking distance of stores to get at least daily groceries since we don't have a car; this had that plus was in walking distance of a pretty good shopping center with full grocery stores, a pharmacy, a meat market, and actually my ob gyn's office! (This was before I was put on bed rest, so walking to the doctor seemed like a possibility.) I had wanted a private balcony, only accessible to our apartment so we could feel more free to leave things out there as a living space (our old apartment's balcony was open to the stairwell so anyone could access it.) This place had two private balconies. I wanted a place within walking distance of a park, so that when I was a harried newborn mommy I could get out and get fresh air (without having to budget for it) and maybe meet other mommies taking their kids to the park. This place was within walking distance to three such parks, one being just at the end of the road (maybe 100 yards?)
The giving in point was when we negotiated and they came down on the price. Yes, that is the place we ended up getting. It costs about the same as our old place but literally is twice the square footage at 1100 sq ft, and realistically less in that if we had renewed the lease on the old place the standard practice in this city is to raise the rent by ten percent, which would have made the old place cost more than this place. Additionally, the old place had a "sub meter" and this place has a standard or normal meter (forget what it's called) but basically it means that we pay a lot less for electricity in this place, due to how it's zoned/hooked up to the city's electric. So we are paying a little less for twice as much.
But the real clincher for me was when Ryan and I discussed we don't plan on moving next year. See one of the reasons that we had to make moving our next financial priority was not just because we'd have to pay for a moving truck and such, but because we'd have to come up with the month's rent, broker's fee, and deposit. We did get a lot of the deposit back on the old place, but only after we moved in here and it had to be adjusted. We had moved into the old place on a 1st and we moved into this place on the 8th (moving out of the old place on the 10th) so we had to take out ten day's rent from the deposit. Additionally, we had a minor bit held back for a small repair.
I realized we wouldn't have been able to find a cheaper place that we could grow into, that is, any place we'd have found for cheaper we'd have had to have moved out of next year for room's sake anyway. And so next year we'd probably have to lose money again on all the moving expenses, so we're saving money next year by taking a place we plan on staying put in for at least two lease periods. Not to mention the pricelessness of avoiding the hassle of such a move with an infant. Also honestly the neighborhoods where more affordable apartments were located were kind of sketch. This neighborhood is exceedingly family oriented and pretty much every apartment has kids. I feel safer here having a baby. And if we stay in Gurgaon for several years? Honestly Ryan was pointing out there's enough room in this apartment even if we have a second child. And we're not planning on having a second child right away!
I don't think we made the wrong decision. However, we did miss the opportunity of finding some wiggle room in the budget by going down in rent. We didn't go up though, so we just stayed the same.
And guess what did go up?
Ryan makes a base salary plus "incentives." Up until recently on a typical paycheck he'd probably
33%-40% of the check would be incentives, which are performance based. But as of January Ryan's performance has gone up and so has the way they do incentives so now he's making the same base salary, but his paycheck has gone up so he's making like 45%-60% incentives... meaning that he's making significantly more money... though at the beginning of the year is when they take out taxes in India. I don't really get how it's done, honestly, it's different from America. Basically they whammy you by taking out taxes during the first few months of the year instead of taking it out throughout the year, like they do in America. But with this increase in pay even with taxes taking out we were making slightly more than anticipated. Ryan gives all credit to God, as I agree he should. But the point is that since the unexpected money in December God has continued to provide showing us that He's got this. (I know my anxiety yesterday belied that, and I am sorry.) We also still anticipate him getting another raise in April when he comes up for annual review, and actually this past week or two he's been encouraged to apply for another promotion, though he has to learn more about it before deciding if it's a good move or not.
So when the hospitalization happened unexpectedly we were mainly able to cover it... but of course it literally happened just as the move did. And actually I don't remember if I said this but we were considering moving at the beginning of April as we hadn't even planned on starting to look for apartments when we did, it had been a spur of the moment decision since we were already with the broker his parents had found their new place through. Thus, finding that apartment made us move it up by three weeks... but also therefore moving us back by one month's paycheck. Which would have made us tight for the month, but fine... except the unexpected hospitalization. So we were super, super tight... but it was temporary, from everything happening at once and not from a lack of income in the long term.
As for small stuff like the concert and such that we're criticized for let me assure you that going out for the movie was necessary for my mental health. Not sure if you've ever been on bed rest but it kind of drives you batty feeling confined, and a movie is the only kind of outing I was approved, and if you notice we've only been to one in the month I've already been on bed rest. And the concert was not very expensive at all and is not the kind of thing that comes along very often here, a Christian event. The money Ryan spent on the ticket was about the third of the price of a single cloth diaper.
Anyway, tomorrow is payday and the day I go to the doctor and hopefully get moved to modified bed rest (not a coincidence, we scheduled the next appointment on payday.) Depending on how she modifies it, we may be able to save a lot more with me being able to pull my weight a bit by cooking. I know I can save a few thousand rupees a month that way. But she may not and we just don't know yet. So at the point we don't know what we can budget food wise. I mean theoretically Ryan could learn to cook more diverse meals, but he's also working full time and we're still working on unpacking, so when is he going to fit that in? If I don't get off bed rest we're definitely going to be spending more on food than originally anticipated since home cooked meals are cheaper, but not always practical. And as I said we've slashed the budget where we know to do so already, so... it's really up to God to provide. And I do trust him most days.
But yesterday what I think were nesting hormones had me in an emotional, weepy tizzy about being unprepared. And today I'm mainly perky and hopeful and calm though nothing has changed really. Hormones are a weird, fickle thing.
Oh one last thing I want to mention is giving. The Bible says when it comes to giving (under which heading I'm including tithes and offerings) the right hand is not to know what the left is doing. So I think it'd be wrong to talk about that. However I do think it should mentioned that we try to make giving a priority, as we believe it is a way to be faithful to the God who has given us everything, even when it feels like we don't have enough. Because nothing we have doesn't come from Him anyway.
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Matthew 6:25-34