But this year, along with the joy of moving into our very own home, there have been many heart-stopping moments when it comes to paying the bills. This morning, for instance, when a large electricity bill landed with a thud in the mail box. It made me realise the true meaning of bill shock and at once made my trigger finger itch, the one that urges me to start looking for work. And then the finger relaxed and I thought, just a few more months, just a bit more time to get over the hump that's been brought on by building a house...
Finance, with my heart in my mouth, this is how I approach the budget, Betty:
- No credit cards. Joe and I learnt the hard way, when we were first married. 'Oh just put it on the credit card' we'd say, until we started to realise how the interest worked. We paid it off and never looked back... not even when they kept promising us extra credit because we were so good at meeting our repayments!
- A budget on a spreadsheet - this is invaluable in letting me know what money's coming in, when bills need to be paid and when we might have money available to commit to other things... exciting things like clotheslines and fences!
- We are tight! We just say no to the kids and we explain to them why we can't buy this or that. Lately, I've offered them the chance to walk to school again - well, if they're not happy we can't afford to buy lollies, perhaps I will have to return our new car to the dealer. Then we can buy lollies with that extra money!
- Embrace the hand-me-downs! My older sister has two boys and is BRILLIANT at handing on clothes, sporting equipment, sports shoes, games and books and whatever else she finds! The kids love thinking they have something that's belonged to their older cousins (who of course, they idolise) and aren't worried by it at all! I also have friends with girls who hand on things to Sophie - I tell you, that girl's wardrobe is full to the brim and I've hardly bought her a thing!
- Settling for less... well we don't really even have less, I can honestly look around our house and think that none of us want for anything. If there is one problem, it's that we have too much stuff! That garage sale needs to happen fast!
- Rarely buying processed foods - as in biscuits, chips, treats etc. My kids think they are very hard done by at school, because they are sent off with fruit in their lunchboxes instead of treats. Sometimes I throw in something homemade, but not always. I think the fruit is fine!
- Wearing the same clothes, season after season! In fact, some of my favourite clothes are getting a bit holey. I do love them, but have just condemned one of my old tops to the rag pile. I tell myself it will bring me great pleasure when I'm washing windows.
Are you bored yet? Do I sound sanctimonious, because I don't mean it! I just think that money is a funny thing. We all do different things with what we get, make our own choices for better or worse. Watching your money doesn't mean that you're struggling, nor does it mean that your quality of life is suffering. It just means you've made a decision to live a certain way and you're doing what you have to in order to live that way.
And we'll be fine, by the way - as long as the bill shock doesn't kill us!