Here’s a comment from my recent post on rising grocery costs that I wanted to respond to:
Do you have that low of a grocery budget because you have to or because you want to (ie: pay off your mortgage faster?) Because sometimes I think we spend so much time on keeping our budget low (because it’s good stewardship), that we forget that we need to be good stewards of our time too, and sometimes that means spending the little extra. This is especially when we really do have a little more, but are to ‘proud’ to change our budget.
The simple answer is no, we don’t need to have our budget as low as it is (I know to some, depending where you live and what you buy, our budget is high, while to many others it is extremely low- it’s all so relative. Where we live, it would be considered fairly low).
We have chosen to purposefully live below our means, for several reasons. First of all, it was necessary for many years. In the first years of our marriage, a very tight budget was absolutely crucial. These days, it is not crucial in the same way, but here’s why we continue to stick with it.
We spent those years learning how to live frugally, to not buy everything we needed or wanted, to make things stretch, to make do without… those years taught us many valuable things. We’ve learned that we get by quite well with what we spend right now (yes, I’m struggling a bit with it at the moment, but that’s not a bad thing- it challenges me in many areas– my skills, my contentment, my character, my faith).
As our income has gradually increased to a more manageable level, we have chosen not to allow our expenses to expand with that increase. If we were to bump up our budget, I have no doubt that we would spend the money. Just as a task always grows to take up as much time as is allotted to it, so our expenses would expand to take up whatever budget we set. By controlling it and setting limit, we continue to stay in control of our budget, and not allow it to become the other way around.
We have very specific financial goals that we are savings towards. Currently, we are working away at our goal of having 3-6 months expenses in savings, for emergencies. Following that, we will be saving for our own home, and at the same time, we will need to start saving cash to purchase a new vehicle. We are big Dave Ramsey fans around here, and have taken much of his teaching to heart (such as this book), as we see so much wisdom in it.
See, having enough money to be able to spend more doesn’t make it the right decision to spend more. We are trying to have long term thinking in how we manage our finances, and the short term gain of a more relaxed grocery budget just does not compare to the financial freedom that goes with the goals that we are being disciplined in order to attain.
The commenter goes on to ask:
When looking at your calculations I can’t help but wonder… do you never have company for dinner? What about making meals, muffins etc. for others? We’ve just had alot of babies born in our church and I like to bring a meal, muffins, bread etc. to them. That would also have to be taken out of the grocery budget. What about bringing your disabled/old/sad neighbor some dinner or home baking? Also grocery budget.
We regularly host others in our home, either for a meal, for care group or homeschool group, or a special event like a baby shower or birthday party. It’s also very common in our church to be asked to provide a meal for a new baby, a sick or pregnant mom, a grieving family or one that has just moved, etc.
As much as is possible, I work creatively within my budget to find ways to serve our guests. At times, it is tight. Very occasionally, we will choose to purchase something out of our recreation or miscellaneous budget categories, if we feel that it is necessary and worthwhile. Otherwise, we make do!
Soups and stews, spaghetti, chili, homemade breads, salads, casseroles, apple crisps… combined with a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a desire to serve and bless others, these cost-efficient foods can be the makings of a wonderful meal. Hospitality is far more about the heart behind the food, rather than the food itself.
I think it’s so important to also state that I need to trust God and submit to Him as I manage this area of my home. There are times when we feel led to just give, beyond our budget, or to provide someone with something that is beyond what we feel we can do. We have to be open to His spirit and leading, and not allow our budget to get in the way of our generosity. I will confess that I struggle with this sometimes, but God has graciously given me a very generous husband and I have been challenged so many times to trust Him and just give more freely (and there is such blessing that goes along with learning to do that!).
As well, I need to trust God to provide for our needs, as we seek to honor Him with how we manage our finances and steward carefully what He has given us. I feel that more than needing to up my grocery budget amount, I need to trust that He is big enough to show me how to use what I have well, to help it stretch further, to teach me new skills, and even to provide in ways that only He can.
Last week was a perfect example of this… after doing all those calculations, I will admit, I felt a bit discouraged. I don’t usually go shopping on Fridays ( I stick to once a week, on Mondays, and sometimes less often). However, we had basically run out of yogurt, frozen bananas, and I realized I had forgotten two crucial items for dinner. I made a quick decision to run to the store, and asked God to provide what I needed. I knew that I didn’t have a bunch of extra money for organic milk to make yogurt (I had thought what we had would last us til next week).
I arrived at the store and began walking around, looking for the items on my list. Would you believe that I just happened upon an afternoon at the store where I have never seen so many marked down items in my life! It was unbelievable! There was more discounted organic milk than I could have possibly bought, many loaves our favorite healthy sourdough bread were on the discount rack, and there were bags and bags of discounted bananas (in very good condition, I might add!). I stopped with my daughter to gather jugs of milk and breathed a very thankful prayer to the God who provides for me so abundantly.
So today when I went back to the same store, I just had to smile when what should I stumble upon but yet more discounted milk and more bags of ripe bananas… He is so good.