Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Dreaded Topic

While I was in Kansas City, Beth and I had a discussion about budgeting for shopping. I told her it was a topic I was considering writing about.  In fact, I had already snapped the photo's for the post a couple of weeks previously.
I have never made it a secret that Jay and I were poorer than church-mice when we got married.  We had a little baby, and very shortly, another one on the way.  We were both very responsible (we bought a small first house when I was 18, and shared a car for the first 7 years of our marriage), and grew up quick at a young age. I was 17 and my husband was 21 when we got married. Jay was in the Navy at the time, but was in Haiti and missed the birth of our first child and found out he was scheduled for a Mediterranean cruise at the due date of our second.  So he made the difficult decision to get out of the Navy at the end of his 4 year enlistment. (He was highly recommended for OCS.) He did this in order to be home with us every night, knowing that he would have to start over in the job market- without a college education. Neither of our parents could afford to send us to college.
My sweet man worked two jobs after the Navy, in order for me to stay home and take care of our little boys.  We had agreed very early on that we both wanted me to be a stay at home mom.  Our circumstances started to change when a friend told us that Geico was hiring, and suggested that he apply.  He did and started out as a call center employee- the lowest on the totem pole.  He very quickly moved up the ranks to management, due to his hard work, out-going personality, and strong natural sales ability. As time passed, our financials have improved, but we are both very careful about debt. (We had to file Chapter 11 in 1997, due to my husbands medical bills- major back surgery with no health care. That has stuck with us.)
Flash forward. The reason we moved from Virginia Beach to Kansas, is because Jay got the opportunity we thought we would have to wait years for.... Owning his own Geico Local Office.  Because we have kids applying for college, we thought this would be something we would have to wait several years to do.  An opportunity came to us, and we took the risk, with our kids' support and encouragement.
All that to talk about budgeting.
I have loved to shop my whole life.  I blame my grandparents. They used to take me shopping regularly. My "Big" Memaw was quite the fashionista. She had a bag and purse to match in every color of the rainbow. She also had quite the jewelry collection- I still wear some of her pieces today.  Her hair was always perfectly coifed, and her suit collection rivaled Jackie Kennedy's.  Because we grew up with very little extra money, I had to time out clothing purchases to birthday's and Christmas, or whenever my grandparents took me on a trip.  I have done that my whole life.
I first started to shop at Anthropologie in 2005. I loved the store, but still had a small enough budget that I was resigned to the occasional sale room purchase.  (Also, because I had grown up with so little, I still had a mentality that more is more, so if I saw a great deal, I bought it, regardless of how well it fit or if it was a real need.)  As time went on, Jay was kind to take me up to Richmond and say a set amount to spend.  So basically my clothing allowance was whatever extra we may have had or birthday or Christmas money.
When we moved to open the office, Jay asked me if I would package chocolate chip cookies for him to deliver to local auto dealerships, as a way to get to know the community and make it known that he was new to the area.  I do this on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he pays me a little check every week.  He even added a bank account to our bank and named it, "Deb's Slush Fund".  I have a debit card, and his permission to shop to my hearts content with whatever is in that account.

It's an easy enough little job, but I do get to spend a little time in his office (he likes that), and I get a bonus.  It has taught me to think, "Do I really want to work 4 hours for that shirt?" Since I never really had a budget of my own before, just the household.  Anyways, I have so many clothes, that I do stop and think about what I REALLY love and what is just "whatever".
I love reading fashion blogs. I love getting new ideas, but what I love most are the ones who are real about their lifestyle. My favorite blogs are the ones where people are thrifters or decorators.  Or using one item many ways- I like to get new outfit ideas. It makes me sad to see someone always wearing a new thing, but then say that they can't afford something else....
When I was a very young stay at home mom (and I know I am treading into controversial waters here), it used to make me crazy when a working mom would say with a sigh, "I SO wish I could be a stay at home mom. We just can't afford it!" Then she would get in her shiny new SUV, and head off to the $200 hair salon.  Really?! Life is about choices. We all have priorities. What is important to you is not the same to me. Be careful about making assumptions.
I realize that my little "allowance" may be nothing for one person, and extravagant to others.  Again, it's all about balance. I have had some great experiences in travel and in life, but there are lots of things I have to say, "No" to.  (Like the trip I was seconds from booking last week to take the kids to NYC for Christmas, then thought through how poor the timing is for my husband. Instead, we will take a little trip to Dallas, where we can drive my car and stay for cheap. But I really, really wanted to take the kids to NYC! :)
How do you feel about budgeting and what you see in the blogging community? Do you think this is a taboo subject?

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