We are a disciplined couple.
When James and I were first married and aggressively tackling our student loan debt (and after we had our lives completely changed by Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University), we didn’t spend a single penny without knowing exactly where it was going. My entire teacher’s salary went toward our debt. We ate out once a month. We went clothes shopping once or twice a year. We allotted ourselves $20 a month each as “fun” money to spend however we pleased (James didn’t even use his, but mine saved my sanity).
Just under three years later, we were out; we were free! And we breathed for a few months. Ate out on a whim (!). Upped our clothing fund. Increased our outside-of-church giving. Left our creepy-crawly basement apartment. We had fun.
And then, I got The Baby Bug. And with Baby #2, I got The House Bug. (These types of bugs are far too difficult for husbands to exterminate.) So we tightened our belts back up and got back to work in the diligence department–saving, enveloping, enforcing the budget.
But something interesting happened when the babies came. As a stay-at-home mom with babysitting kids, I became a semi-permanent fixture at our local library. And you know what the best part of the library is? You might say books; you might say children’s programs; you might even say their great selection of DVDs. And really, you’d be right. But what I’d say, 110% of the time is…FREE! Everything is FREE. I don’t have to think about it, check the budget, make an informed decision. If I even make a terrible decision and hate the book I’ve checked out, there’s no awkward return process, no shipping, no receipts. Just dump it in the box and try again.
What happens to me inevitably is I go with the intention of getting 2-3 books per kid, get there and realize, really 4 per kid is much more reasonable (which is 12, soon-to-be 16 books in this family!), and leave with more books than any of us can carry. (Ooo this one’s new. Whoa, I haven’t read this before. What! This is my favorite author!) Um literally. Because I always forget to bring a bag (though sometimes I’m fortunate enough to have thought to bring a diaper bag–those things can carry just about anything). I give the big kids as much as they can carry without, hopefully, falling down the stairs, and we ever-so-slowly waddle our way down said stairs, through the doors, up the stairs, through the other doors (surely there’s a more direct way they could have done this!), carefully crossing the parking lot to our van, who moans when she feels the mountain we’re unloading on her precious, fading seats.
The books stay in the van at least through nap time, when I finally muster up enough energy to find the ones that have hidden underneath the seats (and in the trunk, how in the world?!).
So the moral of the story is: if you are on a strict budget for more than three years with only $20/month of playing and you feel the desperate need to make an impulsive decision, for the sake of your budget (and marital bliss), go to your local library.