Saturday, February 16, 2008

ch. . . ch. . . ch. . . changes

Change is inevitable.

I accepted that fact a long, long time ago. The part I wasn't prepared for is knowing that life, in and of itself, is in a constant form of change. From the kids growing older, to the weather. You can't escape it. The only thing left to do is embrace it. Expect it.

Personally, I like change. Without it, how do you fix the bad things in life? How do you grow? How do you accomplish your dreams, your goals?

Currently my life is at a crossroads. So much is going on right now. So very much. The kids are growing. And, along with the larger clothes that scatter the floor, is a larger want list. Gone are the lists of lego sets and action heros, replaced with the newest iPod and gaming systems. Gone are the crayon and glue school lists, replaced with needs such as computers and their own private work stations.

Unfortunately, Tim and I have not changed our spending habits. Despite many resolutions and budget after budget scratched out on scrap paper, nothing ever stuck. We still eat out with unbelievable frequency, and still spend every last dime that enters our electronically driven hands.

We have the big screen tv's, the apple computers, the iPods, the nice furniture, the Playstation 3, the Wii, the high efficiency washer and dryer, the big gas guzzling SUV, and many other material possessions that make our lives easier (or at least more glamorous). What we lack is financial security. The extra cushion that comes with having some money in savings. Knowing that if the car breaks down tomorrow we'll be able to fix it, without having to worry about where the rent money will come from. Enough money socked away to fund any unexpected expenses that come our way. To plan, the right way, for a family vacation, without having it completely deplete our bank accounts, leaving us scrapping by for months to follow.

We make enough. I've seen it, on paper. I know how much we SHOULD have left over at the end of the month. I know how good it feels to pay our bills on time. To look at that magic number in our savings account and know that we'll be okay. It's a great feeling. A high even. Yet, my will-power is seriously lacking.

Especially when Pier 1 is having a furniture sale. Or say, they build an Ikea a mere two hours away from my home. Or, the apple store announces a new and improved iPod, or computer, or anything else apple-like. Then we crumble. We want and we get. We don't plan. We don't save. We immediately take our hard earned paychecks and run out and get whatever it is our hearts are currently lusting after.

The bills still get paid, sometimes late, but it happens. The boys still have food in their stomaches, and a comfy roof over their heads. They still have nice clothes on their backs, and enough toys to make the neighbors jealous. Yet, they don't have a college fund. They don't have their own backyard to play in. They don't have their own driveway to ride a bike in.

Eventually, I would like to own a house (in Ohio, of course). I would like to have some money in my savings account. To be financially comfortable. I know how to accomplish these goals. We make enough money for it to happen. What I don't know how to do is stop the unnecessary spending.

I know I don't really need that new end table I saw today, the one I have now works just as well. And, no, it doesn't matter that it was 50% off. Yet, convincing that little voice in my head, that creative voice that has finally, after a very long absence, made herself known again, to shut the hell up is another story. She likes nice things. She likes making a house a home. Even when the current "home" is just as good. Just as nice. Just not as new.

That is what I am currently working on. Saving money has become my new project. I'm always looking for something to do and right now, I can't think of anything more beneficial to my family than that. Sure, my children would love it if I re-did their entire room. And, yes, those beautiful but expensive quilts I saw the other day at Bed, Bath, and Beyond would look amazing with their bunk beds, not to mention totally complete the look I am going for. But so will the much cheaper, just as nice, quilts at JC Penney. They don't have the same impact but the quality is just as good. And, frankly, the kids couldn't give two horses asses what they sleep under. As long as it's clean and soft, they're happy.

And their happiness is what I'm after, what we're both after, Tim and I together. Not just short-term, but long-term. Because, in the end, the choices we make for these kids long-term are the ones that matter the most. The ones that will make the most impact upon their lives.

The house that will always be their home, whether they're sixteen or thirty-six, they can still count on that place, to welcome them when they need it the most. The college fund that will shape their future, should they choose to attend. Knowing that their parents are financially stable. Teaching them the right way to live. The right way to acquire things they want. They've sure seen the reasons to never live paycheck to paycheck. Now it's time to teach them the benefits of living the right way, to budgeting your money and being better off because of it.

I never thought I'd say budget and benefit in the same sentence. But in all honesty, we have nothing else to loose. The way we're living now clearly isn't working.

This may be the hardest change I ever go through. The one I fight with all my might.

But in the end, when I'm sitting debt-free, watching my children play in their own backyard, I know it will be the one with the biggest pay-out.