Re-Budgeting & Consequent Crisis
Earlier this year I shared a bit about our budgeting endeavor. The thing is, despite our scrupulous accounting, stuff happens. Stuff we did not anticipate when we made our first ever, honest to goodness, we-really-thought-we-accounted-for-everything budget. We did not plan on my losing a salaried with great benefits job I started the year out having. We did not plan on feeling like we were ready to start baby making and then find out ten days after said job loss that our efforts were successful. We did not plan that Ben’s insurance would not take me back on and I’d have to spend two months uninsured, oh, and that during those two months we would need to pay for two prenatal visits, lots of pricey lab work, a doctor’s appointment and some antibiotics out of pocket. We did not plan on my being asked to be a bridesmaid.
Before I go further, let me say, aside from the unintentional health insurance sabbatical and ruthless cold I acquired during that time, all of these things we did not plan on were amazing blessings. I was relieved to have an out for the job I could barely tolerate. Seeing that positive pregnancy test was beyond incredible. Having a friend consider you dear enough to ask you to stand beside her is truly an honor. We feel fortunate for it all.
That said, all of these things also have a significant collective impact on our budget. We gave it a look in June, made a few tweaks and determined we could survive my unemployment through the end of the year. The pregnancy and insurance gap necessitated another look last weekend. Any prospect of saving up or paying down got chucked for the moment. However, thanks to some part-time work, we allocated extra to the few particular categories that needed it. At the time we both felt great about it.
Early in the week, during my morning walks with Wrigley, my thoughts wandered to a couple posts I read awhile ago. These two quotes sum up the essence of what I remembered.
…We jokingly call it reverse retirement. We want to be with the kids now while they are little, not working until after they are grown and gone. We wanted family to be at the center of our family…We wanted time together. We married not just because of love, but also because we loved spending time together. (Missy Fecas Fillion, guest post at Little House on the Southern Prairie)
I’ve long believed our culture has it backwards when it comes to retirement. Why work myself to death during my youth and save all the fun until I’m old, less energetic and less mobile? Worse, what happens if I work my entire life only to drop dead at age 65, just when I’m ready to have fun? (Alexis Grant at The Traveling Writer )
Reverse retirement was certainly not my intention when I graduated high school. I think doing things I enjoyed and trusting where that would lead was a natural byproduct of my nomadic predisposition. Okay, perhaps it also had something to do with an inclination to be contrary and rebel against societal expectations of success. It just took one “You should be an English major” comment from my freshman professor to steer me in that direction. I loved to read, I loved to write, of course. I barely considered a career as an undergraduate. My primary desire was to move abroad. When one opportunity fell through, I moved home and waited tables while I applied to the Peace Corps. When I became smitten with another waiter, I tabled moving abroad and got married. When I shared with Ben that I “just want to help people” he told me about social work, so I applied to a graduate program. After finishing, it seemed like the perfect timing to try the moving abroad thing, so we did that. We both decided we would like to do it again a few years down the road, so I didn’t worry too much about finding the job – I just wanted a job that was interesting and fulfilling.
Never ever did I concern myself with forging a career or acquiring more assets or meeting particular financial aspirations. Now, in addition to all of the wonderful experiences I have already had, my new job situation meant I could be home with the baby and continue to enjoy summers with Ben. Nevertheless, I guess I did figure by the time I reached this age I would have at least some savings stowed away and perhaps a teensy more financial stability. And I would be lying to deny that there has not been a desire, sometimes vague, sometimes overwhelming to find some calling, or passion, or whatever you may refer to it as, throughout these years. So despite an acute awareness of all the many things I have opened myself up to experience precisely because I was not preoccupied with typical career and money ambitions, I discovered this week that I am not immune to wondering if maybe this unintentional reverse retirement plan is the best idea.
As the week wore on, re-budgeting coupled the after-shocks of job loss and probably exacerbated by pregnancy hormones has left me in a bit of a slump. Not getting to the farmers market in time to get a dozen eggs was the tipping point. Do you know that scene with Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail – the one where she asks her then boyfriend (the first one, not Tom Hanks) something along the lines of whether what she does is meaningful and he starts to pontificate on how noble her work is. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about because you either A) don’t take life lessons from Meg Ryan romantic comedies or B) I’m remembering it wrong, but the point is, I feel like Kathleen Kelly in the first moment of that scene. I started crying while chopping some onions and I could not stop. Ben thought I was crazy, but I was too busy sobbing to try to explain myself. Somewhere in the middle of the week I started wondering whether I should have done more by now or whether should I be somewhere better by now and whether I’m completely wasting away some intangible opportunities. Not being able to make it to the farmers market in time to buy some eggs was just the confirmation I needed of my own failure.
I cannot even pinpoint it, but some combination of words and hymns at church this afternoon brought peace. For Ben and I, most of this journey towards increased simplicity is a result of our faith. It certainly frames our priorities. Sometimes I just need to remember why it is I make the choices I do and be more realistic about the implications of those decisions.
Has budgeting ever sent you into an existential crisis?