It started over a candle.
We were in the grocery store, and as we passed the Home Decor section I grabbed Kyle’s sleeve. “Ooo, hang on a second, I want to get a candle.” (I’d had to throw a few of ours out earlier in the day.) He held back a little. “Why don’t you hold off on that, sweetie,” he said. I looked at him, very confused. “What? I’m just talking about a $5 jar candle.” “Yeah, I know,” he said, “but why don’t we just wait.” “For what?” I was totally incredulous by now. “Christmas? Who’s getting us candles?” Kyle sighed. “Let’s just wait until later in the month, after you’ve gotten a good paycheck and our finances are a little more in order.”
Unbeknown to me, Kyle’s been worrying about our finances lately. Just a wee bit. We’re not in any trouble, but let’s just say that our credit cards are a little heavier than we find comfortable. He’s been playing a complicated juggling game, trying to make sure that all three of our cards get paid each month, that the one with the highest interest rate has the smallest balance, and that little by little, those numbers will get smaller. I don’t totally understand this system, but I do know it means that at times some of our balances will be a little higher than others, and our bank account a little lower than others. It’s a precarious position for us to be, financially, and it’s been making him understandably nervous.
But I didn’t know all this. I knew that we were more or less doing okay, financially, but I didn’t know the details. All I knew was that we were in the grocery store, we’d just bought a wheel of brie 6-inches in diameter at the last store, and now he was telling me that we couldn’t afford a $5 jar candle.
When we got home, (and I got my candle,) we began a discussion about our money situation, and for the first time in a long time, I got a full understanding of our situation. And our situation is that we’re fine, barring no major catastrophes. (Knock on wood.) But we do have a lot of dreams, and a lot of things that we want to experience. We want to make several more day trips to NYC, including a longer weekend trip. We’d like to buy skis and take weekend ski trips when the snow comes. And we would both like to own laptops that don’t require that you hit them as part of the booting process. Unfortunately, all these dreams require a good chunk of money, money that right now is devoted to diminishing our debts.
So we decided that starting with the month of December, we’re dedicating ourselves to saving money. Not because we’re broke, but because we’re saving up for our dreams. So we’re cutting back on the fast food and take-out. We’re putting a parental block on woot.com, where Kyle does most of his impulse shopping. We’re going to run all purchases over $10 by each other. And for the first time ever, we’re going to respect our grocery budget, instead of treating it like a suggestion. Most importantly, however, we’re going to sit down once a week or so and have more discussions like the one we had, so that both of us are aware of how we’re looking and where we’re heading.
Depressing as this conversation was, (because really, who likes talking about their debts) I’m feeling hopeful about the future. To me, it’s almost like a game, something to make life interesting, a challenge. Sure, I’m disappointed by all the plans we have to put on hold; we were supposed to take a trip to celebrate our one-year anniversary this month, and it looks like that’s going to have to wait, along with skiing with my family over Christmas. But I feel like every time I conquer temptation-every time I pass up Swedish Fish at the checkout, or manage to make a giant pot of chili for less than $10-I’m helping to make our future together a little happier. So if it means forgoing our late-night runs to Taco Bells so that we can get a nicer hotel in the city, okay. If letting the $10 toothbrush sanitizer on Woot go by means that we can go skiing in March, then it’s worth it. We’re willing to make a few sacrifices if it means more fun later on.
Besides, our favorite activity will always be free.