Perhaps inspired by our single-income life, R and I decided to combine all of our income once he started receiving his paychecks.  I think we realized that ultimately, we are both responsible for one another.  If I lose my job, “my money” and “his money” no longer exist.  It becomes “our money” that we use to get by.

We set out to create a brand new budget for ourselves.  We divided our new budget into two sections: required expenses and non-required expenses.  Because of R’s contracting work, we don’t always have the same income every month.  The “required” expenses are not considered necessities.  It simply means that they are the recurring bills we have, in addition to our necessities (I will be talking about our Layoff Budgets later on).  The non-required expenses are items that we would like to fund, but we don’t need to.  If R’s paycheck is a little short, we will fill the required categories first, and let the rest trickle into non-required.  Here’s the breakdown:

Required Expenses

Budget Item

Description

Monthly Deposit Current Balance
Rent Monthly rent for a 1-bedroom, near downtown apartment.  All but electricity is included in the rent. $925 $0 (just paid)
Taxes 30% of R’s paycheck is quarantined here in preparation for tax time. Varies $6,566
Electricity Average bill = $35.  Yes, we are overbudgeting here.  No, I don’t have a good reason for it. $60 $150
Internet High speed, at $29.99/month for 6 months.  It will likely go up to $60/month, which is the reason for our over-budgeting here. $45 $89
Grocery Includes food, household supplies, and other items purchased at the grocery store. $450 $273
Household Covers various household purchases, including cookware, bedding, furniture, etc. $130 $14
Savings General savings.  We haven’t established a delegation system for this money.  It will likely go toward our down payment, but we’re also discussing the possibility of funneling a portion into the stock market. $1,000 $3,661
Car & Renter’s Insurance Full coverage insurance on R’s SUV, and myself as a driver (I have a company car).  Renter’s insurance to cover replacement value of both of our possessions. $190 $399
Gas & Transportation Costs R has a 50 mile r/t commute to work.  My gas costs are covered by the company. $200 $246
Cell Phone R is on the family plan with his parents and siblings.  My cell is provided by my company. $30 $30
Gym Membership We are both members of 24-hr fitness.  My company reimburses the cost of my membership each quarter. $67 $71
Unemployment Protection A cushion to use in the event of a layoff for one or both of us. $500 $2,504
Personal Money $500 each, per month.  Transferred out of our account, into individual accounts. $1,000 $0
Student Loan Yes, part of combining income is combining debt.  Fortunately, this is the only debt R comes with. $240 $240

Non-Required Expenses

Budget Item Description Monthly Deposit Current Balance
Gifts Includes $50 for birthdays and $50 for Christmas for each of our 3 siblings and 5 parents, plus an extra $200 annually for friends, extended family, and miscellaneous gifting. $100 $382
Entertainment Includes nights out with friends, daytime activities, etc. $270  $246
Dining Out Eating out – we separated this out of our entertainment budget, because we felt that they were separate beasts. $150  $150
Liquor Includes liquor, beer & wine $60  $60
Recreational Equipment R and I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities, such as snowboarding, bouldering, hiking, camping, fishing, etc.  There is a lot of expense that goes into the equipment for these activities, which comes from here. $50  $28
Celebration To celebrate promotions, raises, anniversaries, etc. $20 $40
Travel For visiting R’s family in the NW, my father in the South, and vacations for just the two of us. $175 $206
Vehicle Maintenance For oil changes and maintenance on R’s SUV $100 $128
R’s Clothing For R’s wardrobe needs $30 $105
Braniac’s Clothing For my wardrobe needs $30 $115
Miscellaneous For miscellaneous and unexpected expenses $300  $13
Health & Hygiene Doctor bills, medicinal needs, etc. $40 $84
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My sister and her boyfriend have made the monumentous decision to purchase real-estate together.  They’re looking for something in the $100k – $120k range, and are willing to live in less-desirable neighborhoods in a home with high demands for improvements.  They have exactly $20k in savings, which they plan to use entirely for their down payment. 

Frankly, I believe this to be a terrible idea.  Not buying a home, but using every penny that you have to fund your home purchase.  Particularly when buying a home that requires repair.  But when the only way to afford a house is to spend all of your savings, is it then appropriate?

I have had extensive conversations with F, my pseudo-brother-in-law, about this choice they’ve made.  “We need the money to get a loan,” he’ll say.  “But what happens if there’s an emergency for which you need that money?” I’ll protest.  “We’re going to get a credit card for those situations,” F counters.  “But…(gasp)….if you don’t have the money when the emergency comes up………” I pause, trying to catch my breath “……….how are you going to pay the credit card in full when the bill comes?”

To date, he has yet to come up with a good response.

Here are two people that struggle with their finances on a fairly regular basis, and now they plan to stretch themselves even further, with no financial cushion, to realize the dream of owning their own home. 

Meanwhile, in the Mid-West, R’s brother and his wife are preparing to take the mortgage plunge as well.  Not only are they stretching themselves to pay for it, but they’ve also accepted an adjustable-rate term on a portion of their mortgage.  Due to a combination of factors, including low income levels, lack of employment stability, and poor credit, this was the only way they were able to get financed.

R has done his best to dissuade them from buying the house, but they, like my sister and F, are steadfast in their decision. 

I started to wonder why both couples, so abrubtly, decided to buy a house on limited finances, with almost no forethought.  They have not been saving for this goal.  They have not done the legwork to find out how much home they can afford, the burden of property taxes, or the cost of repairs.  They have not spent the last several years evaluating different houses and architectures they like and dislike so that they can confidently make a decision about they type of home they want to live in.  So why, all of a sudden, do they have a burning desire to be homeowners?

Maybe because the time feels so right.  The media, the real-estate industry, the government: they’re all trying to convince us now is the time to buy.  If you don’t buy a house RIGHT NOW you’ll miss the opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.  All of those good deals will slip right between your fingertips, and years from now, when you’re still renting, you’ll look back with regret on your one chance to buy a home.  Don’t miss the boat!

Even I am not immune to these persuasions.  I was recently reading an article about home prices seeing a surprising increase, and momentarily worried that if we didn’t buy a house now, our window of opportunity would close.  And I find myself a bit envious of R’s brother and his wife.  While we have been tentative and indecisive about moving forward with buying a house, they are going for it.  I suppose there is risk with every reward.  But I will not be bullied into making the biggest investment of my life, just because I am afraid it’s now or never.  And maybe that’s true – maybe it is now or never.

But I think I would rather be a financially comfortable renter than a bankrupt owner.

Editor’s Note: I initially prepared this post before we moved from the NW, so some of the tricks I had used there are no longer applicable.  No longer can I utilize aternative commuting methods, because driving to various sites throughout the day is a part of my job.  Despite this, I still believe there are good tips within this post, and therefore decided to post it anyway.  Also, since writing, I stumbled upon a similar post by Frugal Dad in which he compiles 122 reader-suggested money saving tips.  You can check it out here.
Every time I see an article promising me easy ways to cut costs, and save money, I feel a rush of excitement followed immediately with disappointment.  Most of these articles are full of ideas that I am already doing – bringing my own coffee to work, brown-bagging my lunches, taking the bus, planning a menu, etc.  All great advice!  But not so helpful for those of us already doing it.
 
I save $1000 every month, sometimes more if I’m lucky enough to get a bonus or a third paycheck that month (I’m paid every two weeks, instead of twice a month).  I am not including my retirement savings in this number.  This accounts for roughly 1/3 of my take-home pay.  But sometimes, I feel like I could and should be saving more.  And so I search for ways spend less, and save more. 
 
I have compiled two lists below.  The first is a list of unconventional wisdom for saving money.  These are ideas that had never crossed my mind until I was lucky enough to find them.  The second is a collection of my favorite, tried and true tips for saving money.  All tips on this list are things that have, without a doubt, had a substantial impact on my spending habits.
 
 
Creative ways to $ave
1.  Remove unused cargo racks – How did this never occur to me?  I have a set of racks atop my car that we use occasionally for bike transport.  But the only purpose they serve when not in use is looking cool.  And how cool can I possibly look driving around, wasting gas?
2.  Keep your eyes open for new restaurants.  They typically offer grand opening specials. – I haven’t tried this yet.  And, I suppose, I could be risking a poor dining experience – we don’t eat out often, and when we do, we like to go places we know and love.  But it might we worth a shot.
3.  Collect vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer. As soon as it’s full, make a soup out of them. R insists that the best soup bases are homemade.  I wouldn’t know, because I never have enough ingredients at the same time to make my own.  But this is a fantastic idea.
4.  Pay for your laundry and car usage. – Act as if you’ve returned to the laundromat, and pay yourself for each load of laundry.  The idea is that your usage will be reduced, and you’ll have some extra moolah to save.
5.  Switch to cloth napkins. – I think this is debatable.  Sure, you save money when buying napkins or paper towels – which are pretty inexpensive to begin with – but you spend more washing the cloth napkins.
6.  Use you local park’s playground as a workout station.  Monkey bars can be used for pull-ups and leg lifts. The park will also have a trail where you can run. – Makes it kind of hard to justify that gym membership during the summer.  Winter may be a different story.
7.  Plant a tree next to your outside air conditioning unit. By shading your outside unit you may improve the operating efficiency of the overall system by 20%. – I don’t own a home, and don’t use an air conditioner.  And I would also point out that one would either have to wait a long time for a new tree to provide enough shade to make a difference, or they would have to purchase a mature tree – the cost of which may outweigh the savings.  But either way – talk about thinking outside the box!
8.  Stay at a college dorm room when traveling. Many universities rent out dorm rooms at a decent price during the summer. – Speaking of “thinking outside the box.”  I attended a basketball camp in my youth, and we had the great fortune of staying in the dorms.  It was a great experience at the time, but I don’t know how much I would enjoy it in my adult life.  
 
My Favorite ways to $ave
1.  Keep the Change – This works for the debit card/checking system, and the cash system.  Every time I spend money, I round the amount up to the next full dollar amount when recording the transaction in my budget or check register.  If we spend $50.87 at the grocery store, that $0.13 gets thrown into our change jar.  It can really add up to some substantial savings – R and I have saved up $600 in less than a year with this method! 
2.  Bring lunch from home – R still eats out quite a bit during the workweek.  These meals come out of his personal money, so it’s none of my business.  But I do know that the teriyaki place he visits, which represents the cheapest place he dines, costs him almost $7 per meal, after tip.  Just three days of eating there per week costs him $84 a month.  That’s over $1K a year.  Meanwhile, my “work lunches” budget gets $20/month, only costing me $240 a year. 
3.  Brew coffee at home – I’ve mentioned this before, but this is a great way for me to save money.  However, I do have a boss who walks to get a cup of coffee down the street every day.  At first, I thought about how much money he must be throwing away on his daily caffeine fix.  It took many months for it to dawn on me that he needed a guaranteed escape for just a few minutes each day.  For some, maintaining sanity in a stressful atmosphere may prove well worth the cost of the coffee.
4.  No cable/No TV – When I was growing up, my parents refused to purchase cable tv.  Once I moved out, I continued the resistance to paid television.  And then, about a year ago, R and I gave up our television entirely.  We occasionally watch full tv show episodes online (ABC, NBC, FOX, Hulu, and many others are great places to find your favorites!), but we mainly use our time doing other things.  Not only are we saving money by keeping the cable bill away, but it also helps our relationship – instead of vegging out in front of the tv every night, we have the opportunity to talk to each other, or get out and do something else.  Seriously – getting rid of our tv may have been the best thing we’ve done.
5.  Alternative commuting – My alternative commuting has come up before, but it bears repeating: I have saved hundreds of dollars in gas money by driving to work less.  There’s a great site, Drive Less, Save More, that lets you open a free trip diary and track all of your alternative commutes.  It also lets you see your results, ie. how much money you’ve saved.  In June and July, by alterna-commuting 3 days a week, I saved approximately $240 in gas.  That comes out to about $1440/year.  Pretty substantial.
6.  Mini-trip biking.  R and I live about a mile from the nearest library, and 2 miles from the nearest grocery store.  We tend to make these trips fairly frequently (though, the grocery store trips have been reduced since we started menu planning).  In the past, we would always hop in the car and drive on over.  Now we’ve been hopping on our bikes instead. I don’t have a way to quantify the money we’ve saved, but I feel confident that it has made a difference in our overall fuel consumption.
7.  Library.  I.  Love.  The library.  No joke.  Movies, books, magazines – all can be directed to the local branch, all online.  It’s amazing.  I have saved so much money by not buying the books I want to read, or the patterns I want to knit, or the movies I want to see.  It is awesome.
8.  Menu Planning.  I have gone back and forth over the years with my dedication to menu planning, but it’s due to laziness, and not a lack of effectiveness.  When I plan a weekly menu, I visit the store only once per week.  I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner that night, or wait for chicken to thaw, because I can take it out the night beforehand.  We eat out less, because we have everything we need to make dinner at home.
9.  Snacks in my desk drawer.  I keep a collection of healthy snacks in the drawer of my desk – keeps me away from the vending machine when I get that mid-afternoon stomach growl.
10.  Rechargeable batteries.  The recharging center was an investment that I was reluctant to make, but it’s turned out to be a great one.  I purchased 4 AA rechargeable batteries.  My digital camera needs two, so I keep two in the camera, and two charged up in the case.  This way, I’m never making last minute stops at the 7-11 to buy new ones after the old batteries run out!  And believe me, this has happened far more than I’m comfortable admitting. 
11.  Digital camera.  When R and I first got together, he tried encouraging me to get a digital camera, but I didn’t want to – I liked having the physical photos in my hand.  But I always bought those cheap throwaway cameras, because I was so terrified of losing a nice one.  I finally received a digital for Christmas, and I’m totally converted.  Less printing costs, less camera costs, and better quality photos – score!  Not to mention the plethra of online companies offering free prints to new customers.  Find out How To Get 1,761 Free Digital Prints!
12.  Empty water bottle.  Bringing an empty water bottle to the airport to fill up on the other side of security has saved me, on several occasions, from purchasing an overpriced beverage once inside. 
 
And there it is: the best savings advice I have to offer. 

Need more?  Also see:

Not all that long ago, I remember reading about how the paradigm had shifted between the weight tendencies of the rich and of the poor.  While I seem to be unable to relocate said article, the gist of it was this: in the 18th century, a heavier man or woman was considered more attractive.  Their plumpness was indicative of their societal stature, and only the wealthy had some extra meat on their bones.  Meanwhile, the poor and poverty-stricken members of society tended to be quite thin, even malnourished, because of their inability to afford enough food to be gluttonous.  These days, it is more often the well-off members of society leaning on the lean side, while the less fortunate often seem to be a part of the ever-increasing rate of obesity.

The article was an interesting read, and pinpointed several possible reasons for this.  One of them suggested that healthy, fresh food is more expensive and less accessible to those with limited resources.  And with this, I completely agree. 

Each week, R and I review the sale ads for our 3 major grocery stores.  We typically choose the two with the best deals, then plan our menu around them.  One of these stores always makes the list, due mostly to their unbeatable deals on produce.  The problem is, this store is very inconvenient to reach from our home.  The other problem with this store is that the prices on everything else is more than the average supermarket.  We end up driving over 10 miles through a heavily congested traffic artery for well-priced produce.  The reason we do this? 

Fresh, quality produce is expensive.  Too expensive for us to eat as much as we would like, were we to purchase it at the nearby supermarket.

Coming from the almost impossibly eco-friendly NW, we had been hearing murmurs about investing in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  The idea is that many members of a community will purchase a “share” in a local farm, many months before they see anything from the harvest.  Once the harvest cycle begins, shareholders will receive a box of fresh produce, usually weekly, throughout the growing season.  The farm is provided with a secure market before ever planting the first seed.

We were intrigued.  We even did a little bit of searching, only to find that every single nearby farm had sold out their shares many months before.  When we moved here, R resumed his search and, when he found a farm he liked,  insisted we jump on the bandwagon earlier. 

I was reluctant, at first.  It’s a sizeable investment in an uncertain product.  As “shareholders,” we assume a risk, right along with the farm, and there is a possibility that the harvest will fail to be plentiful.  But once he broke down all the benefits for me, it was hard to say no.

  • The cost of our share is $520 for the two of us.  Whoa!  I know.  But the harvest cycle is 26 weeks, and it ends up costing us only $20/week.  We currently spend quite a bit more at the distant grocery store each week.
  • Did I mention the farm is 100% organic?  The over-$20/week we spend at the store most certainly does not include organic produce.  I guess our cheapness outweighs our desire for toxin-free food.
  • We are supporting a community business, and ultimately helping our own local economy.
  • No longer will we feel compelled to embark on a ten-plus mile journey for fresh, affordable produce, saving us time and gas.
  • Our weekly box of produce is harvested no more that 36 hours before it is ready for pickup.  Imagine how fresh produce tastes when it hasn’t had to endure days worth of extreme refrigeration while in transit to its destination.
  • The CSA sends out a weekly email that includes various recipes, uses, and preservation tips and techniques for the items included in that week’s box.  This came as a huge relief to me, as I had never even heard of some of the crops they are growing!
  • And since I had never heard of some of the crops, I was concerned whether or not I would like it.  Lucky me, the CSA provides a “trade box” at each pickup location (5 of which are in my neigborhood alone!), where members can leave items they don’t like, and take items they do.
  • My final nagging concern was that I could not choose my own produce.  If I wanted corn this week, and my CSA box included only eggplant, my choices would be to a) go to the grocery store and buy some corn, letting the eggplant wither away in my produce drawer, or b) get a little bit more creative with my cooking.  The latter sounds more fun.

We haven’t yet received our first weekly box.  But we have received many messages from the farm, updating us on the status of their crops.  And so far, they all sound like veggies that I can sink my teeth into.  Literally.

For about the last two years, R and I have been weighing our first real-estate purchase.  Back in the NW, we came frighteningly close to spending multiple hundreds of thousands of our hard-earned dollars on a beautiful 1906 craftsman that turned out to have major electrical problems and therefore failed our inspection.

I remember, at the time, feeling so let down and disappointed.  My imagination had run wild with ideas about this house; the decorating, hosting, raising a family….that when the deal fell through, I genuinely believed that we had lost the home we were meant to buy.  In the brilliance of hindsight, letting go of that house now feels like the most intelligent decision we ever made.  We would have been stretching ourselves to make the payment, our lives would have been tied to that house, and its geography, and – while we didn’t know this at the time – both of our jobs were in serious jeopardy. 

R was employed by a supplier within the automotive industry.  Shortly after resigning his position to join me in my hometown, said supplier eliminated more than 35 jobs of the original 75.  Of those positions, over half were a part of R’s former department.

Meanwhile, back at my former employer, the budget was in serious decline as well.  As a retail and manufacturing organization, they had done well for the past several decades.  But their products are exceptionally well made, making them a bit steep in the affordability factor.  Additionally, their main product line is used primarily in home building and remodeling – which, as we all know, is a practice many people discontinued in the midst of this economy.  I recently heard from a former coworker who told me of a round of layoffs that affected over 30% of the entire workforce.  This massive layoff included positions ranging from janitorial work to the executive team members.  Needless to say, the remaining 70% are highly fearful and uncertain of the stability of their jobs.

At the time, we also didn’t realize how strong the pull to return home would be for me.  Had we gone through with the deal, that beautiful house, which I so desparately adored, would have turned into a terrible burden.  We would have been prisoners to the investment of money and time it required.  Perhaps we would have finally given in to our joint craving for a canine companion.  And before we knew it, we would have established the NW as our home.  Which, I should probably confess, R likely may have preferred it.  But I imagine I would have resented it.

Now, back in my hometown, our sense of permanency is strong.  With R’s “green collar” job, and mine in the healthcare industry, we’re also back to feeling pretty secure.  And we’re back to discussing real-estate. 

Let’s just hope it’s not a case of history repeating.

Long before I ever met R, he had established a certain “green-collar” type company as his dream job.  Said dream job just so happened to be based in my hometown.  Where we now live.

A spectacular combination of experience, industry connections, a good friend, and pure, dumb luck somehow led to an offer with this organization.  The only catch would be his status as an employee.  R is not officially employed at his dream job, but instead works a contract that offers between 30 and 40 hours per week, at a very decent hourly wage.  Because he is employed as a contractor, there are no benefits included with his position, and we are responsible for “withholding” our own tax money.

There are pros and cons associated with this form of self-employment.  From R’s perspective?  Mostly pros.  From mine?  Hard to say.

You see, I don’t think R has worked a single 40-hour week since our move.  He goes in late and comes home early.  He’s usually barely out of bed as I’m leaving in the morning, and is always home before me.  I originally attributed this behavior to a sudden laziness, which I had never known was within him. 

Our finances began to suffer, because we were budgeted for him to work a specified number of hours per year, and he wasn’t doing that.  So many areas of our budget faced a serious shortfall.  I finally brought this up in a discussion one evening.  I laid down my concerns about our budget, as well as my concern that his vague hours could make him appear flaky to his colleagues, thus diminishing the chances of ever having the opportunity to be a permanent employee with the company. 

He calmly explained to me that, as a contractor, he costs the company a certain amount of money each hour he is there.  There are times when he faces a shortage of work to do, because he is waiting for a part of the project from someone else before he can proceed with his.  Other times, he needs a certain type of software to complete a project, for which there are only a small number of floating licenses.  His point was that every hour that he is costing the company money, he also wants to be either making or saving the company money.  If he is there just to be there and earn money, he’s going to appear as a poor investment.

We had to rearrange our budget, and I had to rearrange my expectations. 

The other big issue with the contractor status (other than my envy) is the payment schedule.   As a contractor, R is paid in net 30 terms.  This means at the end of a full month, he submits an invoice for all of the hours he worked throughout the month.  The company then has 30 days to pay him.  Which all boils down to mean we receive his paychecks a full two months after the work has been done.  Add to this a bit of, oh, let’s say absentmindedness from the person in charge of his contract, and we usually don’t receive his check until the second or third week of the month.

I had a very hard time with this at first, and finally, remembered what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck.  I make a decent wage, but the first several months we lived here, there was no money coming from R’s job.  At all.  I was supporting both of us on my income.  And I have to say, it was harder than I thought it would be, for several reasons. 

For one, we had all but thrown out our budget, and certainly weren’t tracking our spending.  Our money was divided between various accounts, some still in the NW, where we used to live, and some opened up in our new home.  I felt like I had little to no control over our finances.  Another reason was that, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I no longer had my own money.  Any money I made went to our expenses.  I felt stifled, like I no longer had the freedom to do with my money what I wished.  There was also an extraordinary amount of pressure that I’d never felt before. 

I felt such relief on the day that R received his first paycheck.  And even though it was a rough wait for it, the two month delay also means that if or when the contract is not renewed, we will still receive two full months of income from his work.

Ultimately, the self-employment has been a wonderful opportunity for R.  His flexible schedule has provided him with the ability to take a few days off to visit his family, or to spend time with them when they visit him.  The experience with this organization will look fantastic on his resume, and is a huge milestone on his career path.  It also provides him with the freedom nto explore and enjoy our new home.

Now if only I could find a way to curb my envy…

Part II….
A while ago, I talked about my introduction to budgeting.  Here’s what happened next.
 
After moving into my very own apartment, just after graduating high school, I assumed all responsibility of my budget management.  Rephrase?  It became my responsibility to manage my own budget.  But did I?  Ha!  I was free!!  I could finally spend my money in any way I wanted, without anyone telling me how.  Savings?  How about a new pair of shoes instead.  Car Maintenance?  I’d rather go out to eat.  And so it went….until I really did have to start paying my own insurance.  And rent, and food, and to replace the CV Joint on my car.  So guess what I did?  Accepted the generous offer from Capital One to use their money, at only 21% interest!  I remember buying a $70 pair of jeans using that card with the picasso painting on the front.  I felt so grown up and sophisticated!  Until I got the bill.  Full disclosure: I haven’t a clue what my interest rate actually was.  I just know that I took my card to the limit.
 
Which, lucky me, was only $500.  And then, once all of the late fees and over-limit fees were tacked on, a grand total of $975.   Oh.  My. 
 
My saving grace here is a $1300 savings account I had been holding on to.  Recognizing quickly that this almost-a-grand debt was nothing to have sitting around, I paid it off then and there.  To this day, I have never used a credit card again.  
 
Back to the story:  So there I was, plugging along, like a broke college kid – long after I was out of college.   I always had enough to get by, but never enough to feel comfortable.  But D never gave up on me.  Anytime I would recite my money woes to him, he would gently remind me of my teenage budget.  After a few failed attempts to start a new budget, I finally asked him for some help.  He promptly emailed me a copy of he and my mother’s household budget, and encouraged me to call if I needed his help.

So I made another budget.  And I actually lived within it.  And then I paid off my car loan (two years early!).  And now here we are.

Okay, so what’s the moral of the story?  The heartwarming part?

Well, retrospectively, I am so touched by D’s insistence that my budget deserved attention.  And not only my attention, but his attention too.  Instead of watching football, or working in the garage, or any number of things he would probably rather be doing with his time, he devoted to time to my budget.  To building a solid financial foundation for me to stand.  For that time we spent together, I will always be grateful.