Money talk is SO AWKWARD, isn't it?*
Budgeting has not been a strong point in the Cheung Household (UNDERSTATEMENT), but we are giving it another go in 2015. For a long while Phillip paid all the bills and did all the money stuff and I was a proper 1950s housewife who knew nothing about nothing. Then he went back to school and taking over the money stuff was something I could help with - and shoot, I kept myself afloat through college, working and paying my own bills and whatnot, I'm not TOTALLY useless. And I developed my own "budgeting" system (mostly a very neurotic Excel spreadsheet and stacks of receipts), but I'd say that all of the budgeting we've ever done has been more of a "Oh, huh, look at all the categories we overspent in THIS month!" rather than a "Oh, huh, look at that category, we should probably not go out to dinner tonight." You know? I was SUPER GOOD at tracking what big spenders we were, basically.
Earlier this year when the bakery started taking over my life, Phillip went back to doing the money stuff. And he started using Mint, which I absolutely positively cannot stand. For unidentifiable reasons. I just do. Also Phillip's mode of budgeting was basically the same as mine (excellent tracking! not so much with the cutting!), except he added an element of OHHHH NOOOO and this is where everything went to pot. Many many MANY discussions this year re: our differing approaches to money, our differing views on what is enough money, our differing views on what to do with the money. I should say that we are in full agreement on the big questions; it's the small nitty gritty questions where we butt heads.
We had another of these painful conversations last night, and a lot of OTHER stuff plays into these conversations too, right? How you grew up, expectations, general levels of stress, how you cope, all sorts of really complicated things that you just have to accept and put aside and deal. We manage to do that by having a fight first, then having a productive conversation. Is there a better way to do this? Probably! We just haven't figured out how yet.
ANYWAY. For a multitude of reasons, not least because I never understood Mint, we downloaded the free trial of You Need A Budget and set the whole thing up. We are hopeful! I already understand the system better than I ever understood Mint, and Phillip appreciates having everything accessible and uploadable and not color coded in aqua and pink and yellow with circular reference errors all over the place (I didn't say I was GOOD at Excel).
But we did decide that we couldn't send EJ to preschool like I hoped. It's not a HUGE deal and we WILL find a way to make it work next year when she's four, but stuff like Europe Trips and house maintenance are the big deals currently. And preschool's expensive, even the cheap ones. I cut the housecleaner because they were honestly causing me more stress than helping, but I know that will be annoying as soon as it's time to clean a toilet. We made up good-sounding amounts for groceries and dining out and clothing, but have we ever adhered to those amounts before? This feels a bit like a new year's resolution to lose weight that's bound to crap out by February. I have a definite "oh, everything works out!" personality which drives my poor husband around the bend, so it's in the interest of our marriage that I stay engaged and concerned. And I plan to. I'd like to learn how to SAVE money and go to Europe AGAIN! (Phillip: hanging head)
Any discussion of money, though, takes me into the Is It Okay That I'm A SAHM frets and I feel kinda insecure tonight. Especially reading everyone's tweets about their kick ass working moms today. I know Phillip would have preferred I stay working, though it wasn't a choice I made so much as my job sort of disappeared after I left it and I wasn't sure how to "go back" to work. And also we were making it work on one income. And I never liked my job. Or working in an office. And I really loved staying home. And yes, I have ALWAYS felt like someone was going to TELL ON ME or something, that's how much I loved (love) staying home.
I don't think I'm especially GOOD at it or anything. I am not SuperMom. I do as little housework and cooking as I can get away with. When they were babies I hung out with my friends with babies as much as humanly possible. I've done a lot of shopping and coffee drinking and napping. For a while I did a lot of exercising. My kids are clean and fed and taken care of, but am I teaching them to read or doing art projects or playing games? Um, SOMEtimes? Not REALLY? They know their families really well. They know about being kind. They are forced to eat vegetables every couple of days. ???
I think one thing I feel confident about, but also mixed-feelings about, is that because I stayed home with the kids, Phillip has been able to pursue everything he's wanted to pursue. Grad school, business travel, switching jobs several times, without ever worrying about how to manage things at home. I have always taken care of that and I for sure don't know how he would have earned that Master's degree without me holding down the fort. (I suppose there's an argument to be made re: "but YOU'RE the one who wanted to have kids", but that's a dark mental pit that doesn't actually exist in the real world and I try to stay away from it.)
THAT SAID. I'm not sure what that gets me as a woman in the 21st century. I have family members and friends for whom it's VERY IMPORTANT to be able to earn your own living. And I... can't do that. Something happens to Phillip? Not sure what I'd do. I have nothing to fall back on. And I never found The Thing I Like Doing. Although... I think I HAVE, actually, but no one pays you to be a professional pray-er. (This is my problem, Phillip says. Everything I work hard at is not paid work. ALAS.)
In that respect I feel failure-ish. It's all on my husband to support our family. Even if I WANTED to help, childcare would cost more than whatever I would take home. (At least now, while we still have one at home.) Perhaps I have let myself down? I have not been All I Could Be? Am not fabulous career woman, famous writer, rich business lady, cannot even buy my own lip gloss.
But even THAT... I mean, I LIKE my life! I don't feel unfulfilled or unhappy. I DO feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not contributing financially. And that what I AM doing (bakery work, long weekends for churchy conferences) is somewhat hard on my husband without any financial gain for us. Most of the time I feel like I have plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, though I suspect it doesn't involve an office or more schooling or any sort of financial independence. Gah. Uh... life would be pretty DULL without me?! **
*I have an Asian-American husband, Asian-American in-laws, and two Asian-American best friends and this means I talk about money in public a LOT. The cultural differences here, they are big time.
**I KNOOOOOOW. I KNOW I AM WORTHY AND VALUABLE EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE A PAYCHECK. I'm just saying, if I kept writing about that this blog post would be eons long. It's ALREADY eons long. I AM AMAZED YOU GOT THIS FAR.