I balance the joint checkbook my husband and I share every week. I usually do it on Sunday or Monday and it helps me keep track of our money, both coming and going, and stay on top of bills.
This week, it looked like we were running a little short. A year ago, this would have made me very anxious. I would have been stressed and worried and a little nauseous. It would have been a credit card that had racked up too high to be paid off completely that month. I’d have to let a balance run so I could pay our other bills — bills for more important stuff like electricity, heat, and water — and I hate hate hated doing that. I hated paying interest on purchases I couldn’t even remember making.
But even though things were running a little short this week, I wasn’t worried. Because now we had savings. We have $1,000 in an emergency fund, and another growing pot only slightly bigger than that (so far) which will be our back-up fund to cover eight months of living expenses if we ever need it. I also wasn’t worried, because I had expected something like this might happen.
Forgotten credit card purchases rear their ugly heads when their due dates loom, but we didn’t run short this week because of that. Our checkbook was a little tighter for a much better reason than impulse purchases — family time. I didn’t work all month because of my pregnancy and childbirth, and my husband also took three weeks off to help care for and bond with our newborn. We had planned on having less money this month. We knew spending quality time with our family was well worth the money that wouldn’t be made in that time.
So I wasn’t surprised and I wasn’t worried while balancing the book because I knew we had the savings in our emergency fund to cover it. Instead of having a small panic attack, I transferred the money and took care of it. We will build our emergency fund back up as soon as we can, even if it is slowly.
And then I had a moment of a-duh. Not only did our more frugal spending and better saving in the last year provide the emergency fund so this money shortage issue turned into a non-issue, we had planned even better than that. And I had just forgot. When we knew we were both planning to take time off of work for the new baby, we started stashing away a small amount of money — like, two trips to Taco Bell small — every week into a special reserve account offered by our bank, available to our checking account whenever we need it.
We had more than enough money there to cover the shortage without even delving into our emergency fund. Since I had forgotten about it, it felt like a sudden and wonderful windfall. Hooray! This large amount of money just appeared in our account and now all of our troubles are over! But really, it was our regular saving, foresight, and planning that saved us. Our past selves helped out our present selves. Let me tell you, it’s a great feeling.
So to ensure that I never have to experience that anxious, nauseous feeling while balancing the checkbook anymore, I will continue saving, looking ahead, and planning. I cannot predict all that will happen in my life (I can accurately predict hardly any of it, really), but I can do my best. I, as my present self, will do everything I can to help out my future self, for whatever might come. I know what it feels like now, and I want to perpetuate that security and sense of achievement so there’s great feelings all around.