Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Budget is Real: My Struggle with Contentment

My word this year is "contentment." I've never chosen a word to focus on before, but this year I felt like I needed to. In the blog and social media world, it's easy to see beautifully edited photos of women with their Kate Spade bags or their Louboutins lounging on the beach looking at their perfectly pedicured toenails and think "Why don't I have that?" Now I know that's not what life is about. I know it, I do. But I also know that ice cream isn't good for me, but I find myself eating it for dinner more often than I'd like to admit.

Budget is Real. Struggles with Contentment. | www.shealennon.com


Honestly, contentment has been more of an afterthought than a focus so far. It's so hard to feel content when you're constantly reminded of what you don't have. Aaron and I have been on a tight budget pretty much since we've been married, and it got even tighter when we had Jona. Finding good deals and shopping smart is part of who I am, so I'm okay with my budget being more Target than Nordstrom. But there's this voice in my head that is constantly nagging at me and tells me that at 31, this is not where I should be. This is not what I imagined. 

I went to college, I worked hard. I got my degree, I got a Masters degree too for crying out loud. I graduated Cum Laude and was invited into Phi Beta Kappa. (This isn't a toot my own horn session, I'm just trying to make a point.) I know that academic achievement isn't everything, but I thought it would be something. As a college student if you would have told me 10 years after graduation I'd be working as an assistant I'd laugh. I had dreams. I wanted to be something. I didn't say they were real specific dreams, but dreams nonetheless. I thought I would be more. I thought I would do more. But it turns out the skills I mastered in college (um, writing papers analyzing French literature?) didn't really put me on the path to landing a lucrative job. 

My career struggles, however, are a post for another day. A real Shakespearean tragedy. But that's not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to be honest with you, because even though I truly believe that you don't have to have a lot of money to look great, eat well, or live "the good life," sometimes I think about how nice it would be if I did. If I didn't have to worry about what "envelope" the money for a new pair of shoes is going to come from (#lovehateDaveRamsey). Or if I schedule a hair appointment and Aaron didn't ask me, "Did we budget for that?" Or if we could have a conversation about growing our family that didn't focus on money or daycare costs. 

I guess I'm writing this because I hope that I'm not alone. I hope that some of you have many of the same money-related worries that I do. Or even if you're in a better place financially, I hope that I'm not the only one who struggles with contentment. I know this is quite a departure from what I usually write, but this has been heavy on my heart lately. 

What do you do when you're struggling to feel content? 


From the archives:




48 comments:

  1. Not much stresses me out in life, but money has always been the one big thing. But while it does stress me out, my husband has a different view that balances me out. He is always saying that memories are worth the money spent, so vacations, date nights, family outings, and such are worth it. But then we get the bank statement and I'm freaked out again. But it's nice to have that balance. I thrift...that's a good destresser. Because even if I'm spending money, it's not too much!

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  2. We are on a strict budget too and it's hard not going out and buying new clothes or stuff and just being happy with what we have.
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

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  3. Oh my gosh friend - you hit the nail on the head - this is the year we've been trying to get our budget in check too and it is SO HARD. We don't fight about money, but we're just trying to get a better handle on things, especially looking ahead to Ollie being in school and wanting to potentially move to a different house before he starts. It is such a stressful thing! And I totally get it when you look at what others have and feel like "I want that". I feel like it's the one curse of blogging in a way. And the career stuff - I feel you there too. I don't have a masters degree, but I do have a degree, but that's not even what gets me down, I just wish I could be doing something I'm passionate about instead of what pays the bills. So anyway, no answers for you other than I emphasize with you big time here! And the only thing that has helped me feel more content is knowing we're committed to making a change even if it's a little bit hard at the moment!

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  4. This is such a wonderful post and is something that I'm sure many of us feel.Although I'm enjoying blogging and Instagram, there is something about seeing what others have that makes me wonder, why don't I have that? I tend to have that feeling about my house and wondering why I don't have a nicer house with big white immaculate and perfectly decorated rooms like everyone else seems to have. Then I just try to focus on what I do have and how lucky I am. Two adorable kids, a wonderful husband, a job that isn't so demanding that I can't spend time with them, etc. "Contentment" is a wonderful goal word for the year.

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  5. Especially as a student with no real income except from some occasional freelance jobs and blog deals, money is a big stress factor in my life. I know I'm only 19 and I'm actually not supposed to make any on my own yet, but somehow I still feel like I am wasting time if I'm not working on something or finding a way to create an income source. I should really find a way to relax and enter the contentment state that you're talking about :)

    Fashionably,

    Patricia

    http://www.wingsforliberty.com/

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  6. I think it's great that you and your husband balance each other out. I agree with him in theory that memories are worth the money, but I'm like you, seeing that money go is scary!! My husband and I are on the same page for the most part, but it tends to stress me out more than it does him. When we first got married I managed our finances, but it made me crazy! So he took it over.

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  7. I agree Melanie, it is so hard! But I really am trying to work on being happy with what we have.

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  8. Beth it's so great to hear that I'm not the only one here! We're in a similar boat, we want to move in the next year or so, so this has been the year we're really trying to get our finances in order too. So things are always tight, but this year it's SO tight. But you're right, the commitment to making a change and doing something important for our family does help with contentment. I just have to keep that focus in mind.
    And career-wise, I'm really with you there too. I think I wouldn't care about whether I was doing something related to my degree if it was something I was passionate about. But being an admin? No, I'm not passionate about that! I'm thankful that I have a job that pays the bills, but I'd love to have a job that I love, you know?
    Thanks Beth!

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  9. Thanks so much Megan. I know that people are putting their best selves/houses/etc. on IG and blogs, so it's not the "full picture", but it's still hard sometimes to keep that in perspective. But you're right, keeping the focus on what I DO have is really the answer here. I'm so lucky to have a great husband, a wonderful son, and a job that is steady and pays the bills.

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  10. I understand Patricia, and I remember feeling that way as a college student too! I think it's something that everyone struggles with at some point in their life. I hope you do find some contentment too! :)

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  11. I constantly struggle with this. I want to find a new job, one that pays more, but I would have to drive further away and I don't want to do that. And my husband loves his job, but his brother keeps offering a job that would pay twice as much (but that would simply be a JOB and not something he loves). I mean, at what point do we sacrifice happiness for more money? And will the money help make us happy?

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  12. Aaagh I know, right? I want to say that money doesn't matter and I just want something that makes me happy, but at the end of the day it does matter. It's certainly not everything, but it does make a difference. Such hard decisions!

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  13. It does feel hard to find contentment while living within your means when you feel this need to keep up with the Joneses, only now they are not just the people who live next door, but the people you follow on instagram getting you up close and personal with how they like to flaunt their money in their gorgeous homes, with their designer duds, selfies after haircuts that cost more than my most expensive pair of splurge shoes (I'm all about my $12 cut and blow outs at the Paul Mitchell School) and it can all get to be a bit much.

    It's easy to forget where contentment ends and where the need to pretend like you have a charmed life on instagram begins.

    The fact that you went to school and worked hard and got that degree and now are an assistant is an all too familiar story among people our age. Most of my friends are working in positions far below their level of education, and I of course am still figuring out what I want to do with my life.

    It's all terribly confusing and overwhelming, but I do hope you don't let fears of not having it all stop you from loving what you do already have.

    Chic on the Cheap

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  14. i hear ya on this! my life is nothing like i expected. i skip a lot of blogging events because i don't have the money to "look" fancy. i'm a t-shirt and jeans every day kind of girl (thanks to my job, i don't have to spend money). cheers to us target girls! you're definitely not alone :)

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  15. ps--my post went up early on accident! there's a post below it too.

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  16. WOW this sounds like a fantastic store especially for a budget mom like me. Those necklaces are so pretty and colorful. =)

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  17. Too fun! I love cute boutiques like this! :)

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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  18. Thanks so much Lydia, I love what you said here, especially about the "charmed life on IG"...so true. And I know you're right that so many of us are in the same boat doing jobs we feel overqualified for or just jobs we're not passionate about. I'm still trying to figure it out too--we'll get there though!!
    And you're right of course, I can't lose sight of what I do have, and at the end of the day, I don't. I know I'm blessed in many ways. Sometimes though, all the "not having it all" does get to me, and it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one :) Anyway, thanks, as always for your kind words!

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  19. Thanks Elle, it's nice to hear that you're there with me :) Target for the win, always!

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  20. This looks like a really fun event and you look too cute!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

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  21. It is a great store, I'm so glad it came to Kansas City :) Yay for budget moms :)

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  22. Me too! I'd love if you could come to our event there on the 23rd Ashley!

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  23. Thanks so much Melanie! It should be fun! :)

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  24. I will definitely try- that is my friend's birthday and we're doing dinner (not sure where yet), but if I can sneak away for a bit I will be there!

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  25. We have a Mode at one of our outlet malls up here too! I got some super cute jewelry when I was there for a moms event, their clothes looked cute and affordable too. How fun you get to host that event, I wish I was able to come!!

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  26. Thanks Beth! I know, I totally wish you lived closer :) They have some good stuff--I'm hoping to find a new pair of jeans!

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  27. Oh how fun. I still have so many friends in the JoCo area, I'll spread the word to them. Love the dressing room shots.

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  28. Awesome, thanks so much Megan! I love seeing other people's dressing room shots, but I felt pretty awkward doing it myself... Not sure why, seeing how I post pictures of myself on the internet all the time :)

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  29. oh gee...I relate to this post. SO MUCH. It's so true. Life/reality seemed so distant as a college student. Dreams (no matter how clear or fuzzy they are) seemed so attainable and yet, when push came to shove and we entered the work field in order to make sure those bills we accrued as an adult were paid then the reality of work and what we do seemed...bland in comparison. Those "dreams" became less of a focus than makings sure being financially secure was. No one said that studying works of the literary arts (which I happened to do) didn't necessarily equate to a meaningful job afterwards!

    I hate to call it settling since that word carries negative sentiment but, at the same time, it pretty much is settling. We pretty much settle ourselves into a job that we need rather than want since no one is going to take care of those bills for us (unless you seem to have an endless amount of cash flow that dispenses money when you need it). So we go in to work and leave work daily - never really feeling truly fulfilled like we did "back in the day."

    I admit, I do envy those who seem to be able to carry the work life/dream life balance. It seems so attainable and then we (on the other side) can't help but compare. And feel negative and wonder, "how did I get here?"

    I don't know what my future will be. I know I'm like you though...the budget is real and I know there will be more struggles. So while I won't be as fortunate as those I see and even aspire to, I know that at the same time, I love my family and lifestyle. I know that there are some things I can't change at this moment in time but it's nice to know that it doesn't mean we're not living a good life either. As the saying goes, comparison is a thief. He likes to steal your happiness because misery loves company. But, we can definitely take back control, right? =)

    xo,
    nancy

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  30. Oh my goodness, thank you Nancy for writing this. I agree, the world seemed so big and attainable in college, and you're right, we did settle. This: " So we go in to work and leave work daily - never really feeling truly fulfilled like we did "back in the day." " so spot on!


    In some ways the "settling" has been better than I imagined--I never really daydreamed about being a mom, but now that I am, it's so much better and more fulfilling than I ever imagined it would be. But then there's the other side too, the job, the budget, etc.


    But you're so right, comparison is a thief and I need to stop willingly handing over my life to him! Honestly, writing this post and hearing what others had to say has really helped me to take back control! So thanks Nancy, I really appreciate your words!

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  31. Looks like a great store - wish I could attend your event!

    Chic on the Cheap

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  32. I know it, me too! I really wish you lived closer! :)

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  33. How fun! I wish we lived closer and could attend!

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  34. What a great and fun event! Cute clothes!

    God bless,

    XO, Claire

    Http://www.littlemissfashionqueen.blogspot.com

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  35. Thanks Clara, it should be fun! :)

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  36. love both those tops you're rocking in the dressing room! wish i lived close enough to shop with you :)

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  37. Story of my damn life. Kevin and I got married 3 weeks after I graduated from college (he had been out of college for a year) and we have struggled financially since then. We have a lot of student loan debt which takes up a good chunk of our income, and while it's the bane of our existence, it's really teaching us how to be content with not much at all. We haven't been able to go on big vacations or make big purchases like many of our contemporaries. Now that we're both working full-time and Kevin is almost done with grad school, we have a little bit more money to throw towards debt and to put towards a house (our house payments will actually about $400 less a month than the place we currently rent...). The money situation has actually been a large factor in our decision to not have any children, because we just don't know how we'd be able to financially make it happen. Like you, though, I'm trying hard to just be happy with what we DO have (which is absolutely enough compared with so many other people in the world) and make good decisions with our money right now. It's so frustrating sometimes, though!!

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  38. Thanks lady, and I know it, me too!! :)

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  39. Our situation is really similar--we got married right out of college too and it seems like we've been broke since then! :) I joke that I'll be paying student loan debt for the rest of my life, but I'm only half joking, since by the time we get it paid off we'll probably have to pay loans for Jona's college too, ha! So I feel your pain there for sure.
    We didn't know how we were going to make it work financially when we had Jona, but we've learned to cut back even more. And it's not to say that we don't splurge on things occasionally and whatnot, but we do try really hard to be super careful, especially this year since we want to sell our house and move. Good luck with your house buying/moving too, that is so exciting!!
    It's nice to hear that I'm not alone, so thanks Brynn! Just hearing that from others has helped me feel better and put the focus on what I DO have and how thankful I am for that :)

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  40. i hear ya.
    glad i'm not the only one.

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  41. Thank you! It's good to hear that I'm not alone either :)

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  42. I always have way too many tabs open on my web browser and sometimes forget about things... so just realized I never commented on this but totally meant to! Thanks so much for sharing - I appreciate this kind of realness. And I think it's really a great thing that you chose to take on this blog/Instagram stuff by taking on "contentment" as your theme, rather than wallowing in "coming up short" or whatever compared to those bloggers, or instead of just walking away from being part of the blog community (which I think some people end up doing as their solution). That's really inspirational. That nagging voice is probably going to be there either way for most of us, but the blog world can sometimes help it get louder in our heads... this kind of post is definitely a help though. Probably a little cathartic for you, and a good chance to reflect for the rest of us :)

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  43. Ha I do the same thing, I definitely max out the tab space :) (Side note, did you ever see that graphic that showed a screen with a million tabs open and said "this is what a woman's brain looks like" vs a man's showing one lonely little tab...? Just thought that was funny.)
    Anyway, thank you for what you said. I'm really trying to focus on contentment in all aspects of my life and I think blogging really falls into that too. I think it's sad when people walk away from blogging because they feel like they don't measure up or have what others have. Maybe if I didn't have such a great community of blog-friends I might feel that way, but I feel SO incredibly lucky to have met so many awesome people (like you!) who have become true friends. So you're right, writing this (and reading others' support and similar stories) has been so cathartic. I'm so thankful for my blog buds :)

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  44. Haha, I curse student loan debt!! It's oddly comforting for me to hear that Kevin and I are not the only ones who struggle with money (especially when it feels like everyone around us is able to spend their money on all kinds of things!!). And money is such a taboo topic in our society, so to be able to talk about it candidly is nice as well. Good luck in your house selling/buying as well!!!

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I really appreciate hearing from you!