How many times have you said that? I know I have said it more times than I can count and I hear it all the time. In reality, though, many times we say that, the truth is that we CAN afford that (I'm not talking about a Porsche or a fur coat here, people), we just choose not to.
This life is nothing but a series of choices. From what guy (or gal) to marry to what pair of shoes to wear, everyday we make must decide between two or more alternatives. Sometimes that choice is easy and we know we are making the best one and sometimes we just hope that our decision will not come back to haunt us. The same is true when it comes to our budgets and how we spend our money. If we belong to a church we must choose if and/or how much we are going to tithe. We must choose whether or not we are going to give to charities. After we pay our bills (which hopefully we don't have to ever decide whether or not to pay each month) and buy our groceries we must then choose what to do with the rest. Do we want to save for a vacation? Have a padded emergency fund? Put money away for the kids' college? Save for retirement? Go out to eat everyday? All of these are choices that we must make. We would all like to have as much money as we needed to cover not only our needs but all of our wants, but the truth is that the majority of us don't. We have to choose carefully what we want to spend our money on and sometimes we must sacrifice the things we want for the things we need. I firmly believe that it is what we do with our money that shows our priorities in life.
My husband and I are no different. From the first budget we made 3 years ago to the one we did just a couple weeks ago, we had to choose what we wanted to spend our money on. The first money that ever gets budgeted is 10% for tithing. That has always been an easy choice for us to make. We also chose in the beginning to have either internet or satellite tv; we didn't think we needed both. Our choice has always been internet but there have been times where we didn't have that because we had more important things to spend our money on. And while we could afford to pay for both each month now, we choose to spend our money on other things that are more important.
When our son was born we had to choose whether or not I was going to work outside the home. I had just graduated college and could have gotten a decent job, but we felt that it was more important for me to stay home and raise our son than it was for us to be able to buy more stuff. Many people may think that it must be easy, financially, for me to stay home. But the truth is that my husband makes a modest income. It is enough to support our needs and a few of our wants, but for this to be so we have had to make sacrifices. I can't go buy clothes anytime I want and my music-loving husband can't go out and buy the newest CD from his favorite band. Staying home and putting my family first is a priority, so I find ways to save money so I can continue to do that. I cloth diaper, I breastfeed, I make my own laundry detergent, and pinch pennies on so many other things.
One of the biggest choices we made this year was to put a major focus on eating clean, whole, organic foods. After researching just how important it is, especially to our young son, we decided that we would make healthy eating a big priority in our life. The only problem is that organic food, for the most part, costs more money than conventional foods. And while some people may not be willing to sacrifice their little luxuries in life for pesticide-free produce or a bowl of oatmeal made from organically grown oats, these things are important to us. We would rather sacrifice some of our other wants so we can buy healthy food. I have a small grocery budget so I realize that I will have to work even harder to make it stretch. That means I don't get to buy the fancy ingredients or premade meals I want to buy. That means I have to cook from scratch most of the time and plan my meals carefully so I don't have any waste.
I know that I could spend more in the grocery department and relax some in the kitchen, but that would mean cutting back from other areas that I don't want to. Right now I would rather have to cook every meal from scratch than give up internet. I have made that choice. I also know that I do not buy everything organic, but I have decided what things are most important to me to buy organic and buy those. Right now I would rather go out to eat a few times a month than buy organic bananas. I have made my choice.
The point I am trying to make here is not that being a stay-at-home mom and eating all organic foods is the only way to go, but that if we really feel that something is important than we should make that a goal to strive towards. Instead of just saying that we can't afford that thing we feel is important, we should stop making excuses and start focusing on making our expenses aligned with our priorities.
*disclaimer: I am not trying to say that the decisions I make are the best for everyone. These are the choices that are best for my family at this time. I only wish to make you think about your priorities and whether or not your monetary actions fit.