Loving Comfort

I was talking to a friend the other day about this idea of comfort. We both agreed that as a human race we most often seek out comfort above all other things.

I told him, I don’t care if I’m wealthy or I have a bunch of stuff or even if I’m successful, I just want to be comfortable in this life. Think about it, when talking world problems we almost always try to solve them by making the sufferers of such problems more confortable.

That plays itself out in our marriage too. Instead of confronting that extra $44 we shouldn’t have spent on the entertainment section of our budget for April, we let it slide. We plan vacations to cushy islands, not mission trips to war-strewn third world countries. We gravitate towards what’s easy, the path of least resistance.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with nice vacations or going to the movies at $22 a pop (actually there is something wrong with that, but it has nothing to do with me or you).

What I’m saying is that, when given the choice, Jesus sought out trial over free pass and pain over painless. Those things didn’t just come to him as if magically produced by life, He went after them. He saw the eternal gain in subjecting Himself to temporary physical and emotional decimation to become more like His father.

And we can barely fast for a day to catch a glimpse of this.

When Thrifting is Like Making Sushi

This past year has been interesting for many reasons. Not only did we get married and move to a new city, but we started this crazy marriage blog and decided we weren’t going to buy any new clothing for the whole year. While it has been interesting on many accounts, this last one has challenged us in many ways. As we were coming home from our flea market trip last week, we started discussing what we will buy once our year is up, what clothing we wished we could have bought in the last ten months (not much came to our minds) and how it will change our buying habits in the future.

As we were thinking through the process of buying used clothing, it struck me that it’s sort of like making sushi. Remember the post a few weeks ago? The most difficult part of making sushi is finding the initial ingredients in your store. Once you know where they are, you can make them part of your grocery list, pick them up quickly, and make sushi part of your life on a regular basis.

The same could be said for thrifting. It can be super frustrating if you spend all your time searching for the things you want. But once you find those few perfect places, the odds of you finding something you love increase greatly. You can make more regular trips to a few shops, spending more time choosing between great things instead of desperately digging for anything worthwhile.

This has spurred more conversation about our next year. Should we make a new pledge? Not buy anything new for one year? Buy only clothing new but nothing else?

What’s one thing you would never buy used?

Also, click the Thrifty Pledge below for a link to one of our favorite thrifters.


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Buy a Dog

One of my mentors used to tell me if I was scared, I should go purchase a domestic animal. Actually his exact words, in a slow, loud midwestern drawl I could never orally replicate, were “If you’re scared, buy a dog!!”
Then you’ll learn to take care of them, getting the best food and supplements from sites as TreeHousePuppies online, and grooming them, making sure they’re healthy, and all the other cares and responsibilities a dog have.

There’s a lot they don’t tell you going into marriage. For starters: how to buy a house, how to balance public transportation with owning vehicles, and how much to put in your respective fantasy sports/crafting budgets.

Side note: how did we go through four (or more) years of college and never have a primer on fundamental life decisions like home-buying and budget-balancing? I must have taken 39 hours of statistical analysis and I can literally not give you a one sentence synopsis of anything I learned. Are our priorities that messy or are these actual classes and I just managed to sleepwalk through everything?

There’s also a lot of future to be sized up: how much to put into retirement, which stocks to invest in, how to prepare for kiddos. The never-ending laundry list of what we must do to be successful is overwhelming. Because this is the case, there is plenty of room for fear and doubt to creep into your marriage, your relationship, even your individual lives. What if we aren’t reading the right books? What happens when truck #1 (or #2, or both) dies? What if I’m missing out on a great vacation by going on this one? What if my renters insurance doesn’t cover jewelry? What if…what if…what if?

We prepare, I’m not saying we don’t. We categorize our finances for the future in a responsible way. There’s a new car fund and a baby fund and a house fund. But we’ve made the conscious decision as a couple to not be overcome by worry or fear about what that future, or really what tomorrow, holds. In America in 2011 there’s too much to be fearful of or overwhelmed by. You’d just end up spending all your time paralyzed and never get anything done.

So we do our work, we hold ourselves accountable to the responsibilities we have as adults, and then we release from our grip that which is incapable of saving us to look to the only one who can.

What do you stress out about?

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A Change of Financial Perspective

The few months before our wedding were a complete whirlwind. Not only were we secretly engaged, but Kyle was laid off in February and took a new job in Dallas in April. Because I had no idea where I wanted to work once I got here, I was left completely dependent on another person (and another salary) for three months.

After college, I had been working and living on my own, with roommates, for three years. My money was mine to do with what I pleased. It took me a very short amount of time to realize that what I wanted was to pay off my student loans, so I did. All $16,000 of them. I had extra money to shop and play and dine and drive and create. What was mine was mine.

There’s a strange thing that happens when you’re dependent on someone else at age 27. There was a huge mind hurdle I had to jump through to understand that mine is no longer mine, but that his is ours. I felt weird and guilty and lazy and bad every time I had to spend money on something. Until I didn’t any longer.

I learned to spend and be fine- we needed what we needed, and I stopped feeling bad about the extra $3 on the Target receipt for dark red nail polish. Sometimes I bought things from the store that I wanted, even if Kyle didn’t want them. I was becoming liberated. Now? I’m earning a paycheck, small as it may be for the part time I’m working, but suddenly I’m having to shift again.

So what’s mine is mine, and what’s his is ours. Right?

Wrong.

Learning to share in Kindergarden is one thing, but learning to share in adult life is even harder. The last few months have been a struggle as we work to undo years of independent living, independent households and cars and belongings and habits. Some days I still feel like I should write my name inside all my books or under my dishes, just so I will remember that they were once mine.

We continue to struggle through sharing so many things: emotions, belongings, time, holidays, last names. We’re working to find a balance between who we once were and who we are together. One book at a time.

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Mo Money, Mo Problems?

We claim to be simplistic people. We appreciate the small things, we love our tiny apartment, we drive semi-old cars and really still like them. We think it’s because we’re simple at heart, but isn’t it really just because we don’t have any money?

Last night we were walking around some local neighborhoods, and while our apartment building is small, most of the houses aren’t. We’re talking old money plantation style homes. We passed one that legitimately looked like the White House minus the Obamas. They’re incredible. So naturally we start talking about what we would buy if we won the lottery.

DISCLAIMER: We don’t buy lottery tickets and don’t promote doing so.

But for the sake of this post let’s say we won $120 million. It’s all ours. It’s easy to say we’d give it all away and buy clean water for every country in northern Africa and mosquito nets for all the ones in the south, but would we really? Our kids (all 7 of them) could have their college paid for. We could buy homes for our entire family, go anywhere in the world for as long as we like, and pretty much have every luxury at our fingertips. You name it, we get it. If we were presented with the opportunity to never work again in our lives, support our families, start whatever small business we please, and never have to worry about money again, would we really give it all away? Really?

We hope so, we really do. We hope we would support 39 Compassion International kiddies and buy a modest house and plant a garden and live off the earth. We hope we would create sustainable small businesses that would affect people’s lives in a positive way and we hope we would even adopt a few of those 39 kiddies.

However, when we challenged each other to pick 3 things (6 in all) we would buy if we won that $120 million only 1 had anything to do with giving something away.

So at least we know what we have to work on…

Here’s $120 million. What are you really going to do with it?

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The Best Laid Plans…

So here’s the deal – we’re thrifty and practical. You saw our wedding budget. We rarely eat out, but there’s one problem: grocery shopping is one of my least favorite things to do. Yet if I neglect it for too long, the fridge gets bare and scary & Kyle has to eat strange concoctions. He starts asking questions about when I went shopping last, I take it the wrong way, and then we’re both mad. And still hungry.

Our friends Summer & Ryan told us the other day about how they plan out their menus on paper every week. My first thought was, “Psssh. I can do this in my head.” Then things started to go badly. So my new train of thought is this: If I can save just one trip to the grocery store every week, then 30-40 minutes of menu planning was worth it. Today I planned out the menu for this week (a great starter week since we’ll be gone over the holiday weekend). Our budget allows for us to spend $10 per day on groceries, so I know I’ll have to keep the grand total under $40. Here’s the final draft:

Porter Family Menu

I tried to keep in mind that leftovers are my friend and that we need to use up everything we buy. Most lunches are a repeat of the night before, and a package of English Muffins will serve as buns for our turkey burgers as well as toast to our eggs for breakfasts. Because of our budget, I can’t get too fancy (ingredients we don’t have can add up fast) so my rule is that we’ll try one fancy new recipe every 1-2 weeks. That way, most of our $10 is going toward actual food instead of ingredients to be shelved.

I’m already feeling better about dinners for the week, though I found some templates that are prettier than the one I used. See below.

Do any of you plan your menus for the week? Any great tips or ideas?

PS : CONGRATULATIONS to our first book giveaway winner – Katie Dawson. Thanks to everyone for playing, we’ll do it again soon!

The Wedding Budget

Henry David Thoreau once said, “money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.”

Moment of full disclosure: I don’t sit at an 18th century desk, drink duty-free tea, and pull Thoreau quotes from deep in my memory bank. I have a Mac, drink coffee, read Bill Simmons, and I googled Thoreau.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Thoreau was right, and even though we didn’t base our wedding on that single quote we put a lot into this idea of “how can we do this wonderfully in the most inexpensive way.”

There were a few decisions we made that helped alleviate the financial burden many weddings place on family and friends. First, and probably most importantly to the overall vibe of our wedding, we decided to have the ceremony and reception outside, at Jen’s parents house. The crux of that (and Jen doesn’t know this) really lies in the fact that I desperately wanted to be able to tell high-society, wealthy Dallas folk at all the galas and events we go to (zero so far), “yeahhhh, we got married in a barn.”

Hey, Jesus was born in a manger. #justsaying

So there was that, and it helped, since the cost of renting a place plus the amenities can run into the triple or quadruple digits (my research team is still looking into exact numbers). We also borrowed most of the equipment we used at the reception from LifeChurch.TV (Jen’s former employer). As much as we planned on keeping costs down this was an unforeseeable blessing because we had planned on renting most of these necessities.

The other big one was that we didn’t have a wedding party. This eliminated a whole slew of potentially awkward/expensive moments. You know that real dicey area when you get invited to be in a wedding but you don’t know who’s paying for the tux, bridesmaid dress, or bachelor/bachelorette party weekend? And you don’t want to ask because then if you have to pay for it there’s like this thing where you roll on that person for a few days and nobody wants that. We avoided that. In fact, as my wife documented here, we wanted to show our friends how important they were to us by making something to give to them instead of asking them to drop 2-3 Benjys (that’s a $100 bill for those wondering) on us. Crazy, I know!

Side note: we aren’t anti-wedding festivities. Well, we kind of are, but the point is that we have been thoroughly blessed by each and every person who has asked us to be in their wedding and the whole experience has been awesome. You might say we’re lucky, I just say we have awesome friends. The point is we just wanted to do it differently.

Those were the big 3. Venue. Equipment. Wedding party. From there we just had a hand-making bonanza. Well, Jen did, I kind of stood there and stared at paper flowers like they were Slovenians attending a post-United States vs. Algeria World Cup party, unable to believe I was getting married. Too soon on the Slovenians, or no?

If you’re interested I made up a detailed wedding budget in Excel. Have a look. This includes most everything save the rings, engagement week, honeymoon (my parents helped us…thanks guys!), and photography (Email me if you want any of that info.). If you’re not into powerful number-crunching programs that make grown men weep in delight then just enjoy the pictures below.

As always, wedding pictures by Shari Hatfield, visit her blog, it’s awesome. Header picture attribution here.

One of our faves, good summary of Bryan residence
Tried to spray paint Bryan out after ceremony, tackled by bride
GT probably making fun of me