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The best things in life are free...

My husband and I have had a tight past couple years. We didn't think we made a lot of money while he was an E-5 on a submarine. We lived in Hawaii with a toddler and-- I admit it-- I am horrible at sticking to a budget. Well, moving to North Carolina for the STA-21 program, we lost our sea pay, sub pay, nuke pay, sea pay kicker, COLA... And then we had twins. And moved locally-- twice. Of course we feel that the STA-21 program is worth it and we are exceedingly grateful that the military is paying Hubby to get his degree. However, we've had many, many, many late night talks about the budget. We've struggled over how we should spend our money and what expenses are necessary. It is amazing what I feel is necessary and what he feels is necessary.

For instance, last semester, he took a very heavy load at school, being his senior year. He left in the morning before preschool started and came home after the kids were in bed. Near the end of the semester, he wasn't getting home until 10 or 11 o'clock at night. Most of his classes involved group projects. Since most of the students in his class are single college-age kids who work to pay for school, it was hard finding time that all the group members could get together. He would meet group members weeknights after they got off work and most Sunday evenings. The only upside to this schedule was taking the kids to campus to meet him for the odd-mealtime. They love seeing where Daddy "works" and getting tours. Anyways, I was taking care of the kids from the time they woke up to the time they went to bed all by myself, plus trying to accommodate Hubby's schedule, staying up later to see him and driving the kids over to campus when possible. I was burning myself out. I hired a weekly baby-sitter. I'm telling you, that became my favorite day of the week. I loved knowing that she would come over to feed the kids and put them to bed, even though it was just that one day. I loved having another adult to chat with while I got my things ready to go. Even better, I loved how much the kids loved having her over. She played games with them and made the evening activities feel fun and new. That day renewed me and gave me something to look forward to. Since Hubby wasn't home with the kids all day, it was harder for him to understand justifying the expense. To his credit, he didn't say anything negative to me about it. That simple act of supporting me in the expense really made me fall in love with him all over again.

This semester isn't as stressful as last semester. The bulk of his courses are electives toward his degree. Being a mathematically minded person, it is much more time-consuming reading than he prefers. The thing I like about it is that he can read at home. A lot of days he locks himself in our bedroom to do homework-- but he's home. He doesn't need to meet up with groups or get help with equations. We've continued having a baby-sitter come over. We've gone out to dinner together, ran errands, and spent time with our oldest outside the house. It has been a blessing for us. (I really think the toddlers, especially, are starting to love the sitter more than us! Haha!) This expense has fallen into the category of something we can both agree on.

Other things aren't so clear, like ordering in, picking up take-out, or eating out. The expense of feeding all five of us out is much greater than when it was just Hubby and I eating out. Even then, we felt that it wasn't a justified expense. Eating out is fun-- and should stay fun-- but it is expensive. Lately, I haven't had the time to cook for all of us. I'm so sick of fast food and frozen food options. They all start tasting the same. I haven't had time for grocery shopping, so I've been tossing together simple meals when I can. Some meals have been delicious, like the broiled salmon with the buttery, crispy skin. I need to take some time to buy ingredients for meals I can make and freeze. I agree that the expense for eating out isn't always worth the convenience. When I get behind the ball, I don't know how to get the kids to calm down so I can prepare something to get on the table. I prefer for eating out to be a fun family experience, where we feel like it is a fun treat, not hungry, fussy kids struggling through a meal. I need to get my act together; really, I need to pull out the crock pot again!

Nothing can divide two people like finances. We can have a wonderful evening with the kids, but once they are in bed and he logs on to the bank, the questions start. I get defensive, he gets frustrated, and there is an argument. So far, every challenge in our marriage has brought us closer. This money challenge has been no different. While it hasn't always been easy, we have been able to communicate with each other our points of view. I've told him where I'm struggling and he's explained where he's struggling. It helps so much to understand where the other person is coming from.

So what am I loving this Valentine's Day? My husband. He's my best friend and we are living this life together. We don't always agree with each other, but we respect each other's opinion and do our best to work as a team.

And, in all honesty, we love, love, love our baby-sitters! :) Happy Valentine's Day!


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