Financial planning

Recently, the hot topic around our house has been our family’s budget! We’re nearing the end of a two-year stint without any income, and while business school has been a great experience, I think we can all agree that it’s about time for it to be over so that we can begin life in the “real world” again 🙂 As we look at our projected budget for next year, we seem to come back to the same questions over and over again…With just about no “wiggle room” in our budget after the necessities are taken care of, what are our priorities and what are we willing to sacrifice? Every family’s answer to this question will be different, so of course there are no right or wrong answers here, and that’s almost what makes it more difficult! One of our biggest expenses will be our monthly mortgage payment, so we need to decide what trade-offs we’re willing to make in terms of our living situation, and that decision will impact how much flexibility we have in other areas – schooling options for C (only a year away from kindergarten!), travel, gifts, dates, etc. All of these are not necessities, but how will we feel if they’re just not a part of our budget for a few years?
I know that all of you moms deal with the same issues for your families…What process do you and your hubbies use for sorting through priorities and making those tough decisions? Again, I know that everyone’s “final list” of priorities will be different, but I think we can help each other out when it comes to the process that we use in prioritizing. What are your thoughts?
One final thought on budgets: One of the reasons that I love having a budget the most is that it actually gives us more freedom, because if we stay within the limits of what we have allotted for each category, we know that we are doing just fine. So, if we have allotted money for dates, then I don’t feel guilty about spending that money – the same goes for things like family outings, haircuts, etc. This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to save money where we can, but it gives us the freedom to spend the money that we have allotted because we know that we have put a lot of thought (and hopefully prayer!) into constructing our family’s budget. 
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