Our family recently moved into a new house. With a new house comes new neighbors, and we were so excited to learn that our next-door-around-the-corner neighbors had children close to the twins’ age! With spring weather daring us to believe winter was finally over, we invited our neighbors over for a backyard barbecue.
The plan was simple: prepare a few make-ahead side dishes, serve glasses of lemonade, and grill some marinated chicken thighs.
Everything was going well. The kids were playing together, the weather was holding up, the adults got to enjoy an actual conversation…
And then the grill caught on fire.
By this, I mean when I noticed the brown smokestack puffing out furiously from the sides of the closed hood, I calmly yet urgently alerted my husband,
“Kyle, I think a piece of chicken might have caught on fire.”
“Yeah looks like it.”
Instead, when he opened the grill, we saw an inferno. ALL the chicken was engulfed and there was no saving dinner.
We ordered pizza.
Thankfully our neighbors were so easy going and we had a good laugh about the incident after the fire extinguisher vanquished the raging flames.
This is the way life works, isn’t it? There was no time to figure out WHERE in the budget the pizza was coming from. Restaurant money was gone and the grocery envelope was dwindling, not to mention I carry the grocery cash, and Kyle went to pick up the pizza.
So, in a pinch, he used the debit card. On a last-minute pizza that did NOT have a place in the budget.
What’s one to do in these situations? There are a couple options. We could have A) said, to heck with the budget. It’s blown, let’s forget about it. There’s always next month. Or B) We could have argued over whose fault the fire was, agonized over “cheating” and retroactively stealing from an unrelated category to pay for pizza, and let money drive a wedge in our relationship.
Honestly, I used to live in these two extremes because it didn’t feel like there was another way of dealing with a budgetary mishap. My husband certainly didn’t appreciate when I’d stress out over a deviation from the plan (can’t say I blame him), and I felt like a failure doomed to an impoverished retirement when we didn’t execute the budget with perfection.
Then I remembered GRACE. Can I get an amen for an option C?!
A budget is supposed to serve YOU, not the other way around. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take the budget and its limits seriously, but if you find yourself stressing about every little detail or if honest mistakes are a source of marital discord, consider budgeting for grace.
As in an actual budget line labeled “Grace.” Not miscellaneous, not spending money, not emergency fund money.
For things like grill fires, or for metaphorical fires. Times when you’re caught off guard, you miscalculate the cost of groceries (and you’re already in the checkout line with young children begging for candy), you forget your lunch at home and have already spent the restaurant money, your kid failed to tell you about the supplies he needs—tomorrow—for a school project.
I can’t tell you how much to put in your grace budget; it’s totally individual. The one thing I will say is that even if grace money runs out, don’t let grace run out. Don’t let honest mistakes and unavoidable circumstances turn into opportunities for critical attack (against your spouse OR yourself).
Remember that yes, there is the budget, but there’s also grace.