We are "track every dollar" budgeters, having returned to this practice once our daughter was college-bound. Honestly, it's essential for us, as money has a way of flowing out faster than it flows in if we are not tending to every daily choice.

Over the past few months, our spending has risen--not beyond what we can handle, but enough that I'm noticing it as a trend rather than a one or two month exception. At first, I blamed it on a kitchen renovation--we didn't have space to cook as we typically would, so convenience foods were a more frequent choice. Then, I blamed it on how life sometimes piles on--not only were we renovating the kitchen (a necessity project after a leak under the sink last June), we also suddenly had a sewer clog (the night we finally got a sink and dishwasher in the new kitchen!), the 20 year old dryer decided to quit, and it seems there's always need of an urgent car repair.

It took reading about the Fed's rate hike today to really process that a lot of the increase in our spending isn't our fault. (If I've buried the lede--there it is!) If the same eggs we used to buy six months ago for $3.69 a dozen are now $5.49, and this is true for every one of the food items we purchase, the gas we put into our cars, and the materials we need for those projects, our spending hasn’t increased because we have lost control or are spending wildly beyond our means. It's inflation.

I say this merely to reflect that capitalism bakes into us both a false sense of individual potential--YOU CAN BE A BILLIONAIRE!--and also the false notion that we are individually responsible for all our financial woes.

In our case, we *do* have agency. I'm not going to argue that we're powerless, largely because we are middle class earners who can afford "all of what we need and some of what we want" (thank you to my best friend for that bit of wisdom!). I recognize that this year is going to be uniquely challenging for us with two in college, but we have valuable opportunities for tuition support through my spouse’s work that make it uniquely rewarding too. We'll adjust our spending with only two of us in the house. We'll find inexpensive ways to create joy, and we'll defer the next big dreams for another season. In short, we'll do the things we've done before to get us to this moment--and, with a lot of privilege and a little luck, we'll get to the future intact and financially whole.

If you're struggling right now, remember that there are daily realities you simply cannot control, and release any self-blame narratives you are unconsciously repeating as you do what you can to keep your financial ship afloat. And if you've got more than you need right now, share more generously--there are so, so many folks just struggling to get by. That ouch you might momentarily feel at the gas pump is someone else's decision about whether or not they can afford baby formula or dinner for their kids.

Such are my evening musings as I look at our budget spreadsheet and bank account:

Grateful for our daily bread.

Aware that in God's economy, we are intended to be in this life as a body, interdependent, navigating the rises and falls together.

Praying that we find a will and a way to do a little more of that right now.

The Center for Continuous Learning has a variety of “Faithful Finance” courses available for free and accessible on your own time, including “Starting the Money Conversation,” “Student Loan Forgiveness for Ministry Leaders,” “Holy Currencies,” and more.