I’ve talked about finances here on the blog a time or two, but I’m ready to talk a bit more frankly. After the financial fiasco that hit our sewer line last week drained our itty bitty emergency fund (but could have been much, much worse, as you know if you follow me on Insta), I decided the time had come to officially call the postpartum period closed for business.
(And by that I mean the period of making declarations along the lines of “I just had a baby, so I deserve this carry-out iced coffee.”)
I possibly do deserve that coffee, but I can throw a handful of ice cubes into the conveniently-cooled mug that has been sitting on the kitchen table since breakfast and call it good.
In the name of transparency let’s address the reality that yes, we are solidly middle class. We have health insurance and wifi and my husband has a job that compensates him fairly for his work, and yet, we are still basically paycheck to paycheck. We do live in an expensive housing market, and we do have a large family, so that tightens the belt a bit right off the bat.
Could we cut back and be a bit more financially sure-footed? I think so. Which is what I’m aiming to do for the next four months, between now and Christmas.
We are not likely going to be getting massive pay raises any time soon, so I have to take a clear eyed look at the budget and admit why it isn’t working better. One word: convenience.
It’s convenient to buy already-shredded cheese. It’s convenient to buy disposable diapers, and baby food in pouches, and sparkling water in cans that could possibly have paid off one of my student loans by now if I had a dollar for every can of LaCroix I’ve ever guzzled. But looking backwards in carbonated regret is no way to live one’s life.
But, I mean, it’s embarrassing. I live a life of relative ease – luxury, even, by much of the world’s standards – and yet when faced with a potential home repair quoted (thankfully, erroneously) into the thousands, my life as I knew it flashed before my eyes. Would we pull the kids out of school to pay for it? Sell one of our cars? Get a second job at night for a couple months? Take out (yet another) credit card?
Thanks be to God, the company who quoted us the repair ended up being shady. So what could have cost us $7,000 ended up costing about a tenth of that.
Still, it was a wake up call. I want to be a better steward of our resources, and to help alleviate some of the pressure of being the primary provider from Dave’s shoulders.
I also just don’t want to worry about money any more. It’s fun to eat out and carry around a paper cup of steaming, liquid alertness. But I imagine it’s more fun to be able to go grocery shopping any day of the month, and to have a failed transmission be an annoyance rather than a tragedy.
Want a peek at where we’ll be cutting back? Here are the things on the chopping block:
My gym membership. OUCH. But not really. I prefer walking to swimming, it turns out, and if my body ever feels sufficiently recovered from birth, I think I’d prefer running even more. Swimming is great, but it wasn’t getting the weight off, and it’s a huge time suck to get a workout in. Minimum 75 minutes to get there/get in and out/swim a mile. Plus, we can’t afford the kids club for 5 kids, so I can only go at 5 am or 9 pm.
Takeout coffee. I love Starbucks. I know better and I have tasted better, but what can I say? As a dog returns to its vomit…
Eating out, period. We go on 2 dates a month because we swap childcare with one of my sisters. It’s awesome, but I think we’re going to pull back to eating at home first and then springing for “coffee or cocktails” for the scope of this project. (Date night funds come from a separate cash category than eating out. I’m aiming for $50/month or less for date nights).
Buying crap at Arc/Goodwill/Craigslist. I am an amazing thrifter. My kids have great shoes, I’ve scored some killer furniture deals, and we have a great and growing classic chapter books library. But I can get dangerously loose at the Arc. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’ve got awesome Nike soccer cleats for the next 2 seasons and another adorable Aden and Anais swaddle in organic muslin and 3 cute tops for Evie in my cart and…you see where I’m going with this. I might have to swear off the thrift stores entirely while we’re in belt tightening mode, so alluring is their siren call to me. I think thrift stores are for me what Target is to most moms.
Speaking of Target...well, not Target specifically, but brick n mortar stores, period. I’m going to take our local grocery store, King Soopers, up on their offer of 4 free uses of their curbside delivery program.
When I’m walking through a store, I tend to toss in unplanned items that I forgot to add to the list, plus the occasional box of diaper wipes just because can you ever have too many diaper wipes on hand? No, no you can not. But maybe I can slum it with a different and cheaper brand than the Huggies Naturals I’ve been faithful to since we brought home baby number one. Not gonna do the math on that one, because hindsight! It’s blinding! I am also hoping shopping only one time per week at a single store will help trim costs.
Starting/cooking dinner earlier than 4 pm. I am a notoriously reluctant cook. And I lose steam as the day progresses. A day that starts out with a hot breakfast may well end with frozen waffles, or some other convenience food that doesn’t actually fill anyone up. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth at 9 pm and a whole fourth meal’s worth of snacks before bed. This morning I made the Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Night Stew at 10 am, and now it’s done same as I am.
Finally, we’d like to contribute to our parish capital campaign to renovate our ugly church, but haven’t been able to see much wiggle room in our budget. Suddenly things are feeling a bit looser.
I’m curious to see what other people’s “luxuries” are. I assume if you have internet access you have at least a few of them in your life. Maybe a whole lot fewer than we do, or maybe more. Are you debt free? We’re hoping to become so eventually – using that smart financial program you’ve seen me chatting up on IG, Wallet Win. Have you paid off your student loans yet, or would you like to do so before your kids start incurring their own? Kicked your Starbucks habit? Whipped up 101 different rice and beans recipes you’re dying to share with me?