Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saving our Pennies.

I've had a few people in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and elsewhere ask how our family is able to afford certain things, how we have been able to save for the bus, etc.

I suppose I haven't done a financial type update in quite sometime, so to answer your questions, here goes:

We have been penny pinching for over three years now.

I quit my job in 2008 when Maeryn was born and received my last paycheck from the school system in August of that year.  This cut our income by about 55% (I was making more than Michael at that time).

When our finances took such a significant dive, things changes drastically for our family.  We stopped eating out.  We started making everything at home.  Our diet consisted of tons of beans, rice, and pasta and not much gourmet anything.  We didn't have a ton of fresh produce - pasta and things in cans are cheaper, especially in the off-season.  Our staples were burritos with rice and refried beans, spaghetti in several different combinations, and that's pretty much it.

We learned a lot of lessons.  I started baking my own bread and then realized it didn't actually save us any money, so I stopped.

We didn't buy new clothes for ourselves (Michael and me) for two years.  We got hand-me-downs and shopped at the Thrift store for our kids.

There were weeks where without the grace of God and the help of others we would not have had food on the table - literally.

During this time we kept current on our loan payments and did our best with our bills.  Sometimes they were late, but never extremely so.  We never had any utilities cut off.  We continued to support our Compassion Child.

We nixed cell phones and television service.

We sold books.  We search freecycle.  We sold our van and now have one car.  Michael began to ride his bike to work every day, in all weather to save on gas.  We bought our groceries at Wal-mart.

There was a lot of prayer.

At the end of the first year, Michael received a raise from his job, and things looked a bit brighter.  We were able to pay all of our bills on time.  The rest of the extra money went into paying off our car and buying food.

There was still a lot of anxiety when it came to paying our bills, how much money we actually had, etc.

Friends helped us to pay for a Financial Peace University class.

We learned how to better manage our funds.

Money was still tight, but we adopted an envelope system so that we would never spend more than we planned.  We made budget categories that we stick to.  We assign amounts to them every time Michael receives a paycheck.  We save up so we have money seasonally to buy clothing for the kids, enough money in the grocery fund, etc.

In January Michael got another raise.

We were able to contribute some money to adult clothing - and we replenished our underwear and sock supplies and bought some other things that were worn out or too big or too small.  Things began to balance out for us.  We were able to buy more whole and organic foods to feed our family.  We had a nice cushion in our savings account.

In March we paid off our car and began using that money to save for the bus.

We assigned a "blow money" category to our budget.  We each got $20 every two weeks to spend as we chose.  Sometimes we use it to do nice things for each other.  Sometimes we use it to stop at Starbucks.  Sometimes we take the family out to eat.  Sometimes Michael eats Subway for lunch while he's at work.  It's nice.

Our finances are now in a place where they don't feel looming and scary.  Bills no longer make my stomach turn.  I feel like we are in a good place and we are living as best we can within our means.

We don't have a lot of disposable income.  We haven't been to see a movie in the theatre for years.  But we are okay.  We have good food on the table and clothes to wear.  We have a roof over our heads and we are able to save for larger purchases.

A few days ago, we got an offer on a piece of land that we've had on the market a long time.  We accepted the offer and our land is now under contract.  Once we sell the land most of my school loan will be paid off, we'll be able to make good on a promise to our church, and pay back some friends who helped us when we were hurting.

It has been a stressful road.  One with tears and triumphs.  I am not sorry.  We learned a lot.  We continue to learn new lessons daily.

I hope this has cleared up some of the questions people had regarding how we got to where we are now.  Questions are welcome...  and I'm happy to answer them before breakfast.  :)


exmish said...

Kudos to you!! :) We were pretty lean for many years too (when we first got married, I taught and Rob was working and going to school....when our first was born, I stayed home while Rob still worked - $11 an hour! - and went to school)...frugality (and paying tithing) were skills that have lasted us for a long time. :)

Keep it up! :)

Missy said...

Thanks so much! Ditto to you!

T Peter said...

I really appreciate your openness on the issue of financial struggles. We've had quite a few lean times ourselves.

We don't have a lot of things or spend all that much on entertainment or travel. It gets particularly hard when we compare our situation to some of our friends who spend liberally or travel places we've always dreamed of going (or who just live in a nicer place). I think Facebook tends to accentuate this problem, when everybody seems so (falsely?) happy-go-lucky in their posts.

We also have a "blow" money budget...though we like to call it our allowance.

For us a lot of the problem has been moving so much; it's hard to develop your own career (or even network adequately) when your husband (that's me) drags you all over the place to get his career off the ground. Some days I feel pretty bad about that one. It seems like things are settling down a bit now, just in time for baby "Ramlet" to become a former fetus and eat up our budget in interesting ways. Any tips on keeping kid costs down?

Missy said...

Kid costs: hand-me-downs, breast feeding, cloth diapers (I didn't breast feed and we didn't use cloth diapers for reasons I won't explain here, but breast feeding I recommend over the cloth diapers - formula is more expensive than disposable diapers and while they're horrid for the environment I did NOT have the energy for cloth, especially with Jonah), know that your kid will be happy with the simplest things. Make your own baby food.

rchamelin said...

i totally agree with breastfeeding and cloth diapering...cloth diapers, zac and i did for Autumn and as soon as we run out of disposable diapers that was from Autumn when she was first born that we saved, he will be in them too. They are so easy to wash, especially with breastmilk poop and thats not as stinky. I also love to yard sale and thrift shop for clothes for myself and kids(zac is way too hard on clothes to buy used ones unless they are extremely gently used)being dept free is awesome and i hope you enjoy it. hope to get there some day, the only thing we have over us on dept is a mortgage but we are paying as much extra as we can

Missy said...

I am sure you will get there someday soon, Rachel!

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