Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pinching all of the pennies

My dad was the type of dad who threw a $20 my way just about every time I saw him on a visit throughout my time in college.  He was always good like that, taking care of his only little girl.  And I carried a part-time job all throughout college, so I was doing what I could to be financially solvent and contribute what I could against the crazy expensive cost of a private college.  In hindsight, I've realized the beauty of those $20 bills: there was absolutely no pressure in having such wealth in my wallet.  $20 for me lasted a couple of weeks, largely due to the fact that I was fairly stuck in a small town which at that time had neither a Starbucks nor a coffee shop for the majority of my time spent there.  $20 was a couple of trips to get ice cream, maybe some pizza or a trip to the Sandwich Cellar.  And my boyfriend was definitely not willing to spend money on pretty much anything, so the small influxes of cash were gifts of independence as well.  Now, $20 in my wallet is really more of a pressure to me: how long can I make this last? what do I need to use it for? do I really need to use it?  Cash is much too slippery for me now.

When we got married, I definitely took on a new title: CFO of the Cox household.  Without a doubt, I'm the primary banker/chief financial officer around here--the one who writes the checks and the one who spends the money.  I use my credit card probably 10 times for every 1 time Ben pulls out his plastic.  (Ironically, my credit card was the one that was lost en route the last time we got new cards.)  Suffice it to say, I'm very aware of everything that comes in and goes out monetarily.  And I do love me some on-line banking.

Here's the skinny, though.  And when I say skinny, I mean emaciated skinny.  I haven't had a paycheck come in for a few months now.  We're a one income family, and that's a budget waiting to happen.  That's also sacrifices that must be made by all--happily so.

Right now, we're down my Indy Star subscription, Netflix deliveries, and $100 groceries/month.  Clothes purchases are non-existent.  Date nights out might be a thing of the past (granted, they were few and far between anyway).  There's no such thing as "Let's just go to __________ for supper tonight" anymore.

Life is now a lesson in control and need versus wants and luxuries.  But, thanks be our financial adviser who smilingly (nonetheless) helped us realize that we have far more saved and accessible than we realized.  And it's not like we were blowing money left and right on crazy expenditures before anyway, but I will miss those impromptu runs to Culvers.  That trip to North Carolina next summer probably won't happen, either.  But faced with the choice of a vacation (sigh--haven't had a true vacation for 4 years now) or the choice of caring for my children full-time, it's been a no brainer for either of us.

Sidenote--this holiday season has been a stark reminder to me, yet again, of how truly difficult it is to avoid consumerism.  We don't practice the same fiscal choices as those of many/most of our closest friends and relatives, though it is tempting to simply do what everyone else does.  It's no small choice right now for us to throw down Christmas presents on par with what we are given sometimes.  And the lure of sales sales sales! is decidedly great and much too easily accessible.  A definite change that, I believe, will stick around long past when our bank accounts are on firmer footing is Ben and I have decided to eschew the giving of tangible gifts to each other insofar as we are expected to give each other gifts, so we do it.  Granted, we enjoy it of course, but experiences matter much more to us.  Our stockings will jingle with a little bit of chocolate, and we might slip a little token under the tree, but we're in 100% agreement that we don't need to buy a quota of stuff for each other.  We have a complete family, and that is one THING that will always suffice.  (And whatever we simply want, why ask the other person for it?  It's not like it's not my money either way whether I buy it or he buys it.  It's kind of a weird idea asking Ben to spend my money on something that I simply want, I think.)

Fewer pennies to pinch means better decisions will be made.  We are blessed indeed!


Crystal said...

Yes, you are blessed indeed! Yay for vibrant spirits and new adventures!

Grant and Jenni said...

Love that post. Curious - what kind of recipes do you usually make on $100 a month? I've been trying to get our budget down and sometimes it just can't get that low!

The Erudite Lit-ite said...

Sorry for the misconception--I'm reducing the grocery bill by $100/month rather than actually getting it that low. Wow--I wish! We do eat a lot of pasta and rice. And I don't buy meat in the grocery store anymore. I make soup a lot, too. I'm a big fan of recipes that are all in one--grain, protein & vegetable all in one pot. I think that eating vegetarian meals helps with that as well.