when pinching pennies isn’t fun

I really should be blogging more. Goodness knows that what with living off a smattering of savings and unemployment checks, we’ve been thinking about finances enough lately to warrant a blog post or two. But somehow it is not much fun to write about finances when you are living quite frugally and still the unemployment checks and savings account balance are not enough to continue covering the bills.

I suppose that being in this kind of situation is the best reason to prepare, though. Expecting our finances to keep getting better, and thus spending money and acquiring debt like we will have a magical way to pay it all off tomorrow, is exactly the kind of mentality that has landed our country and countrymen in so much financial trouble today. Knowing, as our family normally does, exactly what our expenses are and why we have them, along with having a bit of savings to prepare for times when we need it, makes a world of difference. It is nice in so many ways right now that despite our income being greatly reduced, we don’t have to scramble to figure out cheaper ways to do things. We don’t have to regret expensive, extravagant, or unnecessary purchases, because they are already not a part of our life.

That said, I must admit that it’s not as fun to scrimp when it just means coming up less short at the end of the month. It’s much more fun when it means getting to put extra money toward debt.

In one area, though, I seem to be rediscovering how much I love finding bargains. Grocery shopping! I have considered myself a frugal shopper for a long time, but lately I have found myself thinking through a lot of the whats and whys of grocery shopping. The other day I came home with $95 worth of groceries from Fred Meyer and a receipt for $28. I couldn’t help explaining to Keith – in detail! – why I was so proud of myself. There is something about getting the best possible deal for something and then multiplying that by twenty or thirty items that just makes grocery shopping seem like way more of an accomplishment. So, as much as I would love to be blogging about magically paying off all our debt tomorrow, I think I’ll start a little series on groceries. I’ll refrain from burdening you with a list of which items I saved how much money on – there are other blogs for that – but maybe I will just sort through my thoughts and techniques on the subject.

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Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 12:44 am  Comments (2)  

preparing to be out of work

The major financial thing on my mind right now is that Keith will be out of work after the middle of the month.

In a lot of ways, it’s a good timing for a break. I have the two weeks after that all scheduled out for us: making goodies for Christmas, throwing a birthday party for Rilla, having the ultrasound to determine our baby’s gender, celebrating Rilla’s birthday, enjoying Christmas at home with the three of us, having Christmas celebrations with family, and then moving before the end of the year.

But after all of that… then what? I haven’t been concerned about it, mainly because a) God provided a place for us to move to that is nearer to Keith’s work, and I don’t think He would do that right now if there would not be work to follow it up; b) we have that little bit in savings; c) we can get a good tax return soon; and d) unemployment checks are a beautiful thing. But the most important part is that e) God always provides.

So really, how do you prepare to be out of work? 

For us, it has meant making sure all bills are up to date and the credit card we use for monthly expenses is at a $0 balance. It has meant making sure that the groceries I buy will go the distance if we can’t afford to buy more for a month or two. It has meant not spending anything extra, whether on needed clothes for Rilla or gifts for others or whatever else.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve been doing the best job of it this time around. Normally we wouldn’t take a trip to Utah right as money gets tighter. It may be that I should have spent less on Christmas presents. And buying a few pieces of (used, of course) furniture for our new place was probably not the greatest idea, although I will be selling a few pieces as well to make up the cost. I have been stocking up goodies for our daughter’s first birthday party, and that in itself is probably not necessary; we could just not have treats there, and people would probably understand.

But in these matters, and in other ones, I think this is where it all comes back to grace in finances. I’m not a perfect steward of our finances any more than I am a perfect steward of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on in my life that is also a gift from God. I’m not a perfect wife or a perfect mother or a perfect friend. I need daily grace in order to honor the Lord in what I do, and this applies to finances as well. Sometimes I mess up by accident, like spending $4.50 on aluminum-free baking powder at the health food store when I could have got it at Fred Meyer for $2.50. Sometimes I mess up on purpose, like buying organic bananas at 79 cents a pound when I know that the normal bananas at 49 cents a pound really don’t have enough pesticides on them to warrant me buying the organic variety. And yet the point of trying to be frugal and spend appropriately is not perfection. The point is to honor the God who has enabled me to live and move and have my being. When I mess up, He forgives me. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to do better, but it does mean that His love and grace toward me is not tied onto my ability to do better.

Now I don’t know how this fits into all of that, but here’s a little secret about my real mindset toward money: sooner or later, it goes away. Sometimes you can make it stretch longer. Sometimes I don’t think it’s worth worrying about, so I just buy what we need and throw in a few wants until it is all gone. Worrying about it doesn’t seem to make it last longer; instead, it only makes the spending of it less enjoyable. So when it looks like we are going to run out of money, here is the honest truth: I don’t usually try all that hard to be extra frugal. Partially that is because I think I am frugal enough as it is, but also because I just think… well, what  can you do? We’ve got to pay the bills, and we’ve got to buy food, so I’ll just do what I normally do and see how long it lasts. God will provide once it’s gone, so whether that happens in two months or two months and one week doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

Does anyone else have that kind of mindset, or am I the only one?

Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm  Comments (2)