Saturday, January 22, 2011

Starting To See Fruit!

About a year ago I resolved to get a grip financially. I thought I was a bit crazy for resolving this at that time, but I still felt it was the thing to do.

A year ago I was up to my neck defending myself against the enemy that I let in my front door too many times. I had to make HARD choices around restraining orders, firm boundaries and living life as a single mom. I faced bitter hatred by those enabling the addict in my life who were (and unfortunately still are) very angry that I chose to no longer enable. In all of this I also made the choice to be the sole caretaker of my children, and to loose the income that my husband contributed to the family. And in the midst of all of this I resolved to get in control of my finances.... see where the crazy comes in?

But I did it. We REALLY tightened our belts down. (Because we never have been too comfortable, we have lived on the brink for a long time)

Years ago the cable went. And the going out to eat often. And the movies. And pretty much all of the extras.

But last year I resolved to:
Not charge ANYTHING in 2010.
Spend ONLY $100.00 per month on food.
No hair dressers or professionally done pedicure/manicures.
Coffee out from my favorite little shops would be a seldom treat.
Only do Netflix or library for movies, no more renting other places.
Not go into anymore debt in 2010, I wanted to live within my means each month, no matter what those means were.
Give more, bless those less fortunate than us.
And be ready to attack debt in 2011.

And you know what?
I did it!

Charging: I charged gas a few times, but only when I knew i had $ coming in and could pay the bill before the finance charges applies. My charge card balances all went steadily DOWN in 2010!

Food: I have become the queen of free food, so much so that I regularly take free food to homeless and less fortunate friends. I feel completely blessed by the Lord in this area. And the truth is the kids and I eat yummy, healthy, whole foods regularly and NEVER go hungry. There have been times we were tight but God never once let me down!

The peti/mani was pretty easy to do. These were my indulgences before, but I skipped them. I know how to do my own nails, but I liked being pampered. I did my own and they looked fine. Audrey and I even spent lots of girlie time together doing our nails.  And God rewarded my diligence in this. Twice during the last year I was, out of the blue treated by friends for professional peti/manis, but I was able to stick to my not spending for them resolve! The hair was a bit harder. The kids I do fine cutting, but mine was making me crazy. I think I had it cut twice last year, which was pretty good. I did break down and have it done up really well recently, and I love how pretty I feel with it. BUT I did search out a great deal and use a coupon, so I don't feel too guilty! Sometimes liking what you see in the mirror is a good thing. Not vain, just uplifting.

Cute toes from home. Audrey did mine and I did hers! The added benefits here are mommy/daughter time, teaching my daughter she can do her own super cute, and she is getting pretty darned good at it too!
Coffee: I love me a good coffee drink, but I found I was spending WAY TOO much on it, even only going once or twice a week. In 2010 I cut it WAY down. Freecycle was also a great help in this, because I got an AMAZING espresso machine for FREE and have learned to make a pretty great latte at home, which is so much cheaper than grabbing one on the go! I have given myself a $25.00 a month coffee budget and this covers my supplies for home and if any is left over a treat from one of my favorite spots like Good Tides, Higher Groundz and Nautical Bean.

Movies: With the cable and dish going many years ago, the kids and I watch a lot of movies. We have an extensive collection, but it is always nice to mix it up. We made do with Netflix and the library pretty well. But then over the summer I got a used Wii system off of Craigslist (specifically to use in a behavior training program with Nathaniel) and learned that I could stream Netflix movies right onto the TV with that.... boy has that opened up our world of movies even more. Now I don't have to plan so far ahead to treat the kids, or to entertain them while I have a migraine and need to rest. So nice and still only costs me $12.99 per month! Awesome deal, especially if you think about $4.85 to rent a single movie form the store!

Living in our means was not always easy. There are many times I miss work because Nathaniel needs me at home, child support has NOT been consistent and unexpected expenses pop up. But through it all we hung though. There were very lean times, there were times that I had to seek community supports and there were times I did without things, but in the end we are FAR better off for it! Our trust in the Lord grew, our creative problem solving grew and today I am more financially stable than I was a year ago!

Blessing others: This is an area that I am so uplifted to be sharing with my kids this year, and I love how graciously and kindly they responded! Thank you Lord for placing on our path many ways to show your love in a tangible way to others in our shear of influence this year! May you continue to always provide those opportunities for us!

Which brings me to 2011 being a year to attack debt, and guess what???

I paid off one medical bill today!!!

Keep in mind, I am a mom to a special needs child and he is EXPENSIVE!!! There are many treatments that insurance doesn't cover, equipment and supplies he needs, gas to go to a million appointments and so much more so medical bills hanging over my head is a way of life. More than a $10,000.00 way of life. And I justt deal with it, slowly chipping away at bills until they are in a manageable range. But today I looked at the overall picture and felt confident paying one off in FULL!! What a great feeling to put that check in the mail today! I pray I have the opportunity to do that more and more this year!

The credit cards are getting to a 0 balances this year (I carry one gas card so I can leave for Doctor's stuff no matter what when Nathaniel needs it, one Visa for the same reason, emergencies do come up and I want the freedom to get Nat's treatment no matter what, and a Care Credit card, because many of his providers take that and they offer a 12 month no interest option, so with careful planning I can pay for his treatments without having interest :) ) and I am hoping to chip away more at that overall medical number, not add to it! I can't wait to living a much more free life with far less hanging over our heads!

So... if you have read to this point I think you deserve to learn one of my newest tricks... what do you think?

Here is a great new deal that I have recently learned and implemented in our life. We shop for the few groceries we buy primarily at Ralph's. Ralph's is local for us, and easy to use. It is also where I get all of our pharmacy supplies so it is easy to grab groceries while waiting for the pharmacy. So we have a Ralph's card and gain points on it. While I enjoy getting the reward point certificated I have found an even better way to use our points... for GAS! You see, if you have 100 points on your card and you put in your number at the Shell station before filling up they take 10 cents per gallon off of the price of gas! I know Shell is not the cheapest station around, but I have found that with the 10 cents off it does beat the cheap stations :) So I am happy to report that we are using this and saving money on gas.... which is so hard to do usually!

What ways do you cut back or conserve in your family?


Anonymous said...

This was a fun read.
We live very similarly to you, I think. We didnt use to because we were in California where my husband worked for the state and he made good money.
Not so much now. He is unemployed and Im working from home full-time.
Its been a humbling experience. Although we have never been over-spenders anyway. Ive never even had a manicure or pedicure at a place before. I dont get haircuts. Joe trims my hair for me a few times a year. We have always grown our own food and had chickens for eggs, although I cant have chickens here and Im very sad about that. We composted and gave away all the extra veggies that were grown that we couldnt eat ourselves. The neighbors LOVED it! I also used the left-overs to make bread with (zucchini bread, etc).
We still live this way now but we hardly ever go out to eat. We hardly ever order out. We just dont have the extra money to spend on video games and stuff like we used to. The boys have been such troopers through this change and have never complained that they wanted something we couldnt afford. Im proud of them for that.
We, like you, never got handed much. We've had to earn everything we've got. Its been tough but its more rewarding in some ways. We live in a bigger city where we do afford season passes to Busch Gardens which also includes Water Country. Its something I budget in. Its $50/mo for all five of us to go anytime we want to, 10 months out of the year. We also just started getting Netflix and we stream it through our PS3 and Wii. Before that, we had nothing but our internet connection. We do not have cable or satellite tv. Nobody watched it anyway. We do not have a home phone. We have a cell phone that my mother in law thought we should have so she pays the bill for it for us. Otherwise, we'd have nothing, I guess. LOL.

Joe has been looking for work. Its been hard. I question my new found faith constantly with that. I even decided not to go to church last Sunday because Im upset about it.
Joe and i have decided that he is going to work at Busch Gardens (he already got the job last week and he starts in a month) and we are going to see what kind of financial aid we can get to put him through ECPI courses to get a degree in electronics.
So maybe its meant to be this way. Not sure yet. We're waiting to get his transcripts and then he gets to go to the Financial Aid office at the college to get that straightened out. We're crossing fingers this works. Not much else has at this point.

How do you keep your faith up when it seems he isnt there for you when you need it the most?