As I have mentioned before, our family has been struggling with debt. Lately, our checking account has been carrying a negative balance or has overdrafted more times than I care to admit. Combine our debt with few monetary resources, and things have been tight for us financially.
Tight…suffocating…call it what you will.
I have been trying to see the bright side of this situation. There are many blessings. My husband has a solid job that, unless there is a lay off, will be a sufficient income to live off of once we climb out of the hole that WE got ourselves into. Having less income to work with takes away a lot of the temptation to spend money because there isn’t anything to spend, which helps me to learn how to control those shopping impulses that I used to always give in to. We have been forced to live a more frugal and sustainable lifestyle as a result of our current situation. We are learning how to make more foods from scratch, how to preserve what we have, where to find the best prices when we do have to go to the store. We have been learning traditional skills like milling grains and canning. We have refocused our attention to our food storage and emergency preparedness. So, there are blessings underneath it all.
And in some ways, we’re making some progress. I have a few underlying, ever constant goals–trying to eat out only once a week, if that, examining each and every purchase we make and whether it is a “want” or a “need,” tracking each expense, inventorying what we use in our food storage, daily finance talks. And I have adopted a new shopping strategy I want to share with you: First, try to find it for free. Second, search for deep discounts or bulk sales. Third, then contemplate retail price, and only then.
In some ways, we’re doing well. We haven’t eaten out in three days. I have been tracking expenses and food usage during this pay cycle. We are growing our food storage–we have purchased more wheat berries for flour from a local organic farm, and we have been slowly adding #10 cans of staples to our pantry shelves. Tonight, hubby and I started our first in our series of daily finance talks, and I felt we were open and honest with each other, without any hostility or complaints.
On the other hand, I still have my setbacks. I’ll share an experience with you. I went out today to look for free food grade buckets for wheat storage. I can find them in bakeries and grocery stores if I ask the right employees and departments. While out, I wanted to stop at Big Lots to see if I could find a detergent that an online cloth diaper group was commenting on that was cheap and effective for those of us who use traditional, “non cloth diaper safe,” detergents. I assumed I would buy a bag of it, and I was okay with that. I chose the smaller bag (a whopping $1.70), and was content with that, and I felt like it was a justifiable purchase.
On the way to the next spot on our “bucket list” (haha), we then decided we wanted drinks. Okay, fine. Even though our account is in the hole, we had a few dollars of cash on hand. Drinks turned into cookies for the kids, which turned into a grill brush, which turned into chicken breasts and side dishes to cook. None of which we needed, might I add.
$14 later, we left the store. On one hand, you’re probably thinking $14 isn’t a big deal. But when you’re in the hole, and only planned on one purchase, and the rest weren’t necessary or in the original idea, it is. It broke my “wants vs. needs” goals, and I’m not sure the feeling of defeat was worth it. Add cranky kids, and I felt pretty miserable this evening.
We are making progress, and I’m not trying to sell myself short. Disappointed or not, we came home and discussed what happened. I still wrote down every expense. I shared my experience with others for accountability. But, I still expect more of myself. I still expect to win this, to conquer our goals, and to come out of the dark we are facing to the light at the end of the tunnel.
I just sometimes feel very alone in this, like we’re the only ones who have to question $14. Even worse is the knowledge that we did this to ourselves…our income is sufficient. We simply overextended ourselves and created bad habits over the years. I know we’re not alone, but when you’re on this road, it’s sure a lonely feeling one, and a rough one to take.