Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the debt reduction diaries: blah blah budget :P

So, a lot of people read my previous post.  It's one of my most read posts, ever, actually.  and what's more?  a lot of people commented on my fb post or wrote me an email or message of some sort, saying that they are in our SAME SHOES.  and I happen to know that most of them are also good, hard working people who are stuck just like us.  and while part of me was like WOO HOO, we aren't alone!!!  there's another part of me that's like WHAT IS GOING ON HERE????  I also happen to know that a lot of them went to a private Christian college like I did, and for many, it was the exact same one.  I'm not saying we shouldn't have gone to college there.  I'm saying someone should have taught us BEFORE college about what we were getting ourselves into!!!

This is very awkward for me to be writing all this, by the way.  It's really embarrassing, first of all, but I"m trying to get over that part.  It's just really humbling for you all to know that we struggle.  That's not really something most people talk about, ya know?  ESPECIALLY financial struggles.  we just all act like we can afford whatever we want, and don't want to say no to our friends, and so we don't.  But now that I know that there are so many more people that feel like I do, and srtuggle like we do, I'm even more committed to sharing my journey here, embarrassing or not.

ok, and this is NOT a pity party.  I'll probably do a lot of complaining this series. :)  but it's not because I want you to feel bad for me.  or send me money.  or order pinakdink stuff.  it's because I'm trying to be real here.  and if you dont' like real then don't read it.  deal?

ok so we had our first official budget meeting.

now, here's the thing about our budget...we've been using cash budgeting for a while now.  like a year?  our budget looked something like this:

grocery: $300
other: $100
everything else: prayer. and hope that there's money in the pinkadink account.  otherwise, use the card, and rack up debt.

so our grocery AND "other" money was used for like food and shampoo and pullups and toilet paper, etc.  I actually have no idea how much of it was being used for food and how much was being used for other, it was just all in one pocket and I hoped that it didn't run out.  but it did.  and then we also had gas to pay for, which we used our cards for, which is why we ended up in trouble when it came time to pay the bills sometimes and had to wait for the next paycheck.  and let me just say it's a darn good thing we have overdraft protection.

so the whole using cash thing isn't new to us at all.  But I guess for some reason I thought that using the pinkadink excess from the holidays and getting all squared up, and paying off our first debt (medical bills), and creating our very first emergency fund, after all that I thought maybe we'd actually be able to budget for things like oil for our cars and haircuts and stuff.  We knew we wouldn't actually even be able to start a snowball and apply that payment to another debt YET, because our monthly budget was just  impossible.  but I had in my head that with the really great baby steps we took, we'd have a little more to work with.

so last night we sat down at like 8:30 to crunch numbers.  and we figured out what we'd actually have to budget each month for things like our car registrations and oil changes and our reverse osmosis water filter, and other things that happen EVERY YEAR that we don't want to have to dip into our emergency fund for.  nothing excessive.  no shopping even, no gifts, just a bare bones budget.

and, didn't go very well.

now, you have to understand that my dear husband gets REALLY stressed out talking about money issues.  that's why I'm the one who handles it all. I pay the bills, I keep track, I shop, I go to the bank. But starting NOW I need him in on this with me, 100%.  So the poor guy starts stressing big time when we realize that we're still quite FAR from being able to budget anything more than the method we've been using, which, somehow, I guess by small miracles, has gotten us this far.  oh, and the fact that we basically haven't tithed regularly EVER.  We have, on occasion, and felt like the lady who gives her last 2 coins, but it was a good exercise in trust.  but we want to actually give 10% EVERY MONTH now.  really bad.

so Steve is getting all stressed out and I totally felt like a wrestling cheerleader.  ya know, like, you stay peppy and sing-songy and positive, when everything going on all around you just really seems WRONG.  (no offense to wrestlers out there, I just don't get it.)  There was no way to make our numbers work, unless we could bring in more money, but once again, it's not guaranteed.  and we're trying to be realistic.  So I'm like, "it's OKAY!!  we just have to figure it out!!!  we have to see what we can cut, and what we can add for income!  we can do it!!!"  when it's basically impossible. :(

Our future income HAS changed slightly in the last few days though, and here's why.  on Monday when i was done writing the blog post, I started getting really frantic about how in the heck I was going to bring in my dollar amount that I need now that the holidays are over.  So I'm researching spring craft shows, and adding all my inventory to etsy, and internally freaking out, when I got a message from my friend that I used to do daycare for.  and get this: her daycare lady is no longer able to watch her little girl!  So my friend was asking if I'd be willing to watch Maddie again for like a week while they get things figured out.  and like a dream come true (or a prayer that's answered), I now get to have her until the end of the year!!!!  if only that could work out every year, where in the fall I work the pinkadink and after christmas I do daycare.  not sure too many parents would jump on board for that one, but it works for now!!!

the hard part is that it still doesn't cover what I need to make, (but at least that part is guaranteed!) and my days will be filled.  so that means nights and weekends will be spent sewing, which is fine because without the daycare income I would have had to be doing that anyway in order to make the money I need to.  but now I get to spend my days playing instead of sewing. :)

ok, back to the budget that wasn't working...we did everything we could.  we cancelled our netflix streaming, hoping that $8 a month will go farther than we think. I think our phones will be a different post entirely because it was a recent change that we're kind of regretting now but we did take the insurance off them to help save a little.  and Steve is going to walk to work every day to save on gas.  and we're going to eat peanut butter sandwiches every day for lunch (when Lillian's at school.  not on the weekends when she's here.  she's allergic if you don't know that.)  But there are things like our reverse osmosis that I'm not willing to give up...yet...because I happen to care (a lot) about what goes into my body.  and we both have to go to the chiropractor on a regular basis.  steve has always had issues, and if I don't go, then my back locks up and I can't sew for like a week.  so that's not an option to cut for now. I about started crying wondering if I should pull Brielle out of  preschool to save $105 a month, but I just can't do it.  not yet.

and blah blah blah, decision after decision, we're back where we started, mostly.  which means $300 for groceries, and a little "other" money.  $300 on groceries for a family of five. :)  we eat a lot of rice and beans and spaghetti. :)  and we'll just keep eating that and hoping that nothing else comes up.  no new tires. no copays, nothing.  and if it does, well, then it better come out of our "other" category or our emergency fund.  I think everything is going to have to be an emergency right now.

but here's the good news.  We are 100% aware of our situation and where our money is going.  and pretty soon, just from making our regular payments and one big payment with the rest of the pinkadink holiday money, we'll have another debt paid off and our snowball will start.  so we feel good.

we worked until MIDNIGHT on that stupid budget.  8:30 to midnight!!!  it was not fun.  but it was good.  we're on the same page.  we're aware.  and we know how badly we need to work our butts off.

one more thing that I didn't mention is the "summer" fund we are going to start.  On occasion I'll get big pinkadink orders for stores, or have a sale or promotion or somehting, and get a bunch of extra money for the month.  instead of using that money to put toward our debt, we think we need to save it for summer.  Summer is a really busy time for me with sewing, to get ready for the fall season, but it's NOT a big sales season for me.  so we think we'll need to plan for that and have a reserve fund.  and if I end up with lots of sales this summer, then we'll put our "summer" fund toward our debt and that will ROCK!!!!!!!!!

so for now, I'm making a few business changes for the pinkadink.  consider yourself an insider now for reading my blog. :)  I'm no longer going to do the hair accessory part of the business, except for what I make to match my clothing.  It's really hard to keep everything stocked, and it's an easy way for me to just blow money because I love buying flowers. :)  I'll still make a variety of things to go with my stuff (or not) but I won't be buying wholesale flowers anymore, which means there will be a HUUUUUUUGE sale on flowers in the very near future.  make sure you watch my facebook page if you want to know when and where.  :)  and that should provide a little cash flow to help us get to the point where we can make a real budget. :)  because everybody loves a sale. :)

alright, I'm sick of writing about budgeting.  blech.  it's so hard, but so important.  so do you think we can actually make it on $300 a month for groceries?  we'll see.  time will tell and I'll let you know.  but today, the VERY DAY AFTER our first budget meeting, Steve found a verse posted by one of his friends from a "verse of the day" type of thing:

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."  Jeremiah 17:7-8.

coincidence?  I think not. :)


theKband said...


CSMITH said...

Awesome Andrea! A side note, my husband was really convicted of the not tithing 10% about a year ago and really enforced the 10%. It was hard, and I was less than a cheerful giver at first, it got easier and we found that our dollars somehow went farther. It was a loaves and fishes kind of thing for us. God has always been faithful to us. I won't say that this will happen overnight, but it should be some encouragement.

kindsofhoney said...

Hi Andrea! I almost commented on your earlier post, but didn't . . . but yes, count me in as in very much the same shoes (except, obviously, not trying to support a family). I've fussed many a time about the debt I racked up, and why, and how ironic is it that after 8 years of school what really I want to do requires, um, no degree at all!? But how could I have known that back then? And this is also my year to face my fearful finances with bravery. And in thinking about all this I've come to a couple of conclusions about the whole college debt situation:

1) I'm pretty sure it's a great idea for people to not go to college straight out of high school. In some countries they are expected to take a gap year or two to travel or serve or whatever. If I ever have kids I plan to give them some serious incentive to take a couple of years off to try out missions, volunteering, etc. and get more of a feel for what the world looks like and works like outside of their small circles.

2) We made the best decisions we knew to make at the time, and our parents and teachers gave us the advice that seemed best at the time, based (I think) largely on what worked back in their day, which was actually part of the problem! Given that college cost significantly less back then, and that the likelihood of someone with a college degree getting a job in their field with a pretty decent salary was actually much better than it is now. AND given that a college degree kind of mattered more then than it does now. So we kind of got caught in the middle of all this change. And we were only high schoolers, right, with such a limited concept of the world, and it was just the general expectation that we, as good smart kids, would go to the Christian college and get bachelor's degrees. We couldn't really see the wider world at that point. I so easily want to blame myself, but really, we only went on the advice of the trusted adults around us, and we also really couldn't predict the future, right? (And we still can't . . . who knows, maybe these degrees will prove their worth ten years from now?)

3) Colleges, especially Christian liberal arts colleges, are going to have to either figure out how to be more affordable, and/or figure out how to better equip and funnel their graduates into high enough paying jobs to validate the cost of the education . . . or else, they're in danger of drastic reduction in their student population.

So. I hear what you're saying! And I feel the pain and the pinch of the budget. I keep trying to remind myself that it can be a good feeling to not spend money (vs. retail therapy, which I confess I am sometimes guilty of). Retraining my brain to feel excited about re-purposing something or finding an item at a thrift store (I have long hated thrift stores and need to change that) instead of buying something new. Our generation is definitely dealing with the aftermath of the previous one, and the economy, and I guess at least this proves we're smart enough to adapt.

Also, have you read the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes? I think you might like it.

amy sterk said...

Sounds like you guys are on the right track. I love your honesty and encourage you to trust in the Lord, esp. with the tithing. What seems impossible to us, is totally possible with Him! Keep growing and streching...even when you get discouraged. I happen to agree, however...budgeting stinks!

Michelle said...

Andrea - I find your posts so refreshing! Like you said - so many of us are in the same boat, but just don't talk about it. We have been on a cash system for about 6 months and sometimes it still makes me nervous that we will not make it to the end of the month, but by the grace of God we do. Praying that you will find some encouragement today and everyday to stay on the journey!