Number crunching and searching for balance

I’ve always kept a budget but it’s really interesting to watch how every single dollar gets spent. Due to some financial hammers that have been flung our way recently, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve sharpened my focus to a laser point on our finances of late. The idea is that if the changes I’ve made within two months do not show a good path forward, I will throw in the towel and tank my credit score, close the cards and go through the consumer credit counseling program. This will leave us with ZERO available credit in case of emergencies as opposed to the couple of thousand we have right now, so I’m really not in favor of that approach, but will do what I need to.

What a lot of people find when they sharpen their focus and start paying attention is a lot of waste. I have always paid attention, and I am not wasteful, so this is not what I’ve learned. There are no lattes or mani-pedis or hair highlights to cut. Small changes have been made, like signing a two-year lease renewal on our apartment, which lowered the rent ever so slightly. We’ve gone back to hang drying a lot of laundry (clotheslines are not permitted), but I only have one drying rack so it looks like someone threw up clothes all over the apartment when we do this, so I’m going to invest in some additional drying racks.

We’ve also increased our intake of carbs. It’s easy to see how and why poor families end up diabetic, as carb-based foods really are some of the cheapest out there. Beans are also very cheap, but as I’ve noted before on here, there are only so many beans I can take. Someone with an abbreviated GI system suffers far more from a diet heavy in beans than normal people do, and it’s just very hard to do all the time. I’ve started making more of our bread, and I already know how to make noodles so I have to get back to that, and we are eating our way through the various dried pastas and other grains I have in the cupboard. Right now the cheapest way to make sure we’re also getting veggies is via frozen, and no longer the organic unless I have a coupon or they are on sale. We are eating a lot more eggs too – last night’s dinner was pancakes and eggs. And a whiskey for Mom, because I am sick with a horrible cold, probably due to stress from working on this Nasty Project at work that finally finished up at 7pm last night, as I sat at my workstation sneezing and drinking tea.

The D is used to requesting whatever he wants. He doesn’t get what he wants but about half the time, if it’s a reasonable request. Most of the time, he requests produce. When he requests something that isn’t in season, we get out the chart from the Ohio Farm Bureau calendar and talk about when that will be in season, and then go through the months again to show him when that will be. But for items that are NEVER in season here, we talk about when they might be in season elsewhere, and why we will or won’t be buying them. He understands now, for example, that his teacher hails from Mexico but that that’s also where some of his favorite produce is grown in the winter. I’ve also started to tell him quite honestly that I’m not buying that right now because we have to wait until payday to go to the grocery. I can’t decide if this is the right approach or not. I want him to understand we are not made of money, but I don’t want him to be scared, either. Or get mad, which is how I grew up, because we were so poor it didn’t matter WHEN payday was, we almost never got what we wanted because we couldn’t afford it or it was too expensive. I was never scared about it, but I was angry, as I grew older and saw what others had and what we didn’t, or when I got to be old enough to get a crappy PT job at a fast food restaurant, and I had to fork over my check so we could have electricity for the next month instead of using it to buy jeans like my friends did who bothered to work. As with any parenting choice, I think you’re never 100% sure what the right approach is, so you just do the best you can, and that’s what I’m trying to do by communicating to him that he can’t just have whatever he wants from the grocery, whenever he wants it. He’s starting to get it a little bit, as he told me recently he wants to take the “coins” from his piggy bank (fake coins given as rewards for things like staying dry all night) and buy the Spongebob chap stick gift package we saw at Sears two months ago, which I’m CERTAIN is no longer there and yet he insists it is. I told him he wasn’t quite there yet with coins but he should be soon. Of course they won’t have those, but I will take him to Sears anyway and let him pick something small out. I think I want to have him actually take the piggy bank to an actual bank and give it to the teller with a withdrawal slip for some small amount of real money so she can give him cash in exchange for the fake coins. Is this stupid? I dont’ know. I just want him to understand the tangibles of money. And not be denied everything, all the time, at every turn, just because we don’t have the money. Where is the balance? I don’t know.

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2 thoughts on “Number crunching and searching for balance

  1. I want you to know that I think that it is very valuable to teach our children that there are such things as budgets and that money isn’t always (or sometimes rarely) free flowing. We’ve never lived extravagantly, but my children always had what they needed and a little of what they wanted. I saw so many friends our age who were given everything growing up and thought they still deserved everything even though they might not be able to pay for it. Early in our married lives we watched friends buy new cars, homes, clothes, toys and take trips that we couldn’t afford. As time progressed we saw friends loose cars, file bankruptcy and downsize. I remember when Jesse hit the age of around 13. He was eating us out of house and home. I began to watch sales and use coupons. I’d been shopping this way for some time and was at the grocery store with Abbey. She asked if she could have some pistachios. I said yes. We were in line at the check out and Abbey said “Mom! I don’t think those pistachios were on sale and we don’t have a coupon, do we?!” We still got the pistachios. My kids got jobs when they were 16. They paid for their own gas and car insurance and saved money to buy their first cars…with a little assistance from us and their grandparents. They value their cars and take care of them. My kids have never been big fans of name brand clothes or shoes. Abbey refuses to spend more than $20 for a piece of clothing and would prefer $15. She just fell in love with a prom dress that is $650. I know how much she must love it because that price tag would normally be a road block for her. She’s gonna pay for part of it and we’re going to make it happen, because she doesn’t demand it or expect it.

    Jesse thanked me after he went away to college. He said that kids were out of money before the first week of school was done. I don’t think kids get scared unless you seem scared. I think that if you treat it matter-of-factly that your son will do the same. I’m sorry that things were tough for you financially when you were growing up. Not many in our generation had to work to help keep the household afloat like previously generations did. Those kinds of things aid in teaching us another important life lesson….Life isn’t always fair.

    I do know that you love your son…immensely and unconditionally! You give him your time and energy. Those are far more important than anything that you could buy for him. However, I’m sure that you make sure that he has plenty of great food, a warm and safe home, a good childcare environment, clothes and toys. He’ll be fine!
    Hang in there! This too shall pass! When things get bad I start counting my blessings. When I really start to look around…I can’t help but feel better. Even the little things mean a lot!

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