Dustin and I were always frugally minded people. Even before the pregnancy from hell, the preemie and his medical expenses, and the unexpected loss of my income, we made frugal decisions a regular habit. We went to movies before 10:00a.m. so they would cost us $5 instead of $12.50, we infrequently ate out, we shopped the clearance racks for clothes.
But these days, being frugal has come to mean something new entirely. Now frugality isn’t a wise choice (and by the way, living way under your means is a very wise choice), it’s a survival method. It hasn’t been an easy – or anticipated – switch to cut our income down by over half while adding more expenses to our lives.
I guess I should add that yes, I realize how much more broke we could be. It could always be worse. Anyone else sick of hearing that? Has hearing that ever helped anyone, really? To be honest, as we’ve learned over the last 10 months, if we were more broke, the county would have covered our medical bills, we would have qualified for WIC and SSI benefits for Ben…but I digress.
Over the past 10 months of becoming more and more broke, watching our hard-earned savings slip through our fingers, I’ve found that sometimes the only thing that makes this new life bearable (aside from the awesomeness that is the baby we gave it all up for) is not being told “it could be much worse” but instead taking the time to reflect on what changes we’ve made (or at least, I feel we’ve made) that I feel we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Even when we are back on our feet I truly believe that we will continue to live with a new appreciate for these 5 things.
The sight of a full fridge hasn’t never been so satisfying. There have been weeks where a photo shoot or a random web work job has made the difference between groceries and no groceries. My mom and my mother-in-law babysat for us back in September and they both commented on how empty our fridge was. Yeah…we know. Sometimes we scrounge. We are fortunate in that something has always come through, but we’ve cut it close a few times. I will never look at our full fridge the same way again.
Same goes for a full tank of gas. I’ve always bitched about the cost of gas, but I’ve never been in a position where we have to budget gas miles until recently. I try to make all our trips in one run so we aren’t needlessly going back and forth.
When we do get to go out, it’s more fun than ever. Now when we splurge on a $5 Saturday morning movie, it’s a huge deal. Huge. We treat ourselves because we know that even broke people have to leave their house and have fun every once in a while. Last week I met friends for a picnic play date in the park, and I honestly appreciated every single bite of the $9 Panera lunch (bacon turkey bravo!!) I was able to buy.
We think through every single purchase we make. Before December 2013 we would give lots of thought to the big purchases, and some thought to the medium ones, and almost no thought to the small stuff. Now we take the time to weigh out every purchase. Someday, when this is over, we will be saving so much money by being hyperaware of every dime we spend.
We have a new sense of purpose. There’s something scary-powerful walking on the edge of survival and disaster. It forces you to have a new level of fight in your day-to-day living. Yeah, this is hard. Really hard. We aren’t sure that we will make it next month, or the month after, but we made it today, and that’s worth celebrating. We appreciate the smart choices we made pre-baby and realize that had we acted differently in our past, we would not have made it this far in our new present. Making it this long has made us want to fight harder and longer.
How have you turned a negative time in your life in to a positive? What frugal budgeting skills have kept you afloat when times are tough?