When Frugality Becomes Necessity

When Mr. Money lost his job last year, we went into survival mode.  Obviously, finances were incredibly tight as we figured out what our income was going to be and how we were going to work things out.  Mr. Money has been studying software development for over a year now, and actually was accepted to a coding boot camp last year.  He attended his first session in January and graduated from the Front End Web Development program at the end March. He’s now studying the C#/.net framework and is attending classes to further his knowledge on the subject and hopefully help him get a job in the near future.  I’m hoping by the end of the year/beginning of next year he will have a junior software developer job.

While Mr. Money is working on this new career advancement, I’ve been in frugal mama mode with our budget. We’ve been bare bones for awhile (basically since he lost his job last summer), but thankfully since we’ve always lived pretty minimally/frugally, this is not a shock to our lifestyle.  We have stopped contributing to retirement and college for the meantime, and I’m confident that once he secures a new job we will be able to resume contributions.  Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to help save us as much money as possible.

Stay Home

We have been spending a lot of time at home. When we don’t go out, we don’t spend money because we don’t have to pay for gas to get places, and we also  aren’t tempted to spend money at stores  or places on things that we don’t need.  Staying home provides gratitude and contentment for what we have. Once really fun thing we’ve been doing is hosting many play dates with friends!  I love inviting my friends over and spending time with them in our backyard.  We’ve made it into a kids’ oasis!  We also do have friends that live  about a quarter of a mile away and we’ve spent many days over at their houses too!

Meal Plan

A meal plan helps us tremendously because not only do we have a game plan for what’s for dinner, but we also know what groceries we need to buy when we go to the store.  I generally meal plan around what’s in our freezer, fridge, and pantry.  I stock up on meats and things when they are on sale, and Costco has amazing prices on their organic frozen vegetables! I like frozen vegetables because then I don’t have to worry about them going bad, plus their nutrient content is usually excellent.

Cook at Home

Cooking at home goes hand in hand with meal planning.  When we go out to eat, it costs us a minimum of $25 for a casual restaurant.  We don’t visit sit down restaurants generally because it’s harder with kids, and it costs more when you have to leave a 20% tip.  Eating at home is so much cheaper!

Frugal Activities

We don’t just stay at home and never have fun.  We partake in so many frugal activities with our family and friends. We often have potlucks with our friends where we all contribute a portion of the meal- one person does meat, the other a vegetable, and the other a side or dessert.  It works out well because then one family isn’t responsible for the whole meal.  We also attend church every Sunday (it’s only 5 minutes away and we love the fellowship!) and we go for walks around our neighborhood.  Many days we will pack a lunch and have a picnic at our local park. We’ve been taking trips to our libraries- one is really close to our house and one is about a fifteen minute drive but is a lot larger and has more activities.  The summer reading program will be starting soon, and Penny is really looking forward to that!

Side Hustles

Thankfully I have been bringing in income for years through my various side hustles.  I’m thankful that I started my blog when I did, and that it does provide income that is so needed for our family.  I also try to pet sit and baby sit whenever someone asks me to.  I prefer pet sitting as it’s much less stress, but Penny really enjoys when I baby sit and I don’t ever turn those jobs down either!

I’m so thankful that we have lived frugally/minimally for years so it’s not like this is a shock.  I am looking forward to the day where things aren’t so tight and we are able to go on vacation.  Every day I am thankful for what we do have and the blessings that continue to come our way!

Is frugality a necessity for you? Are you working on paying down debt, or saving money?

 

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2017 Goals Recap

For many years now, I’ve set financial goals at the beginning of every year.  Here are 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015. Last year, we set goals for 2017 and today I’m going to see just how well we did.  2017 was extremely hard as Mr. Money lost his job at the end of July.  I think we will spend a lot of 2018 playing catch up, but I’m hopeful this year will be better than the last.  Here are the goals we set last year:

-Pay $8,000 down on the principal of our home.  Fail. We paid off over $6,000 towards principal of our mortgage.  I’m not too upset about this, as I’m not sure what our future goals are going to be as far as the mortgage goes.  Part of me would rather not try to put every extra cent we have towards the mortgage when it’s at 3.75% and put it, say in our Roth IRAs instead. I feel like that may be a better investment for our future, as that money will have time to grow and I’m assuming a better rate of return than 3.75% on that money.  Of course, I would LOVE to be mortgage free, but we need to assess our goals for 2018 and see what we feel will be best suited for our family.

-Save money for college education/the future for kid(s).  Success.  We did save some money for college education/future expenses, but it wasn’t that much.  Every time our daughter receives money for birthdays, Christmas, etc we deposit it in her savings account.  We hardly every buy toys at our house, and believe me- there is no lack of toys here!  We are blessed with caring family that likes to buy toys.  We err on the side of minimalism, and strive to keep a healthy balance of what comes in and what goes out of our house.

-Save $500 a month for retirement.  Fail. We were doing very well with retirement savings at the beginning of the year but Mr. Money ended up taking a new job and consequently was laid off from that job a few months later, so we didn’t save as much for retirement as we had hoped for.  This year I’m going to try to increase my work from home earnings, so I’m optimistic we will be able to save more money this year.

-Don’t eat out unless it’s planned and budgeted for.  Success/Fail?  This is probably the biggest area of our budget that we struggle with, and we always have.  Being a one income frugal family, we don’t buy extravagant things- expensive new clothes, toys, video games, anything of the sort, and eating out is a huge treat for us.  We enjoy eating out because it gets us out of the house, we don’t have to cook or clean up, and it’s a form of family bonding.  I HATE spending $25 on one meal for us to eat out, but we enjoy it immensely.

 

-Become/stay debt free.  Success. We ended up being very lucky to finish the year debt free.  It wasn’t easy, but somehow we made it work!  We try our hardest to stick to our frugal, minimalist ways and being debt free is the biggest reward for that. Debt stresses me out and I hate it!  I hope we never go into debt again and I dream of the day we are finished paying off our mortgage.

Go on a nice vacation somewhere.  Fail. Ha.  We did go visit my family a few times, but that only cost us gas money to get there and then we stayed with my parents so we didn’t spend any extra money on lodging.  I really wanted us to visit Mr. Money’s family in Colorado but that didn’t happen.  Our vehicles are older and we didn’t want to risk driving them 1500 plus miles across country and have something happen to them.

Overall, I’m satisfied with our progress towards our 2017 goals.  After Mr. Money lost his job, we went into survival mode and life was what it was. I’m hoping and praying that we end 2018 in a much better position than we ended 2017.  I think that’s a real possibility!  Mr. Money and I need to sit down and figure out what we want our 2018 goals to be and go from there.

How was your 2017?

 

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October State of the Finances

Everything here has been a whirlwind lately since Mr. Money lost his job a couple months ago.  We’ve been trying to keep our heads above water, and I feel like we’ve been doing a pretty good job doing that so far.  One of the hardest things for me is when I have a million transactions to reconcile in our check register.  Yes, I still use one of those 😉 I’ve decided that I’m going to try charging everything on our credit card for the month of October and see how that goes.  It’s a reward card so we will get cash back on our purchases: 4% on gas, 3% on restaurants and groceries, 2% on movies, and up to 1% on everything else. I plan on paying it in full before the bill is due so we don’t get charged any interest.  I’m going to see if that’s easier for me or not.  Sometimes I think it’s harder because I don’t know an exact dollar amount of how much we have in the bank since transactions can pend on the credit card for days.

Mr. Money has applied for many jobs, had a few interviews, and probably only one really solid lead for a job.  Unfortunately, the company chose another candidate (probably one that had more sales experience) so he didn’t get that job.  He’s still looking, and is actually studying JavaScript, C# and .NET to further his credentials.  He would love to get out of the food industry and stop being a chef.  We’re hoping and praying a career change is in the future for him and that he loves it!  I’ve tweaked his resume and I had a few people look over it as well, and they said it looks pretty good!  He’s updated his Linkedin and some other software development groups to help him with his job search.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I’ve been very thankful that we live very frugally and that we don’t feel like our lifestyle has been drastically changed since he was laid off from his job.  Of course we’ve been careful with how much money we’re spending, we’re not going out and buying things we don’t need, and we’ve been cooking and eating all meals at home.  It hasn’t been the most fun, but we’re making the best of it and thankful for what we do have.  I have to keep telling myself this is a season and will pass and be a blip in the radar in not that long of a time period.  I’m so thankful that we are all healthy and safe and there’s a lot to be said for that.

I’ll be honest though- I hate this time.  I hate waiting, I hate not knowing, I hate feeling like everything is not going to be okay. I hate feeling hopeless.  I wish so badly that he hadn’t taken that job and that things were fine.  But you can’t go back and change things, you can only move forward so we do the best we can, put a smile on our faces, and trudge forward.

I’m going to try to do an update with tracking our spending for the month of October so I can share how using the credit card works out.  I’ll bet it will simplify things for us, and getting the cash back is an added bonus!

Have you ever had a period of unemployment?  What was the hardest thing you’ve experienced financially so far?

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