Thursday, September 29, 2016

economizing and the list of nots


Although we live a basic, frugal lifestyle, finding ways to cut back further still is never easy.  I mean, in some ways it is; only use one car, combine errands, stay out of the coffee shops, eat every meal at/from home, and so on.  I can make a lovely list of ways to not spend money, but walking them out and feeling the pinch is on a completely different level.  Every not is accompanied by a bit of loss.

Especially right now.  We have no idea how long the job search will take, or if we'll find a replacement that matches the income we lost.  So, #frugaltillwhenever has an impact on your psyche. Every time you check off an item on the not list, there is that little twinge of deprivation.  It was different when we were buckling down and living lean to get out of debt.  We had a clear goal, with trackable progress.  This just feels like a gaping hole.

I want to tell my kids, 'it'll be okay, we have money in the bank' and know that it's true.  It is true.  We will be okay.  I'm just not sure what this version of okay is going to look like.  How much of a hit is our savings buffer going to take?  Will it hold out for the unknown amount of time we have to fix the hole?

When your economziing takes the shape of 'not doing things' it's hard to feel satisfied.  My impulse is to take action, and do something to fix the problem.  This 'list of nots' seems like a backward approach to dealing with our situation.  It reminds me of weight loss plans that only utilize calorie restriction.  What a sure fire way to make you fixate on what you cannot have!  Same with the list of nots.  

Up till last Sunday, our need to be frugal was still mostly academic - by Monday morning it moved up to a intensive practicum.  We had built the habit of being cautious with our money - but now we have to be careful.  deliberate. focused. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Grit & Grace. the story just changed

For years I have talked about simplicity, frugality and the importance of budgeting.  It seems all that is about to be tested.  My husband was laid-off from his job this week.  The economy finally caught up to his employer, and cuts had to be made.  Unfortunately we were in the first group of cuts.

My initial response was shock, anger, frustration.  Then I began to think about all the things we can be grateful for in this situation.
  • this was not a diagnosis of illness, or a death - we are all well - no one is in hospital
  • we do not have any credit card debt, or car debt, or college debt. just a mortgage.
  • all our bills are current
  • we have built a buffer in the savings account
  • we have already be practicing living one month behind our paychecks, thanks to YNAB
  • I still have a part-time job.  It's only 60 hours a month, but enough to cover the house payment.
  • our kids are old enough to understand the situation and be patient
Things could be worse.  I am grateful they are not. 

Although we are not sure where life will lead us over the coming weeks (or months), we do know that we rely deeply on our faith in God and our love for each other.

It looks like we are going to need to be even more frugal than usual.  Time to pull out all the time-tested techniques we've learned through previous hard times.  I don't know if I'll write about this much.  It's tempting to make it a central theme of the blog.  Do people still look for frugal advice these days?  Was that just a reactionary fad from prior decades?  Not for us.  It's been a lifestyle.  We are not just frugal until we get a new job.  We'll stay #frugaltillwhenever.

At this point, the job loss still feels like fiction.  The next pay day would be Monday - and since we've been routinely sending salary one month ahead, this missed check actually affects November, not October.  And, since we have built a buffer to guard us against the unthinkable [read:job loss] - we have the small luxury of not feeling desperate. Yet. Okay, honestly this is a huge luxury.  And now I'm wondering who would even want to read our story - because it's just not desperate enough.  Ha!  This is just day 3 without the job.  We've bought a few groceries.  We had to replace the alternator on our Kia this morning.  The first of next months utility bills have arrived. Every swipe of the debit card, every serving of food now takes on greater significance.  

You can believe that we are going to be tracking the spending oh-so-much-more-closely that in recent months.  Things don't feel exactly dark, but they do feel still - like the quiet fall night I'm enjoying, with the windows open.