Life during a layoff is interesting. You say things you wouldn’t normally say (“Well, we’re down to $2.22 in the checking. Thank GOD Unemployment comes on Tuesday…”). You act in ways you wouldn’t act, like our new-found love of staying home because in the outside world we spend money. And you do things you normally wouldn’t do. And this is what I am talking about today.
I decided in late December that I would start looking into how we could change the way we live. (DISCLAIMER: I am not talking about how things “used to be” to be a douche canoe. That is not my way. I am just using “then v now”, before anyone comments and accuses me of bragging or anything. I’m not. Trust me.) Anyway, back when my husband was working, we’d have some disposable income. We’d go shopping for nothing in particular. We’d buy things we “wanted” because we wanted them. We didn’t need them. No one needs four wallets made from books (you have to understand me to understand how far I have come to even be able to type that out and mean it). You just don’t. Well, we didn’t. I thought I did. We confused “want” with “need” a lot. And I can see how it happened. Now, know that we did not incur debt doing this, but we just would spend instead of save. We’d overspend on food and end up throwing away spoiled food. It just wasn’t good. It wasn’t like we lived beyond our means, but we surely pushed those means to their limits.
Then came the layoff. And all that comes with it, as I have chronicled. No help with mortgage payments. No help with car payments. No help anywhere. So, we had to tighten up. A lot. And, we have. Things had to change. I decided the first thing I would do is go back to my “dirty hippie” ways, as my husband says, and make my own cleaning products. I bought the inexpensive goods needed to make a tub of laundry soap. Super easy. Made my own kitchen cleaner. Stain remover. This journey led me to rediscover my love for Pinterest, and I have been using that site for so much inspiration. I don’t know why I got away from it (yes, I do. I got too busy. But no more of that.), but I am glad I am back and pinteresting again.
Next came money. We had a little of it. A little more was coming in. What could we do with what we had? So, I started a 52 week money challenge, which I will post the picture of here at the bottom of this post. Basically, you save money throughout the year that correlates with what week of the year it is. Week one, you save $1. Week two, $2. And so on until week 52 ($52 in case you’re not following). By the end of the year, you will have $1378 just by doing this. So, I started this for our account, and in each of my daughters’ accounts. Easy peasy. We jump around a bit (I started with week 52, for example), but I printed out the sheets and track it so I know where we are and how far we have to go. We stay on the same week for all three accounts, even when we jump around, so that no one gets behind and it doesn’t get confusing. So far, it’s been awesome to save and see the savings grow. It’s super simple to follow, and I make it a part of our weekly bills. “Pay yourself first” is something I have never done, but I am getting used to it.
Next, we had to figure out how to control the money we had and were able to spend. So, I found on Pinterest (thanks to Dave Ramsey, more on him later) an envelope system for budgeting and spending. Basically, I made nine envelopes, and each pay, I put cash in that is ours to spend for it. For example, our gas envelope has $25 in it. I will add to it Tuesday. The grocery envelope has $200, which I will be taking some of to go and buy groceries based on my meal plan (more on that in a second). As we take money in and put money out, we track the amount so we always know how much we have in front of us. This is going to take me a second to get used to because I am not used to carrying cash, and I am a product of the debit card mentality. But this will make us more accountable for savings, for spending, and for knowing exactly what we spend where, which will make it easier for us to budget month to month. And any money left over in the envelopes will either get put toward our CC bill (which is small and on a 0% interest for a while, which I settled a long time before the layoff), or toward savings. We need to figure out exactly what we spend every week, every month to know where we can improve, cut back, and how quickly we can pay those other bills off. I am learning how to look at money in a whole new light, and that came from not having any. I was not a Dave Ramsey fan before this (I usually shy away from anyone who charges someone to learn how to manage money and talks about being biblically based as a way to save anything), but I have started looking at his blog and his advice, and I have to say that so much of it is common sense that just really makes sense. I am learning to appreciate him and his ways, and I have put some of his books on hold at the library and checked out one to start reading this morning. See that? Library. FREE advice. 🙂
So meal planning was always something I wanted to do. Something I would get to. Someday. Well, that day was January 4, 2013. I was on Pinterest, cruising, and I found a woman who blogged about her meal planning binder and how it made things so easy for her to plan dinners. Well, that peaked my interest because in this house come dinner time, we used to be scrambling. “OH forget it, let’s go out,” was one of our favorite phrases. I didn’t like to cook (I still don’t like it, but I am learning to not hate it, which is progress). If I couldn’t boil it, I didn’t make it. Well, I was determined to start planning meals to save time and money. I dusted off (literally, you have no idea) three of our cookbooks, went through and found recipes I could make and were family friendly, printed them out on index cards, and added them to my *dusty* recipe box. I then printed out the woman’s 52 Week Meal Planning binder pages and went to work. I went through our pantry and freezer, inventoried what we had on hand, and was able to plan 10 days worth of dinners off of that alone. I then started adding recipes I had printed out, along with some already in my recipe box, and planned two weeks of dinners. I made the grocery list (each sheet has a space to cut off for grocery lists) and headed to the grocery store. It was not difficult to start doing this; it was a relief to see that dinner was already planned. I just had to make it. Grocery shopping was a breeze, saving me time and money. I didn’t blindly shop, picking up whatever looked “doable” as I used to. I had a plan, I had a map, and I was going to get to the finish line. And I did. I cut my spending by $45 for 10 days of meal planning, and I had even bought some extras like juice boxes and fruit snacks that were on sale. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I have already planned out dinners through the 2nd of March, and I made 6 weeks of grocery lists. I am so pumped about this, and I will definitely continue this once my husband is back to work because this will be even better when we have more money. More income will actually, for once, equal more savings for us. And I feel so empowered. I feel kind of dumb for not doing it before, but doing things out of necessity is a lot easier sometimes than doing things because “they sound fun.”
I keep cruising Pinterest for more ideas on simplifying, but I like the way things are going. I have a good grip on our finances, as cut back as those are. I have taken a lighter load of teaching hours this semester because I have found I really enjoy being home with my kids when I am not distracted and having to grade a ton. I have slowed down and just learned to enjoy this time together. It won’t last forever. My husband will be back to work. My kids will be bigger tomorrow than they are today. And in June, we will have a baby who will need us to do everything for him/her. I have learned to live in the moment and just enjoy this life. The layoff has not been fun, do not get me wrong, but it has been a blessing in disguise. It has shown me that we can live with a lot less than we were before. We can make it without Target or the mall. We can live better on less. We can live simply. And simply living has become a permanent way of life. I couldn’t be happier, truly.
If you have any questions about where I have found my resources from Pinterest, you can message me here. I will gladly email you to share my pins I have found and allow you to follow me on Pinterest. I will post the 52 week money challenge below. Good luck and happy simple living!