Money Matters

I wasn’t sure how to start this post off. Nobody really likes to talk about their personal money or how they spend it…or steward it. Money, salaries, spending habits, etc. are considered personal discussions to be had with only close friends and family. So, I’m going to be brave and dive right in. OK?

Since Louis and I got married 5 years ago, we have taken a SERIOUS look at our spending plan or our budget, depending on your school of thought. We did this for a number of reasons – because we wanted to be better stewards of our money and because we knew that the day would come when my job at the bank would end, which it did nearly 3 years ago. We were working toward making it on just Louis’ salary, and we all know pastors don’t get paid what they deserve, especially when you break it down to an hourly wage. But, I won’t go there…because like most teachers, pastors don’t become pastors because it’s a great paying gig.  It’s a true calling, well….hopefully, anyway.

We have slashed our expenses significantly. Here are some things we did…

  • We received new bids for car and home insurance (which saved us a TON of money! and should have been done LONG time ago.)
  • We refinanced the house (at no cost to us!!! YES!!! Thanks, Wells Fargo!).
  • We (or I should say LOUIS!!!) negotiated deals with cable/internet. We have VERY limited channels.  (every 6 months, Louis tackles this one because this process makes me want to hit someone…hard.)
  • We watch a lot more Netflix (or nothing at all).
  • We cut off the home phone (because who needs it anyway, right????).
  • We changed our home security system.
  • We buy a lot less stuff and plan our buying better. You will see me in the same clothes…. a lot. Just replacing the basics. (I did manage to replace my favorite black sweater since it had several holes in the elbow.)
  • We sold stuff on Craig’s List. Have done ok here.
  • We (with A LOT of help from the neighborhood youth!!!) had a yard sale to help fund the community stuff we do with the kids. (It didn’t generate a lot of cash, but we met some really great neighbors, so we consider it a HUGE success!)
  • We followed Dave Ramsey’s plan almost maniacally…using an app currently called EEBA  (name is changing soon) which acts as the envelope system that Dave talks about.
  • We use our credit card for EVERYTHING (which Dave Ramsey would kill us for!!!) we possibly can, because we pay it off each month AND the bank gives us a lot of cash back when our rewards add up!
  • We make it a game. You won’t see us on Extreme Couponing or anything like that, mainly because what we buy doesn’t usually have coupons. But we love to find great deals to cover our fun time. Louis usually wins.
  • I told Louis I would give up a lot of things, but hair color would NOT be one of them. At 50, I’m nearly 100% grey (not 50 shades of grey…just grey and white) and I’m not ready to see that in the mirror every day. So, I have grown my hair out…only getting it cut every 3-4 months to help offset the cost of my color.
  • Using the Dave Ramsey plan, over the next 6 months, we will pay ourselves back (to the emergency fund) for the car repairs.
  • Louis has replaced the brakes, spark plugs and other minor maintenance car repairs at home.
  • Terence has noticed we no longer keep a big tub of cookie dough or sodas in the fridge and totally understands, but appreciates the big thing of lemonade we keep in the cabinet.  🙂

So, this is where we are for the month. This has not been a good month for us! Here we are, 2/3rds the way through the month…with 10 days to go…and we are already at our spending limit! Ouch! Even though we planned for an extra car repair expense and a trip to New Orleans, we didn’t account for gifts (although I was tempted to re-gift – I did not succumb to that temptation), and I overspent on groceries today. Yikes! We also intentionally went over last month, thinking we could cover it this month and pay ourselves back.  So, as long as I can go the next 10 days without buying anything, we will be OK. I am confident that we will make it!

gas priceHere’s our no spending plan….

Louis will be laid up having surgery, so I will have to keep him away from amazon and other internet sites while he’s on the painkillers. I am grateful that we have a cupboard and fridge full of food and a car full of gas (some of which we got at 89cents/gallon thanks to my mom’s savvy fuel perks savings!).  And I am grateful for the little coupons from St Mary’s that will cover a couple of meals while I am at the hospital (and a super generous friend who’s going to bring me something DE-lish to eat for dinner on Monday – although I would be MORE than willing to share one of my St Mary’s cafeteria coupons!  LOL) And…for some of you who know of our obsession…we are stocked with ‘Booty’… aka Pirate’s Booty, which is our go-to snack of choice. So, we are more than good to go!

Quick interesting story…I was in a class not too long ago with a group of non-profit leaders.  I started to share our cost cutting and budgeting/spending initiatives with them over lunch, and they were totally psyched! To the point that they started taking notes, and downloading apps! They suggested that I teach a class.  LOL  But, I don’t see that happening.  We are still learning! So, I am interested in knowing what YOU do.  How do you save money? When things get tight, where do you cut? What have we missed? Where else should we look?

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn’t include this! Louis and I are also appreciative for the many gifts and acts of kindness from friends and family! Gift Cards to our favorite restaurants, movie theatres, etc. that we received earlier this year when life really shifted. Surprises in the mail and at our doorstep, which literally made us cry…. you know who you are! Meals and visits when Louis and I were hospitalized earlier this year. Folks who helped out around the house while Louis was laid up – hung cabinets, cut grass, whacked weeds, attic adventures, and so much more. Timely phone calls, emails, texts. Shoulders to cry on when things got really stressful. Ears I could vent to without judgment. I love our generous group of friends, family, and community. Thank you.

With all this cheeky humor aside, we are the most blessed people ever.  God’s provisions have been nothing short of AH-mazing, unexplainable, abundant, and rich.

We are so grateful.

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Feeling Spent? Can you make it until the end of the month?

You are unemployed.  Lost your house.  A single parent..and only have $1000 in the bank.  Can you make it to the end of the month?

Several years ago, I got involved with a family who struggling at every turn. After a death in their family and another serious health condition, I found myself shopping for the family of 2.  It was then that I became overwhelmingly aware of the extreme financial struggles of some of my friends and neighbors and the difficult choices that have to be made every day.  In addition…these were decisions my parents also had to make as they were raising 4 children. And some decisions that I had to make early in my career.

Decisions like….Pay the light bill or put food on the table or rack up credit card debt? Go to court to contest a speeding ticket (requires taking off work) or pay the $200 ticket? Pay for health insurance or the car repair bills?

I was recently thinking about what it might look like to put together a decision tree for these types of decisions….when I stumbled on Play Spent.  Go ahead…click the link.  I dare you.  After trying several times, I couldn’t make it to the end of the month with enough money to pay rent at the first of the next month. Imagine…if this weren’t just a game…imagine this was your life..every day.  Or maybe it is.

Check it out…see how well you do.  www.playspent.org

Just a few stats from the Sources Link…

  • Many children who qualify for free or reduced lunch choose to go hungry rather than face the stigma of being identified as poor.
  • Many low-income workers would rather keep quiet than push for better working conditions because they don’t want to risk losing their jobs.
  • More than 44% of people living below the poverty line visit the public library to get online.
  • For more than 50 percent of American households, access to public transit is too limited to go completely carless.
  • Almost 15 percent of American households had a hard time getting enough to eat at some point during 2009.

So…how did you do?