I swear I am not turning this into a financial journey blog, but I have been happy to hear from so many folks in support of this journey as attempt to get a handle on our money. Rather than responding to folks individually I thought I would give an update as well as address some background information that helps to get a better sense of who we are and how we got into this jam since our lives are a tad different from most.
For starters, its going ok. Since my last post, I have made a conscious effort to watch my spending but at the same time we want to enjoy life. Yet we don’t want to spend all our money. So I am putting a lot more effort into being mindful of what the day’s events are and planning in advance so that I can avoid the unexpected expenditures that pop up. The biggest area this happens around is eating out, we always carry water and something to eat for girl child but I am learning to carry something to eat for myself.
Today I had an outing with girl child and we pretty much stayed within the budget only going over by $4. Now I know some of you who are hardcore may be groaning but you have to understand that for me, this is a big step. I also wanted to say in the past I have written down everything I spend, I actually did this at the beginning of the year which is why I know that food is my biggest area where the budget goes out the window.
I am not always clear about this but I am not a SAHM nor exactly a WAHM, my day job is director of a small non-profit and while I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule that means I can do a lot of work at home, I still average 15 hours or so weekly in the office or at meetings. I find that meeting days are the hardest because if I end up in a 3 hour meeting, generally by the time its over I am starving and the coffee I brought is gone. So a great deal of my coffee consumption outside is around my work life at this point. It’s funny because 15-16 years ago that is how I discovered Starbucks; I had an hour commute on the train back in Chicago and by the time I got to work my travel mug was finished and the office coffee tasted like swill, so I immediately latched on to Starbucks. Back then I was doing 3-4 Starbucks stops in a day. I drink nowhere near that amount of coffee now especially as the cost of coffee has risen as my income has dropped.
I also want to say that this weekend, I started making my own signature hot chocolate at home so now on weekends when I need a special drink, I can make them at home. Again, its baby steps.
So why don’t we stay home more? Truthfully because the Spousal Unit works from home, he has an office in our house and prior to me taking my position last fall I was consulting and at my home office. Friends, I love the hubby but when you are trapped in your house all the time with your loved one, you reach a point where you want, no need to leave the house. Oddly enough when I took my job last fall we actually started going out less because having time away from each other meant we were less inclined to feel the need to go out.
Some of our financial issues are directly related to the Spousal Unit being self employed. So why doesn’t he get an outside job? Because he is a journalist/editor and well paying gigs are sparse as hell in Maine, he went freelance when we moved here because after holding the positions he held in the past working 40+ hours a week for local paper not even making 25K was not an attractive option when he could make more as a freelancer. He continues to be a freelancer because even with the loss of clients and income he still earns more than the market pays in Maine.
That said, being a freelancer has its ups and downs, primarily that you don’t always know when you are getting paid. An example would be that he just got paid on a job he did in January/February and its the end of September …this makes budgeting difficult and it was worse when I didn’t work. Thankfully I have a regular paying gig that while I am greatly underpaid compared to what I would earn as an Executive Director in any large city with my background, knowing when I am getting paid helps a great deal.
We moved to Maine 7 years ago and when we moved here we thought it would be cheaper to replace our stuff out here rather than paying a moving company thousands of dollars. So we literally moved here with everything we could fit in a 2 door 98 Chevy Cavalier and 5 years ago we bought a house. Turns out replacing an entire house is more than the money we saved by not moving our stuff and even now after 7 years here there is plenty of stuff we have not replaced. I will say that owning a house, we learned early on that you need a certain amount of tools and equipment for home repairs and management. Until we recently we didn’t even have any buddies we could say borrow a drill from thus making it a necessity to sometimes spend.
Our current house looks like a couple of college kids live here since the only new items we bought new were the couch and the old bed, which was replaced by a friends lovely California King pillow top a few months ago(so glad her new partner didn’t wantto sleep on her previous bed from marriage, it was a gain for us), but as I am learning you generally want to have more than 2 sets of sheets and our old Queen sheets didn’t work at all. So even when I avoid spending large sums (price of a new bed) there are still small costs (bedding and we didn’t even buy a new comforter or bedspread opting to use the old one that really doesn’t fit..who cares, no one is seeing).
I am not making any excuses because the bottom line is even in our time in Maine, there has been too much spending but because up until recently we lived a life where we were always waiting to get paid it meant credit cards were sometimes used to pay bills. While I have never been great with money I can say I never used credit cards to fuel a shopping spree instead being irresponsible with cash which sometimes created a need to use credit to pay bills. Currently we only have 1 house card and I have a card from my job otherwise its cash or debit.
As for shopping in Maine, we lack a lot of the cheaper shopping options that I had access to in Chicago. Super cheap shopping is Wal-Mart compared to the numerous ethnic markets we had in Chicago as well as places like Costco and Aldi. We do have one Asian market near me that I use in cold weather months to save on produce cost.
So that’s my entire financial picture in a nutshell as always suggestions are appreciated.