Crunch time

Posted August 18th, 2009 by Penny Wise

I said to Noel before writing this blog 'should I write this?' and he said yes, it's always better to be honest - so I will! Don't worry, I haven't fallen off the SS wagon or anything like that; far from it. But I won't beat around the bush, we are going through a tough time financially. Old habits die hard and one of my many phobias which has carried over from my Sad Sally days is a fear of checking the bank balance. Even when I know there is still plenty in there I'm still always terrified that somehow I have caused it all to magically disappear. Fortunately 99.9% of the time I get a nice surprise and find there is more than I thought - until last week. For the first time in longer than I can remember I looked at the bank balance and CRAPPED myself. There was less in there than I thought. Much less. So little in fact that buying food, buying ANYTHING was out of the question for a whole week until the next pay went in.

The first thing I had to do was go to the family and explain the situation - we simply couldn't spend a cent. Just a few days before I had been celebrating the fact I had raised a whole $1288 on Trade Me for our Australia fund. Now I had no choice but to use the whole lot so we could pay the bills. On the positive side I was still proud of my efforts - after all it was $1288 we wouldn't have otherwise, and thank goodness we had it now! The reason I was hesitant about writing this blog was because I didn't want to shatter anyone's rose tinted view of what my life must be like now after four years of living the SS way. Just because you stop frittering money away doesn't automatically mean you're suddenly going to have pots of the stuff. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have been putting every spare cent towards paying off debts rather than putting any aside. When December comes round, the mortgage will be the only debt we have but undoing years' worth of financial mistakes has taken time. The truth is, sometimes no matter how little you spend, life gets in the way and you end up having to shell out more than you actually have. This time there was no pointing the finger or administering blame - we had simply had two extremely expensive months in a row where every bill that could possibly occur got thrown at us, along with a good few unforeseen expenses too.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be all 'woe is me', far from it. I know there are many people who are far worse off, who struggle to put food on the table every week, not just for one week. While the last four years have not resulted in us having thousands of dollars hidden under the floorboards - yet - we can still be very proud of what we have achieved. Thanks to Simple Savings we live solely on cash, whereas previously we had two maxed out credit cards and everything we wanted was put on hire purchase. That's why I got such a fright when I saw the bank balance - it's the first time in years that we haven't had enough cash to go around. The thing I love most of all about Simple Savings however, is the survival skills we have learned. When the proverbial hits the fan you simply step things up a gear. As far as I'm concerned you can never be too frugal or 'know it all' - when it comes to saving money there is always something more you can do.

And when you put your mind to it, it's so easy not to spend. Not all the time I grant you; I admit to cringing when both boys came home waving permission forms for school trips last week but at least there is always a way to cut corners or to stay out of the shops. I honestly wouldn't be worried in the slightest if we didn't have to pay our way through 18 days in Australia in five weeks' time. I guess it's my fault for not putting money aside but until now it hasn't been a problem, we've always had enough to go round. I've started selling madly on Trade Me again and if I can just raise enough to cover our food when we're away I'll be happy. As long as Noel and the kids are near a beach they'll be happy too, at least that doesn't cost anything!

If there's one thing that our family does agree on, it's that we don't have to spend a cent to have a good time. I wanted to do something special for dinner at the weekend and knew I would find something in the Vault or Forum. While looking up the recipe for Faye's Carrot Cake I somehow stumbled on Julie's Secret Italian Beef Ragout. The recipe sounded so simple, yet impressive and I had everything on hand. I threw everything together and let it bubble away for a few hours. While everyone else was distracted I turned the dining area into a restaurant, with a pretty tablecloth and posh place settings, floating candles and gentle music in the background. Even the boys had wine glasses full of cordial. Everybody loved it and the ragout was a huge hit! Noel said the whole experience was just as good as going to a real restaurant - better in fact, as we didn't even have to drive anywhere! The only downside was having to do the dishes afterwards but I don't mind not having a dishwasher at all now, I got over that brief tantrum. I filled the space where it used to be by putting an old plastic toybox in its place. It has three drawers and I use it for recycling - one drawer for paper, one drawer for plastic and one for glass. Looks as though it was just made to fit there!

I know I've said it before but the whole experience of selling stuff on Trade Me has made me acutely aware of all the things we don't need. Buying CDs and DVDs used to be a real weakness of mine but I've sold so many now that I have three empty CD racks and the DVD shelves are all but empty! This way of thinking has spilled over from material things into the more everyday, mundane things too. I'm finding I am much better at thinking outside the square and coming up with reasons why we don't need things. We have been doing a stirling job on the food front for a long time now but I'm looking forward to giving some new things a go. When the shampoo runs out I'm not going to buy any more; I'm going to try some of the ideas in the Vault instead - same as with deodorant and other things like that. Even the dogs have been treated to home made pet food lately and they absolutely love it - so much so they looked at me in total disgust when I finally got around to buying their usual bikkies; they just sniffed them disdainfully and walked away!

I've no idea what the next few weeks will bring but will do my best to save/raise as much as I can for our trip. It took me three weeks to save the first $1288 and I'm running out of 'big' things to sell but all those few dollars here and there still mount up. I know we could just take the 'easy way out' and put everything on credit but I'd definitely rather not. Besides, it's not the easy way out anyway, it's just delaying the inevitable - you still have to pay it off so I'd rather do things the SS way. Noel couldn't believe it when I sold every single bottle of perfume I had but those sort of things really don't matter to me any more, I'd rather have the money!

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