I recall a little while back reading a Forum post entitled 'Help! I'm so sick of being frugal!' My heart instantly went out to the member who posted, while at the same time a little voice inside my head whispered 'thank goodness it's not just me!' To be honest, it's not being frugal that I really mind. I like being frugal! It makes me feel smart, creative, like I'm the member of some super clever secret club that a lot of people don't know about. I don't mind not going out, not being able to enjoy a tipple or go to restaurants for posh dinners. What I do mind is not being able to afford school shoes for the boys, or the dogs' annual registration, or a Warrant of Fitness for my car - things that we actually need. And what I mind most of all is when I feel like the kids are going without. To be fair I really can't complain; this has only happened once and occurred the other day. For a while they had been nagging me, as teenagers do 'There's no food! You need to go food shopping!' on an almost daily basis but their grumbling always fell on deaf ears, as I knew perfectly well we DID have food, even if I had yet to make it!
However after months of making do and using up every scrap of food we had every way I knew how, last week we had really REALLY run out. I had also just found out a few days earlier that my work hours were to be significantly cut, to the extent I needed to find another job. That's OK, these things happen to people all the time, but work in a seaside town in the dead of winter is not easy to come by! I was already feeling low and now I was feeling terrified to boot. There was quite simply no way I was going to be able to make ends meet for the foreseeable future until I was able to get another job. I told the boys what had happened and as always they were awesome and very understanding. There was only one thing they couldn't deal with and that was they needed to eat. So did I! For longer than I could remember I had been going without food so that the boys had enough. That was OK too, it's just what any parent would do under the circumstances but I was really shocked when I saw a photo of myself taken that day. I was given a free makeover by a woman in town who had a home beauty business and wanted people to practise her make-up skills on. I thought it would be the perfect no-cost pick-me-up but instead I was horrified at the image in the 'after' photograph. I honestly didn't look like me any more. The photos you see of me on my Facebook page were only taken in March, yet I look like a completely different person. Gaunt-faced and hollow-eyed with sunken cheekbones. I didn't even know my cheekbones were sunken before, my hair had always been covering them up!
There was no getting away from it; for the first time in my life I was truly starving. And, just like the member in that Forum post, I was sick of it. Sick of not being able to buy even the most basic food we so badly needed, which we all used to take for granted. Sick of not being able to provide properly for my boys who led such active, sporty lives and needed fuel. I felt desperately sad. And then I got angry. Stuff the phone bill! Stuff the dog registration! Stuff everything else! We needed to eat and I knew just what I wanted to eat - my favourite Butter Chicken recipe from the SS Forum! It had always been a favourite and I had made it many times over the years, particularly for special occasions such as birthdays. That was what I wanted and I was blooming well going to get it. I went straight to the supermarket and bought three chicken breasts. Chicken was a luxury we hadn't had for weeks and I admit to cringing inwardly at the $16.99 a kilo price label but I just had to have it. That night we had Butter Chicken with rice and poppadums and I stuffed my face. So much so I was sick half the next day as I was no longer used to eating so much! But it was worth every bite. I have kept my dreadful zombie makeover photo as a reminder that whatever happens I must never, ever let myself get this way again.
I still feel guilty about my chicken splurge but when I think about it, it's really not that bad. I realised that yesterday when I went to visit the budgeting ladies and told them about my new job hunting predicament. Without enough work, well things look pretty dire but I'll get to that! What they did say to me after going through my budget half a dozen times to see what on earth else we could cut back on was, 'You know what? There is absolutely no personal spending in here. Not even a haircut. You don't spend a single cent on yourself do you?' Well no, not really - but that's because I don't really need to! I learned how to cut my own hair years ago from an SS tip, I use nothing but macadamia oil on my skin and if I fancy a manicure I just paint my own. Sometimes I think it would be nice to go and grab one of those chocolate or strawberry face packs from the chemist as a treat, or a hair treatment but I always just end up making something of my own. Sometimes I have to remind myself that budget advisors aren't too accustomed to dealing with Simple Savers as clients!
Anyway, as mentioned I am on the hunt for a new job. It's been a long time since I really had to do some serious job hunting and I've found it has changed a lot since I last needed to. For starters, people never get back to you these days so you never really know what's going on. If you don't ask, there's no way of knowing that you haven't made the interview shortlist, or that you're over qualified or not qualified enough. I had a interview at the local liquor store which was a bit of a giggle with me being tee-total but I have a sneaking suspicion the lady doing the hiring knew who I was as she kept calling me Penny instead of my real name! The most promising one at the moment seems to be a kitchen/cleaning lady at the retirement home just around the corner from me. I'm pretty sure they're going to take me on a few days a week and as a reliever when the other staff are sick. I had to giggle when the lady interviewing me asked if I could cook and one of the staff walking past said 'Are you kidding? She's written a cook book!' Mind you, it's a bit different cooking for a whole retirement home compared to a household of three but I guess it's one way to finally brush up on my bulk cooking skills! I'm quite looking forward to it; the place has a nice atmosphere and the people all seem very friendly. Best of all I can walk to work too!
So we'll see what happens there, I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed. In the meantime I'm gleaning all the inspiration I can from the Vault and Forum. Tips such as 'Sell your unwanted stuff and achieve your dreams' and 'Stopping leaky spending habits paid off $56,000 in three years' really give me hope and prove that every single cent you save really does count. The best thing about these stories is that they make you see that anyone can do it. Even me - and one of these days I will!