Old Mother Hubbard

I have put off buying groceries for long enough I realized when I was able to organize my refrigerator and have two entirely empty shelves...same with the pantry! We sat down several days ago to review our budget...we don't do this often enough. I know that the details of our budget would like to be known by several people, including Tim's dad, but we don't really share the details. If everyone around us who is curious is like me, they just wonder how we make things work, if we're overextended, why we make choices that we make. John inquired out of concern last night why we wouldn't just go buy a $50 toilet instead of waiting until we can purchase one that costs three times that if we need a new toilet. The answer? We've already in our short time as a married couple made countless mistakes of spending money on what we don't want instead of waiting to afford what we do, and with 9 people in the house, we think it's important to have a toilet that can stand up to things that go down that really shouldn't, so that we don't find ourselves here again in two years. WE'RE ok with that. "Why would you build a chicken coop if you need to replace a floor and a door?" Well, we didn't realize the floor was as bad as it is (I stepped THROUGH it the other day) when we were building the chicken coop. Tim handled it all nicely with his reply of "It's not for you to understand."

We're not at risk of bankruptcy, or forclosure or anything like that, and admittedly, we've (I've) spent money foolishly. Sometimes I feel like even though Tim earns good money, that it isn't enough...not enough for me or us, I just think that as hard and long as he works, he's not paid what he should be. We've done a fantastic job of increasing our charitable giving with each raise...sometimes I'd like to allocate that elsewhere, but it is the right thing to do, and I'm always glad that we have. We've made a point to make those contributions come off the top, first, not last, and then finish the month with what's left. In three years, gas has gone up...both to drive and to heat our home. Groceries have gone up...for two reasons...the price has increasesed, and the amount that we need has too. We definitely have priorities, and some would argue that they're not set up properly, but I disagree. I think it's important that we allow our kids to participate in extra-cirricular activities...we don't go overboard, and right now aren't doing anything extreme, like paying $2000 for one of them to play a club sport. That's what a year of club volleyball costs now...for a 9 year old!!! We're in more of a place where a couple of hundred dollars covers them all. Most months, it would help to have that extra money, but at what cost? I don't want our kids to look back and say they didn't get to do anything...NOTHING is free anymore...we can't even use the library in Lincoln, because we don't live in Lancaster county anymore, so library books have to come from school.

Our vice is eating out. Tim loves to eat out, and I love that I don't have to cook or clean up...too much sometimes. This is something that we are being diligant about eliminating. It is not a very easy thing to do, because on a very busy day, it is so much more convenient to drive through Runza rather than coming home to prepare something, knowing that everyone is going to be hungry before we even get there. Another of my pitfalls is buying for others. I really love to be able to give to people, whether it is a donation to someone I don't know, or dinner or something tangible to someone as a token of my genuine thanks for something (often many things) they've done. I feel like we should be able to do this, but just because we could before doesn't mean that we can now, and WE need to grasp that.

I have a list a mile long of all the things that I WANT. Wood floors, knocked out walls, furniture, a deck, a patio, a remodled bathroom, an outbuilding, decorative accessories, a new pair of shoes, new baby items, different maternity clothes, a pedicure and manicure once a month, more magazine subscriptions, even a haircut more than once a year, the latest and greatest electronic toys, a babysitter once week, season tickets to the Husker games, a date night OUT once a week, a dependable vehicle that isn't less than what I want it to LOOK like, a new mower, a bike trailer, a car for Tim to commute in. I want to be able to eat out whenever we want and I want to support financially the groups that I believe in...more than $25 a year. I don't think this is unusual. I'm sure there are people who have wish lists and they can't afford them. The list almost becomes comical, but some of these things are what others have INSTEAD of what top our priority list. I want to provide quality, healthy food for our family, a home with room to run outside...I really don't care too much about the excess room inside, although I'm sure I would complain about it if it was less. I want to make sure my kids don't have to wear clothes that have holes in them or that are too small. Uniforms make that easier, but they still add up. I want our kids to have GOOD shoes on their feet. I'd love them to have LOTS of good shoes...

I'm sure everyone has a different opinion on how our spending could be different. To some, our commute to Lincoln to give our children a Catholic education is insane...we could be saving hundreds of dollars on gas money alone. OUR PRIORITY. To some, our decision to live on an acerage is costing us so much more money than it would to live on a little residential plot in town...what an acerage provides our children with as far as opportunity to learn, have responsibility, etc, can't be duplicated, especially considering we can do it in a small town and still have the benefits of being near a big town. OUR PRIORITY. Then of course there is the size of our family. Many can't understand our thought process regarding providing financially for a large family. This has never been an issue. We understand that it is and is going to be expensive to raise a "bunch" of kids, but we don't HAVE to give them everything under the sun, and to give them what we feel is important will require giving up some other things...that's ok.

Bottom line...we need to make some changes, and they're not going to be easy changes to make. Working hard and being tired and continuing to work hard has offered me an "I deserve this even if I can't afford it" attitude, and unless we're ok with reaching that place of financial devestation, my attitude needs to be adjusted. The hardest part is that sometimes setting our priorities for OUR family of 9 may mean crossing paths with someone in our extended family that doesn't share our priority making process, and worse, it may mean there are times that we can't DO something with family and have to actually say, "We can't afford that right now", knowing that judgement of our spending, priorities, and ideas are unavoidable. That is hard for the "have to please everyone" part of me.
Our budget is streamlined about as much as we can get it right now, and it doesn't offer alot...well, any room for any of our wants. There isn't much room at all for anything other than the bills that come in each month. There won't be much travel, entertainment, and as much as I'm reminded that it is healthy to take care of myself...that is going to need to consist of things that don't cost anything...we'll just have to make it work...we're not the first people who can't afford to do things, it's just that we live in a nice house and can't afford all the things that go along with what people think goes hand in hand with that. I sometimes think it would be easier for some (including us) to grasp the whole idea of "can't afford" or "can't make that a priority right now" if we lived in a really small house that was fairly run down and drove a car that didn't have a floor board.

I remember thinking about a comment my sister made once and really not being able to grasp it. She said (about not wanting to move closer to family) that California was where they wanted to be and it is THEIR lives. They can't live for someone else, they NEED to do what is right for THEM. My brother supported that for them and for himself, and my thought process at that time was "wow..." I'm not even sure I had words. Maybe this is the same thing...maybe I'm finally at that point where I can grasp that thought process. It doesn't make it any easier to not struggle with it though.

My refrigerator and pantry are now stocked again...a grocery bill that I'm sure would feed someone else for two months. Sticking to our newly defined budget though was a challenge...I did it...but it was not an easy task. I've explained to our children that groceries will not be replaced until a specific date, and we must make wise choices about what we eat. We must also be able to differentiate whether we're hungry...really hungry...vs seeing that there is food, so we should eat at will. This will be THEIR challenge! Currently, the table isn't even cleaned off from our latest meal before someone is asking for a snack! LOL!!!! I remember at around age 10 being able to eat 8 slices of Pizza Hut pizza...most of the other kids did too...I've told my children that they need to drink another glass of water instead!!! Ha!! At the end of the day, as at the end of everyday though, we still thank God for what we have...struggles and all, and at some point maybe we'll be able to see more clearly, or be able to later thank Him for what we didn't have.