There we were, toting the kids in our wagon, rolling, rolling toward that debt-free pasture in our dreams. Ya!
We got stuck in the mud.
Sorry, Oregon Trail flashback. Although it would be more likely to be caught in a March blizzard or sink while forging a river.
Hey look, a land run monument!
We never made a budget for April. April? Pls. Budget went up in sweet, spicy steam with my Mayan Cocoa and cayenne latte. May through today — same.
Last night, Mark and I had a budget meeting. Actual meeting, with agenda. We got back on track. An agreement for a one-week spending freeze was one outcome.
We had a lot to go over. This agenda included everything from summer travel to the budget for the month, to short-term to-dos and longer-term strategy discussion. Here’s what we accomplished, including the freeze agreement and seven other ideas and goals.
1. Pen, paper, calculator, conversation, not being in midst of argument, having the kids in bed, sitting without distraction like cell phones. Those ingredients made the budget meeting less painful and more peaceful. Somewhat peaceful. Just a little bit painful.
2. Before we met, I studied our account and noted the withdrawl/due dates for each regular bill. I organized the regular expenses by week: 1,2,3,4. Mark pays most of our bills. I handle medical stuff. Everything that can be on auto deduct is. Listen: we’re forgetful people not so hot with things like paperwork and paying bills on time. We dropped the ball on our utility bill for like two months. I don’t want that type of deal to happen any more. Top on my list was for me to understand each of our bill responsibilities. I had no idea what Mark paid, or when he paid it, just that he handled it all. Or so I assumed. He needs a reminder now and again. So do I. We’re going to post a list of bill amounts and due dates on the fridge to help each other ya know, be grown up. What a simple idea it took me 5.5 years of marriage to come up with!
3. Spending freeze. We couldn’t help but notice the fun we’ve been having. Meals out, coffees, wardrobe updates, a fancy ale, a fancy Malbec, etc. What’s extravagant to us might not be extravagant to the next guy, but we all have differently sized pots of money and different debt loads and other financial responsibilities. For us, those things, without thought beforehand, amount to being financially reckless. We made a pact to cut all fat for one week to see how it feels and get us back on track. Day 1: I immediately signed up for a massage via a wellness program we have at work. Then I remembered the pact. Damn. Mark went to Chipoltle and sat through lunch without eating. Uh, I never told him not to eat…he needs to pack a lunch. Our freeze cuts out all the extras.
4. Will pay cash for food. We’re going to go back to cash for groceries. Our grocery budget is $200 a week in Oklahoma City, one of the lowest cost-of-living metros in the country. And we don’t have a Trader Joe’s Waaaah! #whitewhine.
5. Just say no. Sorry, summer travel is off the table. We have too many small debts that popped up in the last few months. Oh just a little of this and that. A 1K tax bill (WTF?). A $623 tab for Eli’s vest, which I thought we had purchased but it turns out we are renting…? Ugh, another issue to look into! #chronicdiseaseprobs. With nanny pay relief brought on by Mark’s 7-week long summer, these tabs’ll be no problem, so long as we’re good.
6. Good? Bad’s more fun. Or is it? Which brings me to my next point: make fun free. Figure out a way to incorporate free fun. Not dinner out fun. We’re crawling up the walls when we spend too much time at home. We need a family hobby. We’ve dabbled in hiking. I think we could get into biking with the kids. There are a few nice pathways in the area and I’m sure more we haven’t discovered. To be honests, deciding not to travel brought about unexpected stress relief. We’ll re-evaluate in two months to see what we might be able to pull off in the late summer or fall. Anyhow, with biking, there is an initial expense of getting us both bike and kid seats. Anyone have any advice along those lines? I’m going to start with Craigslist.
7. Break up strategy, do one thing at a time. This stuff is intimidating, and we haven’t even addressed our lingering student debts. We broke up our goals into short, Mid-length and long-term. I didn’t find a need to fill in all the details, but I wanted to have this discussion. Short-term, we each agreed to take care of various small responsibilities hanging over our heads — stuff like turning in paperwork for drug company rebates. Looking at things in the mid-length money arena, we’re happy to almost done paying Eli’s hospital tabs from two surgeries. Woo! Once we take care of our little debts, we agreed to push it in the savings arena. We didn’t get too much into long-term, because this meeting was getting long ppl. My goal is to learn more about money and investing. Does it sound like I’m taking the lead on this? Yeah, I am. I’ve got thoughts on this I might share later. Put on your financial thinking caps ladies! No need to “let the man handle it.”
8. Summer job- Mark is getting one. Your turn, buddy!
Thank you for reading. My family is trying to kick it up a notch on the financial front. I write about these efforts in the Cash Money category and attempt to do so every Monday, which may or may not occur, but that’s the goal.
How do you talk about cash, or do you? Why/not? What’s helped you to stick to it? Have you fallen off the budget wagon and got back on like us? What was that been like? Good/bad outcomes to share? I’m all ears folks. Comment/email below.
My family is preparing for our future, and it includes chronic disease, the most expensive present anyone could ever dream up. ‘merica! I’ve e-mailed a few top financial journalists for advice. They never wrote back. Rude. I’ve looked and looked for advice about preparing for future plus disease and found none. So I guess I’ll write my own.