Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smells Like A Budget In Here

This post was written as part of my application to be the Verity Mom for Verity Credit Union so it also appears online at

Before I stopped "working for money" (my previous career) to "work for love" (become a stay-at-home-mom,) I saved a little chunk of change for use in case of emergency as we transitioned to living on one salary. Every month I would find myself writing a check from savings to cover any number of "emergencies"-- from date nights (cheaper than marriage counseling, I told myself) to new shoes (on SALE) and car repairs (okay, that truly is an emergency.) And yet I was surprised when I realized the fund was nearly depleted. How did that happen?! Wouldn't I have noticed the rapid decline? Well… the truth is, I didn't. Two young kids kept both my husband and me very busy and our finances were not getting the attention they deserved. We had made a few spending changes and I was proud that we weren't using our credit cards, but for the most part we were living like we did when we both drew a salary.

After a brief period of panic and worry, I reminded myself that living within our means is a choice. I knuckled down and went carefully over our fixed expenses and bank records and made a budget. Candidly, it was EYE-OPENING! We are fortunate to have enough money coming in to cover our daily needs, but we don't have a lot of wiggle room. A couple of expensive dinners out, a few thoughtless purchases and one of those ever-present unanticipated expenses and wham-o, we are over budget! No wonder the emergency fund evaporated.

Now we pay fixed expenses with our online banking and liquid expenses with cash that comes out of an old-school envelope system. In our family are certainly still learning how to use our budget muscles -- we've been out of shape for a while. It isn't easy, but the challenge is balanced with a great feeling of satisfaction. I know I am making good choices for my family and our future which brings me more pleasure than the convenience purchases I was making before.

Today, instead of buying a treat from a Starbucks drive-thru (a too-busy mom's snack salvation), we are having fresh baked cookies. The grocery store had Marie Callender's Chocolate Chip Cookie mix on sale for $1.79 so even when I add butter and eggs, I'm getting a dozen cookies for less than I would have spent on two cookies a few months ago. And a mix is still manageable for a too-busy mom. It isn't true every minute, but right now, living on a budget smells pretty sweet.


Liz said...

This is a great post, Sunni! As a mom of another one-salary family, I can totally agree. Love your idea/cookie solution!

Margaret McGillvray said...

What a great example you are! It can be done. When I had three little ones and one meager salary we ate healthier than we do now! I raised a garden and I canned and made salsa, Spaghetti sauce etc. I religiously shopped the grocery store ads on Wednesdays and stored up on cheap items. My kids are still healthy eaters for the most part.