40 Dollars, 10 Days

A friend spoke truth to me several months ago about how I was living in terms of my spending. She said I was living like I wasn’t unemployed. And worse than that, I was still living like a household with two incomes, getting pedicures, going to concerts, etc., despite having been reduced to one income more than a year ago.

I’ve struggled with financial irresponsibility for awhile, as both a physical struggle and a spiritual one. At some point, mine and my late husband’s incomes crossed the threshold of having to worry about whether there was money in the bank to pay for all of our spending. As newlyweds, we paid bills together every two weeks and I balanced the checkbook. The math often came out to leave us with a couple hundred dollars left until the next paycheck. Some weeks it was just enough for groceries. Some weeks we could splurge on a movie.

Then I graduated college and started working. Then he got a higher paying job. Then another higher paying job for him, then me … and so on, and it stopped being just a couple hundred left after each pay period. We (mostly I since I kept the checkbook) got lazy and stopped keeping up with the checkbook balance as good as we I should’ve. We spent like there was money in the bank because there was.

That is an irresponsible and unBiblical attitude, but it’s a real hard one to stop once you’ve gone there.

I had yet to adjust to being a one-income household when I was reduced to a no-income household.

Recently I discovered the blog Widowed Walk, and I was challenged by the post “The Lesson in Less.” The short version of the blogger’s story: her husband died of an illness and she and her preschool-age daughter moved from the big city, where she had a well-paying job, to a condo in south Florida where she is trying her hand at freelance writing. In the post, her thoughts sound similar to mine, about still living like she was making the money she always had, getting pedicures and car washes, etc. Until one month there was a mixup with a check she was expecting and she realized she had only $40 to her name, and it was going to be 10 more days before the check she was due would arrive. $40 in 10 days. Could she make it? She did, and the things she did (like cook meals with what she had rather than go to the store and make pancakes with her daughter when the convenience breakfasts ran out) should be an inspiration to all of us to do with less.

I wonder if I could do it, if I could go 10 whole days on only $40. I’m sure I could if I had to. It costs more than that just to fill up my car with gas so I’m sure we’d stay home a lot more. If I had to do it starting today, with what’s in my fridge and pantry right now, we would do without soft drinks (a favorite around here) because all that’s here is a half a liter of Dr. Wham and a few Sprite Zeros. Using what’s in the freezer our menu could include steak, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken nuggets and Toaster Strudels. A quick survey of the pantry gives us mashed potatoes (from flakes), macaroni and cheese (shaped like characters from Toy Story), spaghetti noodles and sauce and lotsa soup. Oh, and popcorn. Somehow we ended up with three boxes of microwave popcorn.

I’m tempted to try it. But I’m also tempted to go to the store and stock up before I do. It would have to be more spontaneous and less pre-meditated to really work. In the meantime, I’m encouraged to do more with less and use more of what we have before we buy new things. I’m encouraged to be more responsible, less wasteful and more accountable; I’m encouraged to reign-in my spending and live like a single and widowed mom who is transitioning in her career. I owe it to God to be more responsible, and I owe it to my sons to model for them financial responsibility.

Pray for me that this new found attitude will actually stick.

6 thoughts on “40 Dollars, 10 Days

  1. lauradroege says:

    Wow. $40 for 10 days. That lady is an inspiration to me. Since I went to the grocery store on Saturday, we could (probably) get through a week and a half (if my kids didn’t drink all the milk, that is). Praying that we all can learn financial responsibility!

  2. Johnny says:

    During the two-month period before layoffs were finally announced at work, I went into panic austerity mode. I am and will be the sole income in our house and there was no way we could afford COBRA or anything else if I were out of work. It became no more name brands (for food or anything), no eating out, no vending machines, no books, magazines, movies, etc. No car use on Saturday and only driving straight to and from work during the week. Ideally, all my meals cost less than a dollar but I ended up fudging that to $2 a lot of the time. Still, it was amazing how I suddenly had an extra couple of hundred dollars at the end of each month. And I lost weight! Sadly, I have not maintained all that.

  3. Emily says:

    This is great inspiration. I have been kind of sort of doing this on a “non-consumerism” notion for household products over the last several months. I have not bought things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, body wash, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. until we were completely, 99% used up on what we had (ex, there was half of a travel sized toothpaste left before I bought a new tube). It has been interesting, and I have saved a lot of money. Though today, my fav shampoo and conditioner were 60%, SIXTY PERCENT, off at the salon……I stocked up. I am disappointed in myself…….well, not really :)

  4. I’ve been doing similar. I’m a shampoo addict because I get bored with scents and want to change. Been trying to do better at using up what I have before buying new. (60% off though is a great deal!)

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