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.