Friday, October 26, 2007
I had an interesting experience at the grocery store yesterday. I took $194 cash with me to shop, and, even though I didn't count as I went along, I was becoming concerned that I was exceeding that amount. I wasn't too worried because I had my debit card with me, but, my husband and I are successfully trying to use a cash only system.
One thing I've been doing different when I grocery shop is to make sure I am not purchasing any convenience items. Carrots that have been peeled, lettuce that's been washed and cut up, beans that have been cooked, chicken stock that's been made for me, butter that's been whipped, etc. Another thing that I've been doing is to purchase meats and fish only if they are on sale. Fortunately, Meijers had whole chickens for .79 per pound. I purchased six of them, only because that's all the will fit in my freezer.
Although its mostly just my husband and I, my husband is a H-U-G-E eater. He eats enough for a family of four or more easily. When he eats, he stands over the sink and devours an entire chicken. Then he moves on to the next item and devours it, etc.
Two weeks ago I purchased six pounds of mixed nuts for $24. That's only $4 a pound! A great deal. Today there pretty well gone. Well, that's not such a great deal any longer. In fact, that's quite expensive. Twelve dollars a week just for nuts is no longer a bargain.
Knowing about my husbands tendency to binge on certain foods, I seek out cheaper and cheaper prices in those areas where he's tearing through the pantry. Yesterday, I found ballpark peanuts on sale for .99 per pound. Of course, I stocked up on them. My other trick is to buy nuts that my husband doesn't really like, like walnuts. Since he eats nuts everyday on the advise of a medical program, (he's supposed to be eating 3/4th cup a day), if there aren't nuts in the house than he thinks he's not on "the program".
Finally, I've started really stretching the foods. Rather than even having a whole chicken around for him to eat, I've been making meals where I break up the chicken and mix it with other items that will fill him up. Spaghetti sauce with chicken over brown rice, chicken soup with vegetable and rice, tonight there's chili, etc. The rice is made in a $8.00 rice cooker I bought recently, and I make 6 cups every 3 days. Two pounds of rice costs $1.25 and lasts for a couple of weeks.
I've been purchasing ground turkey when it's on sale and making large batches of spaghetti , last night I bought some kielbasa and steak that I'll figure into some sort of mixed dish rather than a single serving of the meat. This allows me to have more more than one serving of that meat, and sometimes up to three. Ie. spaghetti with rice for dinner for both of us , the next days lunch for my husband , and one more meal for both of us.
This is something that I used to do when my children were little and I didn't have a lot of money. I stretched everything! Fortunately, I have the knowledge and skills to do this.
It actually doesn't take that much more time to do this. I usually spend half a day on the weekends cooking, making large salads, peeling a large bowl of carrots, cutting up a large bowl of celery for the week. I cook more than one kind of soup at a time, or spaghetti and soup, I have more than one burner going. I make enough to freeze two or three large servings of each.
One challenge I'm having right now is that I don't have an oven. Its been broken since the summer. We've been cooking on the grill outdoors and I've been using the cooktop. Well, its getting a bit cold here in Michigan so I need to solve the problem.
In order to solve the problem I went on line to see if there were instructions on how to repair a fairly new GE Monogram Oven. There is. I've followed the beginnings of the instructions and need to continue on to the next step. They recommend putting a piece of paper on the connector, which I did, then if that doesn't work I'm to take off one of the parts and see what happens. I've never done this before, but, I feel its worth the money savings to attempt to do this myself. I'm not going to let myself be intimidated.
Finally, when I got to the checkout counter at Meijers, my cart was filled to the top. I was pretty certain I had gone over the $194 - or thought I was very close. The cashier rang up all the items, packaged the cart with about 30 bags, and my total was $124! I was pleasantly surprised, the cashier was shocked though and commented on how a basket that size would cost her more than a couple hundred dollars.
She let me know she had a family of 5 and 3 grandchildren living in her home. I passed on my secret of no convenience foods and felt great that my frugality may help another.
Prior to my starting this program of debt reduction and frugality, my grocery bill was over $1000 every month. This month I have spent approximately $350, and, I can see where I can reduce this even more.
In my bio, I refer to the fact that I have overcome many obstacles in my past. I recognize that I am again relying on those tools I relied on when I was in an incredibly difficult situation as a young woman.
When I was in high school my father used to kick me out of the house quite often. I would then try to find a safe place to stay. I often stayed at a friends house whose parents didn't seem to mind that I was sleeping in their sons bedroom. I'd stay at girlfriends houses, in my boyfriends car, strangers houses, etc. Now when I think of this I realize that the stress and fear I was living with was incredible.
One of my most memorable places was in a tent, squatting on someone's land, staying with my boyfriend and his friends. I remember one evening his friends coming to our campsite, getting high and drunk, and driving their mothers car into the lake! It was the dumbest thing I think I have ever witnessed.
Another time one of his friends sister came over, she and I went swimming, we were over 1/2 way across the lake when she decided she couldn't swim any farther. I ended up dragging her and swimming the remainder of the way because we were closer to the other side of the lake than the side we were staying on. In order to get us back to the campsite, I temporarily stole a boat, got her back to the tent, and had my boyfriend and his buddies return the boat.
As an adult, what sticks with me the most though, is that while everyone was out at the campfire partying, I was in the tent, with a flashlight, studying for my government exam!
I don't know what possessed me to be so determined to continue with high school. With the conditions I was working under most kids would have given up, but, I seemed to have a gift of survival that was beyond anything reasonable.
I graduated, certainly not with honors, but I made it through. Following graduation I was again told I had to leave home, and my parents set a deadline for when I needed to be out. I searched everywhere and couldn't find a place to live, primarily because I was only 17, and unable to sign a contract, and nobody wanted a tenant my age.
My mother and father began searching with me. My father even offered the landlords to cosign the lease for me, but, nobody would rent to me.
On the deadline day my parents drove me to the YWCA in downtown Detroit. All I knew about Detroit was the riots, that there was extreme racial tension, and that it wasn't a safe place to walk around, let alone live.
We walked into the lobby, were the only white people in the building, and I waited on a bench with my suitcase in hand, while my father went to the front desk to check me in. I sat looking around, feeling frightened, despised, and hopeless.
Fortunately, they must not have had room there for me to stay because my father came back and told me to get in the car. Even though I still didn't know what was going to happen to me, I remember feeling relief that I wouldn't be sleeping there that night.
Had my boyfriend been around, he would have helped me, but, he went into the service with the hopes of me joining him when I turned 18. I believe he was stationed in Texas at the time, and I'm surprised now when I think of it that I didn't run away to be with him.
I was actually relieved when my parents dropped me off at the Red Roof Inn. I remember the price of the room at that time was $55 though! They didn't have any single, less expensive rooms available until the following week. I didn't know how many nights I was going to be able to afford to stay at a hotel, but, it was a roof over my head and it was warm.
I didn't have a working automobile, my engine had blown a few weeks prior, so I called a friend and arranged a ride to work.
After I unpacked, I sat down on the bed and cried my heart out. I was in shock that my parents could be so callous, I'm still shocked that they could be, and I was scared for my life.
Being put into these types of situations repeatedly as I was, I was becoming incredibly self sufficient - although there were many, many, problems I have had to overcome to pay for this type of self sufficiency.
An unhealthy, seat of pants, self sufficiency is not what I want or need anymore. I obviously wasn't shown what it was to be responsible and respectful towards myself and I've recreated many dramatic situations in my adult life to reenact the treatment I received as a young adult. Not because I wanted to reenact it, but, because its all I knew to do at the time.
One of those situations I've created that isn't my healthiest, is to purchase a second home. I currently own two homes while I should only be affording one. This is not the first time I've done this. For some odd reason one home is not enough for me. Even though each time I've owned a second home, I have rarely been able to use it. Its as if I'm saying, "I will never be homeless again," yet, if my financial picture does not get into some reasonable order, it is very possible that I could find myself homeless one day.
I continue to recreate stressful financial situations that put me back into the position of feeling/being powerless. For example, I've over purchased on my home. I chose to purchase a home that was over twice the mortgage payment of my first home. I stretch myself to the breaking point financially - then work to prove that I can overcome the problem.
Its time I recognized that I'm not that young woman anymore. I didn't deserve to be treated so inhumanly by my parents, I don't know all the reasons they chose to act like that. I didn't deserve to have to live on the street at such a young age. I didn't have control over their actions at that time, but, I have control over my actions now.
I need to realize that its okay for me to be financially safe. I don't know it feels like not to be afraid, thus, I create situations of fear. Why? Because that's what I know. I've been sticking with what is comfortable to me - not comfortable in that it feels good, but comfortable in that I know what I need to do to create these feelings of fear and chaos.
Sometimes, I refer to Maslows hierachy of needs to see where I'm at in my life. Maslow himself said that poverty results from one of these needs being denied or neglected. As I look today, I find that I am still on step one and that I'm struggling on getting to the safety step. Each time I've achieved safety in the past, I've quickly created a new situation that has insured that I dropped back down to the first step.
I'm ready to do whatever it takes to accept safety into my life - even if I'm uncomfortable with it. I know I need it and I finally know I deserve it.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
At the end of my husband and my third financial meeting, we had it on our agenda to write out our joint goals. This was something that I thought we would enjoy doing, however, it became one of the more heated discussions of tonights meeting.
My husband's goals were to travel whenever he wants, golf whenever he wants, have 1.4 million in a retirement account, pay off all our debts, to be prosperous, etc.
Whoa, 1.4 million in the retirement account! How about something that's attainable, or something I can comprehend? How will you know if you're traveling whenever you want? What determines prosperity? How will you know if you've even met your goal?
I struggle with writing what I call generic goals. Goals that have no real beginining or end. I want to be able to track whether I'm successfully working towards achieving my goal or not. I'd like to be able to actually cross a goal off the list when I've reached it. I want to know exactly where I'm headed and when I arrive.
Fortunately, my husband was able to work with me in writing out some very specific goals with the understanding that when we meet these goals, more goals will be written. Hopefully, someday, he'll be able to golf whenever he wants to, but, in the meantime, I need to know exactly what we need to do to get him to that position.
Our list of goals:
- Pay off our outstanding loans.
- Pay off our outstanding credit card debt.
- To have an emergency fund of $35,000
- To determine ways to produce a passive income of $2,000 per month or greater.
- Determine how much we need to save for our retirement.
- To continue to be financially responsible.