Ever done a "financial fast" before? Yeah, me either, because I like to spend money (see previous posts). But this month my family is attempting one - to spend as little money as possible.
I sat down at the end of January with our computer (where I always do our monthly budget), bills, and the events/places we would have to attend, host, etc. in the month of February. Why fast in February? The honest answer is that it is the shortest month of the year, and it starts with an "F" which makes "Financial Fast February" sound a little more catchy, huh?
I also did an inventory of all the food in our house - from our refrigerator/freezer, cabinets, and deep freezer. I tried building our monthly menu off of those foods. I was amazed at how much food we have in our house! We probably could have gotten through the entire month without buying any food, but we would be eating a lot of meat and not much else. And I figured with 2 growing children in this house, that probably wasn't a balanced enough diet. A normal financial fast suggests trying not to buy any groceries until you absolutely have no food left in your house, but I modified this part of the plan due to the need for nutritious meals for Emersyn and Keegan. I was pleased that instead of spending our usual $350-$400 a month on groceries and household items, we got out of the store for $145! Still a lot more than zero, but definitely less than half of our normal spending! I have to admit, I felt like making myself a sticker chart as I swiped my debit card!
After paying all our bills, which are due on the first of each month, we had about $840 leftover. I was shocked! Now, some of that is Kyle's new salary for his new part-time job at the church, which I haven't put into our budget yet. We have decided that until my contract is up at school, we would use his ministry salary to build our emergency fund, buy items we need for Keegan, and snowball debt. The rest of this leftover money was money that we usually just waste on eating out, renting movies, and other things that I can't even think of - what do we spend money on? I am very curious! Since we like to pay for convenience so often, who knows upon what we probably "nickel and dime" ourselves to financial death!
Around this time, we also found a house that is for sale. It is a foreclosure with minimal work required. It is more than twice the size of our current home and twice the size of our yard. In my last post I described how when we found it, we just knew this house was "it" for us. Of course, I also described our struggle to hold it with open hands, while we pray our home sells quickly.
We went to the bank on January 31st, in between my 3-hour glucose test, and my afternoon ultrasound in order to get preapproved for buying the new house. And we discussed pricing for our current house. Then we went to lunch with our last $20 from January to celebrate our good credit and "the last meal" out. We decided to go to Iguana, since that is where Kyle first asked me out, proposed, and they just have great food and drinks! Kyle used to work there, so he knows pretty much everyone on staff and all the regular customers. It is like a reunion every time we go in! That day, the owner was in, and we got to chatting with her about the house we were hoping to buy. After we told her where it was, she started describing the inside and said that her late husband, Gordy, had done all the tile work in the house. This instantly made the house more desirable, and it took every fiber of our beings not to read into it as a sign that the house was ours! Kyle and Gordy were close before Gordy passed away from cancer. How awesome that the house we love had Gordy's handiwork on display?! But it made it all the more difficult to hold it loosely. We had to instantly preach to ourselves and each other about how we still have to be okay with God's will in the situation, no matter how much more desirable the house was now.
Then I went to my ultrasound that afternoon, which they said my part after insurance was over $200, but if I paid in full that day, I would only pay $200. I was instantly depressed, because in my head I visualized a cash register cha-chinging, showing our leftover money going from $840 to $640. Although, at the same time I thanked the Lord that this bill came during a time when I had the extra money!
That night, we knew that in order to put our house on the market, we needed to fix it up a little. We had moved in before we put all the trim boards back in the house, and you know once you move in, you stop working on the house. We decided to use some of the leftover money to pay for trim boards, paint, and new hardware for the kitchen cabinets. We were sure to go and buy all our supplies on January 31st, so that we technically weren't spending the money in February. We spent about $300, and again, my mental cash register cha-chinged... down to $340.
We spent all day Saturday, Sunday afternoon and evening - into early Monday morning, uncluttering our house, organizing storage, fixing up little things here and there, painting, putting in trim, new hardware, and cleaning like crazy people! I went to bed Sunday night at midnight, and Kyle collapsed into bed around 2am! I can't express the overwhelming gratitude in my heart when I got the phone call that school was cancelled Monday! I woke up so sore, that I wanted to cry! But my heating pad and some stretching helped a lot... and soon I was at it again! I finished the cleaning, which took most of Monday in order to get the house ready for the realtor taking pictures of the house. And then we got a call that the house was being shown Tuesday! We hadn't even signed the official papers yet with a decided price, and someone already was going to look at the house! I was so excited, until I got another call that school was cancelled Tuesday as well! How in the world do you keep a house show-ready with an active toddler in it?! We couldn't play outside. We couldn't go out to eat. So I decided we would go to the library!
Now, the public library is a wonderful place! Em and I love to go see Miss Michelle, reading books, doing our own puppet shows, playing with legos, looking through movies and books to borrow! Because of the weather and the library being under construction/reorganization, we were the only 2 in the children's department! Emersyn loved how big and empty the place seemed, and I was glad we were going to be able to spend a lot of time at the library without making a mess at home, being out in the cold, or spending any money! Again, I visualized giving myself another sticker on the chart...
Emersyn picked out a book and 3 movies. We went to the counter to check them out, and I learned that we had a fine from movies we had returned late several months ago. Only I would go somewhere for the specific purpose of not spending any money and end up having to pay a fine! EPIC FAIL! When I told Kyle, he jokingly said "Why didn't you just run out of there?!" I laughed, because I'll be honest, it really had occurred to me! But then I thought perhaps an unpaid fine might show up on my credit report, and there was no way I was going to let a little library fine keep me from buying our dream house!
Soon the realtor called and said that they were finished showing the house, and that we were free to go home and trash it again toddler-style! So we took our newly borrowed library items, got in the car, and drove home slowly...
As we pulled up to the house, I loudly said, "CRAP!" As I looked at the porch railing and realized I still hadn't taken down the Christmas snowflake lights! All that work getting the inside clean, and there on the first thing you see on the house are Christmas lights - in February! Then I realized that also means the lights are in our online pictures of the house that the realtor took! I was feeling very much like a failure... visualizing someone taking my stickers off my chart...
Then on Wednesday, I was in charge of bringing salad to our college ministry meal. I had everything already except toppings, so I stopped into Braums to buy bell peppers and shredded lettuce for taco salad... and the smell of bacon cheeseburger was almost more than this pregnant woman could stand! I smelled it the moment I got out of my car, and the strong aroma hung, frozen in the air whispering to me in a creepy, yet alluring way, "You NEED a bacon cheeseburger... CHEEEEESEBURGER!" I walked in quickly, grabbed the two pieces of produce I needed, and raced the smell's strength over to the checkout. The sweet older woman that works the cash register was putting bananas on the shelves, and she warmly smiled and said "I'll be with you in just a moment, dear." And that is when I looked past her and saw a man eating a double cheeseburger. He was only about a third through it, and I could see the gooey cheese and piled toppings as he went to take another bite! I quickly turned around, but my brain went into high gear... "It is only $6. What is $6? You haven't had a cheeseburger in a really long time. Besides, it would be indulging in protein, and the doctor said trying to focus on protein in your diet. It isn't like you'd be getting ice cream! No! I can't spend the money! I know it is only $6, but that is $6 I am not supposed to touch! Besides we are going to have dinner in 2 hours! There is meat and cheese in nachos! You don't need a cheeseburger, Keisha. Oh, hurry up lady and let me pay for this produce, so I can get out of here! It smells so good in here!" Thankfully the lady came over and at what seemed a much slower pace, checked out my 2 items. I swiped my debit card, punched in my pin, and grabbed my bag!
And that moment of strength seemed to outweigh all my other failures so far this month! If you've never been pregnant, this is definitely something that can't be explained, but if you have then you probably understand that the power of that smell and my craving were both so overpowering... I consider it a true miracle I made it out of there without buying 5 combo meals, let alone leaving with only a small bag of produce!
And all the previous stickers I had lost went back onto my mental chart! 1 February week down, 3 to go!