For the Purpose of Clarification...

Arden asked a very good question this past week when I posted my intent to return to more frequent postings on thrift.  Here's her comment:
Something you said stuck out a bit. You said the home is paid for but it is still taking all of a full time income to make it. That seems high to me. We have one income also but we have a large family to provide for (8 children, 2 adults), numerous pets, 2 cars, etc. Plus a dh that commutes almost an hour each way so our gasoline prices are almost equal to our food budget. My dh makes an average salary for our area but our family size is far from average. If it were just the two of us and no mortgage, I would think money wouldn't be a huge issue.

I did reply to this via email, but am not sure that when I reply in that manner you all get my retorts.  And I thought it well to address this.

It is true that our home is paid off.  Why is it still taking a full time income to make ends meet?

My husband works as a paramedic in a small rural county.   He loves his work and he likes working where he does.  He and I have discussed his job many times.  Larger, less rural counties have a far better rate of pay overall than the county where John works but he likes where he is and what he's doing.  I could harp and whine and nag at him until he changed jobs but if he's not happy, what have I achieved?  I've worked in jobs I hated and in jobs I liked very well (homemaking...hello?) and who am I to demand that he be unhappy and bring in more?

He works at a tough profession.  The rate of suicide and burn out in his field is very high.  If he LIKES where he works despite the stuff he has to see and deal with on a daily basis, then I have no problem with it whatsoever.  That said, it is also my determination that he not work a lot of extra hours to make up for what he might get paid elsewhere.  Number 1: he's putting in a 7 day week of 12 hour shifts already with a week off in between shifts.  WHY ask him to work more than that?  At his own insistence he usually manages 1-2 days of extra work during those off weeks.  In the past, between his worship leadership and overtime, I felt he put in quite enough hours.  The worship leadership position was  a part time job in hours alone!

Here's how our budget/paychecks break down:

First we tithe. We don't consider that a payment or a bill.  It's what the Bible says do and it's what we do. We tithe on the gross amount of each check.  The government may take first lick at the with-holdings but we want God to know that we honor Him. We consider the gross amount the amount to tithe from to show that honor.

When we paid off our home, we automatically channeled that money into savings.  We didn't have a huge house payment but it was about 1/4 of our income.  We don't even count that money into our budget.  It is SAVINGS and while we use savings occasionally for things like major repairs or major upkeep issues we tend to forget about it.

We set aside about 15% of our pay each pay period in various categories that we use for annual bills, routine maintenance on the house, car, gifts for the grandchildren, annual renewal fees, taxes, tags.  In the long run this means that we are less likely to dip into savings to cover these things.  In essence it's an immediately accessible form of savings.  When the need arises, we write a check and we're done, no transfers necessary except to alter the balance of the appropriate sub-account. These three items: tithe, savings, and sub-accounts are not touched or even considered as part of the general account.  That said, we don't pay the sub-accounts until our bills are paid.  Then we budget groceries and gasoline from what remains.

Now I've accounted for  50% or so of our income.  That we live on  half of what John makes is a wonder to me.  We are paying off a loan we took from ourselves at a fairly aggressive rate (double and sometimes triple payments) when we bought our last car.  We have cell phones (John considers mine as a safety thing and uses his for work and no the county does not reimburse it ) and cable and internet.  We could live without all of those things as they are not necessities but nice to have.  I find that my children are far more prone to call or email me than otherwise, so I could almost move cell phone and internet over to the necessity part.  In our area we'll not pay less than we're paying now for our internet and that's fact.  Cell phones...well...we'll see what we do in the future when this contract has run its course.  As for cable that is under discussion.  We're locked into a contract that is more pricey to get out of than to stay in at present and football season approaches.  This is a BIG deal in my home for my husband and worth the current cable bill until we determine how we might manage otherwise.

Which leaves us with enough money to cover groceries, electricity, gasoline, and propane (winter use).  It has been my habit to pay for my own clothing with Christmas and Birthday monies or allowance and the occasional gift from John (usually money to buy some needed item).  I also tend to buy decorative things for the house with these monies and to pay for a 3 or 4 night off season stay at the beach. I  save all of my $1bills for the same and John usually matches my savings with his savings to help make the vacation each year.

John so seldom wants or needs new clothing that we tend to buy his from the general checking account as needed.   His uniforms are supplied by his job and that has included boots in the past, but may no longer.  He usually buys pricey items like boots from his birthday and Christmas gift monies and allowance and that's also where he gets his music equipment needs/wants as well.

We've never had an entertainment fund.  It's only in the past year that we've occasionally had a bit extra left at the end of the month and we've chosen to earmark it as entertainment, which is why we now eat out a little more often than we did in the past.  

Now that's how it all divvies out.  There are times when we might well reduce a sub-account amount or grocery budget or watch the gasoline usage harder than usual if we have several pay periods that are tight.  We tend to be frugal and careful with our money but we're by no means broke or in dire need.  My biggest concern at present is merely that we've trimmed and cut and trimmed back on groceries and gasoline and we're getting less and less for the same amount of money spent.  I see what I have in the pantry and freezer is less than in the past and   I figured if we're feeling the pinch in our fairly easy budget then others probably  are, too. 

John has generously assured me that I am to go without nothing in the grocery department and to not be so concerned over the budget, but I do because keeping to a budget there means no reduction necessary in our savings.  If he can see savings grow, even by inches, at least he has some sense of financial serenity.  Occasionally we lose sight of how well we do on our income and complain but usually one of us is ready with all the blessings we have and remind ourselves that we are by no means broke, just temporarily strapped.

I am amused however to note that John's current income, while low, is still about what we were making 20 years ago with BOTH of us working, lol!  Five kids, a mortgage, a car payment and a few other debts often left us weeping at the end of Harvest night.  Thankfully those days are behind us but the experiences we gained will live with us forever I think.  We do not take lightly the responsibility of paying our own way, living debt free and being determined to not burden our children as our retirement years come nearer.

The one thing that stands out when looking at your plans is the frequent desserts. If you are trying to stretch foods and budget, cutting out the unhealthy stuff definitely comes to mind

I grew up in a day and time and region where 'a little something sweet' after the main meal was a given. We usually do have that 'little something' most days though not necessarily a rich heavy dessert. Sometimes it's as simple as a single square of dark chocolate with our coffee.  I often include an idea for desserts in a week of menu's but that's not to say we always eat those items.  Just as I often use the menu plan more as an idea jumping off spot and then use ingredients in the same plan in different ways, so too with the desserts.

This week we had one serving of pecan pie left after Sunday's dinner.  We had that Tuesday after our meal.  Mama sent home 1/4 of an 8" cake with me yesterday which served us two days.  Will I make dessert this week?  Likely not.  That said, I do still have a number of plums in the fridge (and some cherries) that are not being eaten otherwise.  Dessert is often a good way to 'dispose' of fruit that might otherwise go to waste, tempting diners to eat what was formerly seen as unpalatable or of which they had grown tired.  I'd rather EAT the food we buy than toss it in the trash.  In my body it has the opportunity to do some good.  In the trash?  Well I might as well just toss the cash in behind least that is the way I see it.

I also want to say this:  How we snack/eat dessert/etc could easily become a debatable thing.  We all make choices in where and how we spend our grocery budget. I try to make it a point to buy good fresh seasonal foods, lean meats and very little processed "stuff".  Do we buy 'junk foods'?  Oh yes.  We buy soda and often a bag of chips per pay period and John is fond of the fig bars from Aldi.  I purchase good old fashioned graham and saltine crackers which I consider basic snack items.  I buy a good natural ice cream but a half gallon(if there is such a thing anymore, lol)  typically lasts us a month.  I often keep cookies in the cookie jar, albeit homemade, but usually only bake cookies twice a month if that often.

Unhealthy?  If eaten as a steady diet with no real food intake you are soooo right.  Eaten in moderation , not so much.  I'm pretty hardcore about portion sizes and I've no trouble whatsoever putting away or even banning a food that triggers a frenzy of munching.  That's why you'll almost never find certain items in my home and often in very very limited quantity if they are brought home.  Years of compulsive eating, binging and purging have left their mark on my psyche.  I tend to cut trigger foods a wide swath for that reason alone, we won't even mention the expense of giving in to a binge!  

I had two or three comments on this thread and Anonymous was the only way to identify readers.  I do ask if in future any of you leave a comment and don't have a blogger or google id that you include your name in the comment so that I might address you personally.  I think some felt this comment was a criticism and given the 'Anonymous' signature it can seem a bit like a pot shot.  I choose not to see it as being an aggressive criticism but simply as a reader remarking on what I've written.

Also, most comments are sent to my email address.  I sometimes reply to a question (I can't to Anonymous but do to those who have a user name) via my email but I do not know if the recipient ever receives those replies.  In future I'll try to address them on the blog to insure that you know I do read (and reply!) to the comments.


a8383 said...

You are so right Terri- we all make different choices. And they are just that- as long as you or I are paying our bills on time, saving a bit, have health insurance, and give something back- being responsible- we should be free to choose. We don't have TV but you might be appalled at the number of books on my shelves. : ) Everyone has different priorities. Let us give each other a bit of grace. We will all make it better that way. Angela

Tracy said...

Don't let anonymous get you down! You are an inspiration to me & many others. Keep up the great work! :)

Ella said...

(I don't see a way to leave an email address for you but, maybe you can just address this sometime in your blog)

I am curious what you think about warehouse stores like Sams Club. Perhaps you don't have those in your area, but given that you sometimes buy in bulk and try to have stock on hand, just wondered if you belong to one and what you think about it.

Anonymous said...

I have your blog bookmarked at the top of my favorites folder! I enjoy your writing and sharing. Appreciate you and the honesty you write with. I'm not sure I'd be so quick to share so freely. I'm a private person and don't share easily, and no, I don't have a blog : >), but I'm grateful to you for sharing so freely!

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri,

I love your blog and read it every week. I enjoy all your frugal postings and it makes me think a bit harder on ways to save, thanks!

Please don't be discouraged at all about what others think. You and John are living your life the way you want amd your happy. That is half the battle in life is to find happiness. You are truely blessed to have found each other and happiness!

Thanks again

Rhonda said...

Terri, I am just so put out with that anonymous commenter. You answered her much more in depth and honestly than I would of been inclined to. I might of just deleted her comment.

The fact that she and her big family manage just fine on one income and questioning why you have to stretch your income for just 2 people, well, the 2 things have nothing to do with each other.
And if anonymous does not like to learn from you or enjoy your coffee chat visits, then anonymous should just go read some of the other billion blogs out there.
Yes, anonymous riled me up! I have not blogged since I read about this. Anonymous has stolen my blogging joy for now, I hope to return but I may not.

Arden said...

I have tried to comment a few times and for some reason, it never shows up!
Anyway, thank you for the clarification. I asked the question because I tend to romanticize what life will be like down the road a bit. I tend to think it will be so easy! lol I needed a little reality check on how "easy" it will be when it's back to just dh and I. Life still happens, I guess.
Love your blog. I would never question the need for dessert but I do wonder if it's a Southern thing. It was common in Va and when we lived in B'ham. Here in Ohio having baked goods/after meal treats frequently is less common. Eh, what do they know anyway? They think pork and sauerkraut is a proper New Year's meal.

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