4 years ago, money was completely stressing me out.
I had 3 little kids, one with a complex medical condition & one baby.
It caused massive friction
While juggling all of the things, my husband and I would often argue about money. What we were spending it on, how far it would stretch, you know the story.
In those days, I was running a business that I started when oldest was a baby. It gave me a great sense of satisfaction.
There was money coming in, but it was still in it’s infancy. My business couldn’t be relied on to pay our bills every month. As I prepared even for the birth of Matthew, I had brought on staff too, to help take care of the clients.
I found the growth of the business most stable when I re-invested the profits into the business. So it wasn’t often that I took money out to spend on other things.
It Was a Clash of Priorities
Especially, you see because I am thrifty by nature.
I had gotten a great sense of achievement when from time to time when I was able to buy my husband a gift he actually wanted.
My husband has expensive taste. Sentimental gestures don’t do for him as much.
This clash of internal programming. thriftiness and expensive taste often had us at logger heads.
I wouldn’t want to spend the money to even pay bills straight away, I would want to hang out as long as possible.
Then sometimes Luke would have a rough day and want some comfort food – pizza is his favourite take away. Which would make me crazy mad.
Then when the bills all came at once (as they always do) there would be nothing left for the rest of the month.
We definitely had month left at the end of our money. Not money left at the end of the month.
So amongst all my other stressors, a sick child, and one who didn’t sleep, I had this burning thought:
If I earned more it would fix it.
If I could just make some more money things would change. Then Luke wouldn’t feel so much pressure, he wouldn’t have to feel like he had to do it all himself. All our money problems (arguments) would go away right?
I was convinced. Knowing though, I already had a business and that hadn’t done the trick. So what was I missing?
I needed answers
I didn’t know.
Which to me, was part of the answer; I needed to find someone who had the answered to teach me.
But more the point, I had to find someone who had what I wanted and learn from them.
So I did.
I found someone who had what I wanted
One of the very first things I learnt?
It’s not about how much you earn.
It’s about how much you keep.Dani Johnson – War on Debt
I was challenged:
How much did you earn in the last 5 years?
I added up our income for the years.
Then I was asked:
How much do you have left?
It floored me. We earned more than we ever had before, & had less to show for it each month.
Where did it all go?
If I couldn’t answer that, then it was no wonder I had trouble keeping my money.
There I realised it wasn’t more money that would take the pressure off Luke.
More money wasn’t the answer
Getting rid of the debt payments that where draining our accounts each month, would change things radically.
Stemming the flow of what went out each month.
It wasn’t a comfortable moment. It wasn’t the answer I was looking for when I decided to find an ‘answer’.
So I started by adding everything we spent on food, transport, utilities, debts & miscellaneous spending.
I was shocked at our biggest variable, the biggest number, was one I had monthly, weekly and even daily influence over.
Our Grocery Bill.
When I sat down and saw the raw numbers. I couldn’t believe it.
The only other bigger number was our loan payments, e.i. our mortgages.
That number, excluding our loan payments, would cover all the rest of our living expenses and some.
My eyes began to open to a new possibility.
If I were to simply take savings from the food and put it into our loans. I could change the course of our finances.
This could be the answer. Not earning more, not working more.
Making small changes in the things I do.
So here were the new goals;
Bring the food bill under $100-$120 per week.
Put all the saved money in the budget into our loans.
I took action
I took this very seriously, we cancelled things like Netflix, we didn’t have Spotify premium.
We plan our meals for each week before we shop.
Only shopped once a week.
& the big one that forces creativity?
Eat out of our fridge, pantry & freezer until you have nothing but a few condiments.
But wait how did we manage all the hospital admissions?
Well, that’s were my list of hospital cooking tips come from.
It’s a Switch of Mindset
I can feel the sense of dread, over-whelm and stress that can roll over a parent, so many plates already spinning. But you can do this.
I was in the thick of it when I did this.
This is a moment for switching your mindset from:
“I’m broken & helpless” to “I’m growing & healing”?
You will watch how fast your life changes for the better.
Keep it simple.
Keep your meal plans simple. You don’t need fancy.
If you have dietary requirements, stick to fresh produce. Avoid the ‘replacement’ processed products. The replacement products are where the costs add up quickly.
Added benefits of meal planning? One less thing to think about each day.
Which means instead of adding to the stress of our intense life, it actually took it away.
Our dinners list for each week reduce from anything is possible to pick from 7 choices.
When we wrote our plan for the week (not detailed, just enough to know what we would need to shop for), we began to have a list of 10-15 favourite budget meals to choose from.
Any decisions you can reduce as a carer with decision fatigue, reduces stress.
Our list when things got intense with hospital trips, incorporated things that could all be chucked together to cook in the rice cooker. Or things like tacos or burritos that you only have to cook the meat.
Adding a little planning also reduced our take away budget. Raised our awareness on how the ‘grab a snack and a coffee’ added up so fast.
Breakfast with the family out, costs the same as feeding one of us for a week.
It saved us hundreds of dollars
This isn’t the whole story, it’s not everything we learned. But this step, starting with what we learned from War on Debt, saved us literally hundreds of dollars a week and month.
Set yourself a challenge, see where it takes you.
If you’ve put some money savings in place, especially as a parent who deals with lots of complications with your kids. Please share them with us.
We like to save our money for the things that are really valuable, whether that is reducing our stress or making precious memories.