Thursday, August 25, 2011

Testing, testing....

Last month, many of you read my blog post about our frustrating financial situation. It's been a month since that post. Although I removed it for several reasons, many of you read it & have emailed, inboxed on Facebook or otherwise contacted me to ask "How is it going since then?". Before I update you, allow me a moment to say a few things.

First of all, thank you for caring. Thank you for praying for our family. Thank you for your friendship. I am blessed beyond measure not only physically but emotionally & spiritually as well. We are so loved by so many.

Second, if you missed that post, essentially what it boils down to is this:
A couple years ago we took a giant pay cut. About 18 months ago, Larry got a promotion (and a raise) but the new position brought with it great expenses. Since that time, we have been living in a constant state of running out of money by mid-month to cover his work expenses & then having to pay loads of overdraft fees to the bank when we get paid again. In July, after sort of hitting 'rock bottom' some very kind & generous people helped us & for the first time in a couple of years, we saw some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We had hope that our struggles were finally coming to an end.

Since that time it's been well, not so great. Don't get me wrong, their gifts made a huge difference & we will forever be grateful for that. But it's been a month of tests & challenges & trials ever since.

It was July 23rd when we were given those gifts & our bank account seemed to be turning around. Although we were given enough to bring the checking account balance up to $0, we still had 2 bills that would hit the bank at the end of the month to re-overdraw us. So while we weren't out spending money & going out to eat & buying new cars or anything crazy, by August 1st, we were back "in the hole". We felt like we could still get on top of things because August 1st began a whole new month. We should've had plenty to pay our bills & relax a bit, financially. We felt confident that our world was finally turning around.

I found myself praying "God, please keep me dependent on you. Don't let me relax so much that I forget your provision. Thank you for the hearts of those who gave to help us. Don't let me forget what it's like to NEED things." And ya know what? He heard those prayers & has spent most of August testing me. Did I really mean that I wanted to remain dependent on Him? Did I really want to trust Him 100%? Don't you just love it when you pray for something & then He gives you a chance to test that. Kind of like praying for patience & then being given situations to 'test out' your patience. It's funny how He does those things.

In the first 2 weeks of August, Savannah turned 15, which means a birthday gift, a trip to the movie theater, and a trip to the ice cream store with a few friends. My van's battery died & had to be replaced. The exterminator came. We had to buy a few school clothes and the last few school supplies. Sarah had a doctor's appointment. I took a meal to 2 families after surgeries/births/etc (nothing extravagant, mind you). The dog had an eye problem that had to be dealt with by our vet. The list goes on & on. But you get the idea. Right off the bat, we had several hundred dollars worth of stuff that we wouldn't normally have to deal with. Those things didn't fit into the budget. Sigh.

As the month has gone on, I've learned some lessons about saving money.

First of all, sometimes it's not beneficial to look for ways to save money....but rather to just not spend it at all, regardless of the savings. See what you can do without for a time. You might be surprised how far you can stretch a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a package of lunchmeat.

I've begun to see a few areas where we can scrimp & save a TAD more each month. It's nothing huge & won't pay the mortgage, but a few pennies here & there adds up.

After several rounds of "Can we go out to eat tonight?" and "Can we stop for a drink somewhere?" from the kids, I basically said "NO...stop asking!" I am reminded of the few & far between trips to a restaurant or fast food place when I was a kid. The rare occasions when we did go were usually because we got some coupons in the mail or there was a special occasion. Or someone else was buying! Most of the time, we picked up our food & brought it home, eliminating the need to purchase a drink (soda!) because we had drinks at home. While we are not a heavy out-to-eat sort of family anyway, I know that we go more often than we should. Remembering my parents' frugality has been a good reminder this month. Kids CAN and DO survive without Happy Meals. ha ha!

And finally, when God provides and you thank Him and then ask for Him to never let you forget how that felt, He may give you the opportunity to test out those "never forgetting" skills more quickly than you imagined. But ya know what? If relying on Him now prepares me for something greater or harder in the future, I will be able to look back on this & say "No big deal...we've been there & done that before. We'll be fine!", then I'm okay with it. Time & time again, I am reminded that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

So if you're like us, hanging on tight & praying for the 1st of the month to get here quickly, may I offer you reassurance that He sees you. He can see the thread you're barely dangling from. He is walking the road of scrimping & saving with you. You may not understand why you're having to struggle, but rest assured, you are not alone. We are never asked to walk through the fire alone.


Jeri M. P. said...

I have been wondering - did you like Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book? After you posted about someone sending you a copy, I read it again and we've been doing it since March with amazingly wonderful results. I think you mentioned you didn't have any debt, but I think the book can help in other ways too.

DeAnna said...

Thank you for this post!!! I needed to read this today as we are going through a very smiliar season!!!