- The week of December 9th my Suburban was in the shop for it's first of 3 bouts with the mechanic fixing the door handles, windshield wipers, fuel injection system, distributor cap, brakes, rotors, spark plugs, wires, etc., etc. etc.
- The week of December 16th I bought Dave two new suits at the Mens Wearhouse buy-one-get-one-for-$100 sale.
- The week of December 23rd was last minute Christmas shopping.
- The week of December 30th we bought a new-to-us truck for Dave to drive.
- The week of January 6th Afton had her first of three dentists appointments and ordered her new glasses.
- The week of January 15th I flew to South Carolina with my sister (OK, to be completely honest this was not my expense. She paid for EVERYTHING in exchange for my undivided attention, hard-work and eternal love and devotion--didn't she realize she already had it for free?!!)
The problem is this: I refuse to buy anything on credit--I've been consumer credit free for eight years and I don't plan on starting that up ever again--AND I refuse to dip any deeper into my savings accounts (already had to do that for the suburban repairs and truck purchase--all cash) AND I am down to the bottom of the barrel of my monthly living budget.
The solution: A spending freeze. Until the next paycheck Dave and I have decided that no more money will be spent than what we have cash in our pockets (and that's not much). We want to keep whats in the bank there in case of emergency, we've got full gas tanks and our pantry and freezer are full to overflowing (though I may need a few gallons of milk).
The spending freeze is a useful tool that we have used many times throughout our marriage (not always at our pleasure). We try to chat often about what's in the bank, what expenses we have coming up and where all the money has gone. By talking about money and making big ticket decisions together it eliminates feelings of guilt or blame when funds are low. For example, we knew when we fixed the suburban and bought the truck and suits that it was going to cost a lot. We made the decision together; a couple weeks of spending freeze is certainly worth two cars that work and a good-looking hubby!
During a spending freeze I plan my meals solely according to what I have on hand in the freezer, refrig and pantry. I may need to get some milk or eggs but I try to use them sparingly to make them last. I serve instant oatmeal for breakfast instead of cold cereal so we use less milk. I only use the eggs as ingredients in recipes not as a meal. I conscientiously pack Dave a lunch, and when necessary a dinner, every day so that he doesn't have to stop at the vending machine or for fast food on the way to classes or meetings. I, of course, continue to prepare sack lunches for the kids and snacks and meals at home from scratch.
Believe it or not we'll still go out on dates or special family outings during a spending freeze--using gift cards. I have a stash of gift cards that have been given to me or that I have accumulated from store customer rewards. Monday we went to Coldstone ice cream for Family night using coupons and gift cards. Dave and I hit the movie theatres with a gift card and saw Sherlock Holmes. I have a prescription to pick up that I'll pay for with a gift card.
Later this week Kirkham has a birthday party to attend. I could send one of my giftcards for a present or I could break into my gift stash. In my gift stash I have clothes, toys, fancy lotions, stationary, even a set of earbuds and an MP3 player. Most of them have been purchased on sale or clearance. They are small ticket items that are perfect for birthday parties, thank-you's or whatever might come up. Something that came up earlier this week was that Cora's favorite Jeans tore and she needed a new pair. I went to the gift stash and pulled out the Jeans I bought on clearance after Christmas. I had intended to give them to her later this spring or maybe at her birthday but now will do just fine.
Next months paycheck is only a few days away now so the Spending Freeze will be lifted shortly--not that it will really change what we do anyways. Thanks to our careful attention to financial matters, our savings, our food storage, and our gift cards and stash we can continue to avoid debt even when funds are low.