I got my first job as a sophomore in high school. I was a bus girl at a local restaurant. I worked every Friday and Saturday. I was a hard worker. I eventually started waiting tables there on Saturday mornings, a lot of the time still coming in on Fridays or another night during the week to bus tables when they needed me. At one point during high school I was getting to work at 6:00 am on Saturday mornings, going straight to my ballet rehearsals in the afternoon, and coming back to work to bus tables in the evenings because they were short staffed. There were a lot of great things about my job, my co-workers being the top. There were also some not great things about my job, but I'd rather not dwell on those. After all, I kept that job for eight years (among other various jobs that I had), quitting only three years ago when I decided that I wanted to be home more often.
All of that to say, I worked a lot during high school, along with my dance classes (some times five days a week of that), church, and friends. With all that working, I saved up some money, too. I wasn't a massive penny pincher, never wanting to spend any money, but I feel like I was fairly frugal. I had to pay for a few of my own bills, like my car insurance, gas, and part of my dance tuition. Other than that, most of my money went to savings, except if a few times a month I went out with friends. I was off to a good start!
Enter: Husband and three absolutely, completely, amazingly wonderful, handsome, charming little boys. Boys (all four of them) that I immediately fell in love with. I'm in college at this point, and all my savings background went out the window. I met my future family and all I could think about was giving them anything and everything they wanted. And, I did it. My now-husband was on the tail end of his divorce, and his finances were not so great because of that. And you just could not say no to those three little boys. At the time they were three, four, and seven. They really were, and still are (in this maybe a little biased step-momma's opinion), the cutest things God has placed on this earth. So, I spent. And spent. And spent. Then, I spent some more. Oh, no more money available right now? No worries, I'll just get a credit card (back then, if you were under 20 and still in college full time you could still get your own card) and pay it back. I think you can guess how that story went.
Just to give you an example of what life was like back then, we loved, and still do, going to the movies. Today, however, I am much more savvy about it. I always take our own candy from Wal-Mart, instead of buying the overpriced box of candy from the theater. Disclaimer: I realize that some of you may consider this to be unethical. Maybe it is. But, I do it. And, I think the majority of us do. I told y'all that I'd be sharing the real me on this blog! Heck, sometimes I've even brought in bottles of soda. If not, we get two to share between the five of us, we don't all need one. Popcorn? If we get it, it's a small one and we share. Yahoo! had a free coupon for your smart phones all summer for free popcorn. Never paid for popcorn at all this summer!! We joined the rewards program through our theater to earn points for free concessions and tickets. I try to find deals for movie tickets through different deal websites. We go for matinees when we can, too.
Back then? Well, I knew nothing of coupons or rewards programs or anything of the like. Bringing candy in from somewhere else? That thought had never crossed my mind. Sharing items? Those kids were just too cute, they each deserved their own candy and popcorn. So, they got it. And they got the waaaaaaaaaay overpriced Icee's. And nachos. And anything else they asked me for. I can't even begin to remember how much that first movie trip to see Shrek 2 cost us. It was obvious that I was in way over my head. I was 18 and no real world experience. Thankfully, God had placed me on my now-husband's hear as the one he would marry. My husband, and those three boys, waited patiently while I figured things out with money, cooking, homemaking, laundry, etc. I firmly believe that we never stop learning these things, and that it's when we become content in our skills and stop stretching ourselves just a little bit further than we feel capable that apathy and/or pride can set in, but that's for another post altogether! So, I still don't have it all figured out, but I've got a better grip on things than when I had absolutely no experience.
Luckily for my husband and I, we worked out some of our financial issues. Movie theater trips are not nearly as expensive anymore. I don't have to buy all our food pre-packaged or boxed anymore, so we save some money there, too. But, we dug ourselves a bit of a hole back then with my newly found spending habits combined with my husbands poor financial situation from his divorce. Fast forward a few years and add on top of that my student loans from one and a half years of a pricey, private Christian college, a car payment on a car we never should have bought, and an eating out and store credit card habit, you can understand that we are not where we need to be.
I can't tell you exactly where we are because it's been forever since hubby and I have sat down together to go over our money and look at our financial big picture. I know we have debt, and I don't want any. I want to be an example to our kids about how money should be handled. I want to be able to help those in need, instead of knowing that I can't because of that last trip to Pizza Hut. I want to stop having to pay our bills using the "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul" method. I want to be a good steward of the riches that God has blessed us with. Deuteronomy 10:14 tells us, "Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it." Nothing in the earth "belongs" to us. It belongs to our Creator, in Heaven, and I can honestly say that I don't think he would be very pleased with how we are choosing to use His money.
Here are our financial goals for this week:
- No eating out this week. Like I mentioned in a previous post, this is a huge pitfall for us. We have, in the past, literally spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in a month eating out. Add on top of that the perishable food that I've bought but didn't cook since we went out (yes, I've defrosted meat and then not cooked it and had to throw it away), and the amount of money we have wasted in a year is ridiculous. We have set a goal for ourselves that we are able to eat out twice a month. I think this is realistic for us. We will never be one of those families who eat out just once or twice a year. We enjoy the food and the experience of dining out. It's part of who we are. However, we recognize that we need to limit this activity, not only for our budget, but it will have a positive impact on our heath, too.
- To sit down with hubby and take a look at our finances and get a realistic picture of where we are. This time next week I should be telling you all about our debt, and a plan to get out of it.