Friday, May 16, 2008

The Strangest Conversation

The last week or so I haven't seen much on the mommy blogs I read...or even the frugal blogs...about the effect of recent gas prices creeping higher and higher. But, it has been a constant on my mind daily.

An article in our local paper showed me that I'm not the only one. Our local mall has been a joke the last 10 years...more stores closed than open, so empty most days you could look down the main aisle and not see a living soul from one anchor store to the other. Many just chose to drive the 40-60 minutes to Kalamazoo or South Bend - both college towns with MANY more options and selections. But, apparently, that is no longer the case.

DaHubby and I paid $3.99 a gallon Wednesday - which is DaHubby's pay day. We have been budgeting $40 per week for gas - $15 for the DaHubby's Focus and $25 for the Freestar - since October when we started Financial Peace University. And, with the exception of two or three weeks, that's been enough.

The Vikings and I have stayed home to play instead of driving to a further-away park or event a few days here and there on a Monday or Tuesday in the interest of honoring our budget amount. And, I've always combined and organized my errands so it would happen all in one day and in the most efficient path.

But, the last two weeks have been different.

DaHubby and I had an "emergency family budget committee meeting" ala Dave Ramsey on Tuesday and agreed to move things around a bit so I could increase each vehicle's gas amount by $10...hoping that would be enough.

For the Focus (even at 100K miles, the best car either of us has ever owned...and DaHubby's owed some *sweet* vehicles), that's probably another 60 miles. But, the Freestar? LOL That's MAYBE another 30-40.

The Freestar has this neat little gadget that tells me how many miles 'til empty. I put in my $25 on Wednesday. That gadget said I had about 125 miles. Today is Friday. I have less than 50 miles left! All I did was do the groceries on Wednesday and some errands and swimming lessons Thursday.

Now, that's not *really* 50 hard-fast miles but experience tells me that that information translates into a trip to church and maybe one trip to my in-laws (both of which are only a 15-17 minute drive from home. But, IT IS FRIDAY! FOUR days 'til pay day! I have my additional $10 to still put in but we primarily drive the van on the weekend due to the car seats! *sigh*

And, today is the end-of-the-year picnic for our Parents As Teachers group. We haven't missed one in three years. But, it's at the other end of the county. My "50 mile" tank would be gone. So no picnic.

A year ago, this wouldn't have been an issue. I would have just used the credit card for gas and *zoom* we'd be off! But, graduating from and now teaching FPU has changed the way we look at stuff like this.

Tonight - our first family night at home all week - we were going to go take the van to a free kid event put on by our town and then drive up to Lowes so DaHubby could brainstorm and price out materials for a possible, extremely frugal backyard shed.

But, DaHubby and I found ourselves in the middle of the strangest conversation last night...why are the gas levels so low...oh, there's the two extra trips out to the community college for DaHubby for class...and an extra trip out to church and my in-laws this picnic for the kids on Friday I 'bout we walk to the kid event...hey, how's the gas in the Focus?....maybe you could go alone up to Lowe's instead of taking all of us the van? we have enough gas to get to church on Sunday...yea, I got the van's other $10 still...the kids and I can walk the half hour to the beach tomorrow, I guess.

Now, I'm not whining. If there was an emergency, we really do have the money for gas. We're not deprived or in danger because we can't get the kids to the hospital or anything in an emergency. But, I'm finding it absolutely fascinating how our mind set has changed (or as we said in the "corporate training" in the '90's: our paradigm shifted) to try to honor our budget and our financial goals.

When preparing the grocery list this week, I had to take off 10-12 things to keep our estimated totals under the $60 I had in my food envelope. One of those things? Automatic dishwasher detergent. In the interest in honoring our budget, I'll be washing dishes again by hand before payday next week. DaHubby's not particularly happy about that but he understands.

Then, I was only able to afford one gallon of milk...on sale for $2.77! LOL Luckily, there was a half gallon at home so we should be fine 'til next Wednesday.

I had to change a dinner plan at the last minute at the fourth and last grocery store because I had $3 left and the meat I planned on at home unexpectedly only came in a "family size" pack so was over my alloted amount.

Again, I'm not whining. We're eating just fine. No one is going without a meal - if ya looked at DaHubby and I, you'd know we're not going without food! LOL But, the way this FPU process is changing us is just staggering to me.

I asked DaHubby the other day is he was still having fun at this. LOL He chuckled and said it's just become a lifestyle thing and "normal" now. That's a good thing, I suppose. LOL I'm still having fun working my creativity brain cells to see how to have a frugal yet fun, inexpensive but enriched, simplified yet sweet lifestyle. My recent sewing attempts here and here are one example.

And, yes, I get stressed out some about the bills but it's not because we'll have more bills than money but will we have "extra" for our debt snowball! LOL But, seriously, more stress from rising costs of food and gas, our new college tuition and book costs, etc...but that budget is ultimately OUR budget which sets OUR limits so we can still be making significant (like nearly $400 a month) progress on our debt!

Our FPU class last night watched one of the DVD's where Dave Ramsey refers to a pinnacle point in investing. He describes it like riding a bike up a steep hill. You are pedaling and pedaling, sometimes you have to rest, sometimes you get off and walk, you have to "switchback" back and forth to make progress but you are always going forward! You may have people telling you you'll never be able to climb that hill, you'll never get out of debt, you'll always have a car payment, a house payment, you'll never be able to "get rich" on your income, blah, blah, blah.

But, if you keep your eyes on where you are heading, there will be a "tipping point" at the top of that hill. Where all the work is behind you and the ride is before you. Your investments are now making you more money than you do working.

MAN! I can't wait! What a ride it will be!


Anonymous said...

O.K. Can I just say GOOD FOR YOU for actually making the sacrifices you need to to stick to your budget. Not many people (myself included) would have that kind of discipline.

You are really good!

Karen said...

We were at our mall Tuesday night and there was *no one* there! We were waiting on my husband to pick out glasses and while we waited, the kiddos raced back and forth because we were practically the only people in that entire wing of the mall.

Good for you in sticking to your budget! While I have become far, far more budget conscious in the past 6-8 months, I still have a long way to go. We have reevaluated our going out though because gas is staying so high.

Lady of Value said...

Oh Beth, I am in the same boat you are with gas and food prices!! It is a balancing act and I don't mind saying that we eat breakfast food for dinner more often these days. And a lot more meals without meat, which my hubby is NOT found of, but you do whatcha gotta do, right?

Anonymous said...

Coming from someone who took FPU with you last fall, we're walking up the hill now, too. It's still fun, but more "normal". It's been super hard to stay home and miss out on activities and events, but we're making progress. This probably won't come out right, but I get set back on track when I watch friends struggle. They continue to dig deeper and deeper into debt. I know that if I stay on track we'll be debt free in just a few (long) years.

I give you many kudos for what you are doing. You're an inspiration to me - I really look up to you. ~ Melanie

GiBee said...

It will be an amazing ride!

You asked me the other day how long I thought it would take us to get baby step 3 knocked out? I'm thinking DECADES... but, really? I have no clue. I'm getting ready to have a yard sale, but I doubt I'll make $20-30 thousand. Sigh...

And for the record? $10 will get me to work and home once. ONCE.