I stared at the list before me, hopeful that as I filled it in, we would somehow be able to play the limited numbers in order to make ends meet. We had paid the home mortgage off the year before, and still, things were tight. At least we were not financially drowning before, and we felt paycheck-to-paycheck now. I didn’t see us stalling bills to buy groceries or cutting groceries to pay bills, as we had before the mortgage was paid off.
I filled the list in, waiting to plot out the most fluctuating category of groceries last.
Netflix and Hulu, while affordable, weren’t affordable for us. Those got cut off the list. For schooling reasons, both for Melody and for myself, I chose to keep our $30/mo internet. I cut one of our two cell phones – we’ll just go without talking on Daryl’s lunch break… I’ll miss it, but we have to survive, I told myself. I glared at the $200/month credit card bill that wasn’t mine. It mocked me and told me “your family isn’t important enough.” I tried to just fill it in and move on, but it dug at me.
When all the categories were filled in, I realized “yes! This is doable! We spend about $200/week on groceries for 5, but I can manage this remaining $175/week. We can do this!”
OH, wait. I forgot the first thing we choose to take out of our income – tithe. It’s a non-negotiable to trust God with the things He gives us.
The final category, groceries, dwindled from $175/week to $125. My heart sunk. I don’t see almost halving my grocery bill as a reality, when I already cook everything from scratch to save money and fill us up, and I have to eat Paleo to curb several genetic issues that effect me holistically. I sat and urged tears to come that wouldn’t.
The next day, Daryl told me he wasn’t able to get a check into the bank in time, so he would have to before he went to work. He said there was about $1 left in checking. I knew all he had to get the day before was gas for the car, to get to work. I had saved up $1.76/gal in fuel credit, on $1.99/gal gas. It should be just over 20 cents a gallon, for a 13 gal tank. The $9 left in our checking should have been more than enough. I specifically asked him before he left to get gas, not to spend money on anything but gas, because the next paycheck was going to be tight and we needed every penny we could spare, on groceries.
I asked him how much the gas cost and said the remainder didn’t seem right. He quickly threw out that he bought cigarettes.
It was then that I realized I never factored in his smoking habit, the thing I loathe for many reasons. Our grocery bill dwindled in my mind from $125/week to $110. “Your family is not important.” The heartbroken tears that I wanted desperately to roll still would not come, and instead turned into resentment and anger.
I know our well-below $30,000 yearly could work and well without the credit card bill and the cigarettes, but those are realities forced upon me.
I told Daryl that my supplements for genetic defects were on the stretched-thin budget, but his cigarettes were not – that I was going to put in his hands whether I could buy my genetic supplements, based off of if he bought cigarettes or not. It was not something I said lightly, but something I knew had to be a reality if we had any hope of… you know, eating.
This is the point where many people tell you to “trim the fat,” but that is a place we’d already passed. I had run out of trimming places, unless we stopped using a car… and then I questioned how Daryl would get to work.
It was then apparent that pulling more income in was the only way to get adequate funds to cover all our expenses. He talked with his supervisor at work about overtime opportunities, which would spare us from spending more gas to get him to a second job and allow him to work less hours since it would be 1 1/2 times the pay. 6 hours of overtime a week, tacked onto the end of normal work hours, cover our grocery needs and give us a very small amount to start saving. Or snowball more of the credit card debt. Once Daryl’s credit card is paid off, he won’t need to work overtime anymore. Or, with “inflation” of groceries, by the time it’s paid off, maybe he will.
While budgeting is vital, sometimes it’s not enough. There needs to be more.