update

It’s been a while since I updated you all on our progress.  Progress has stalled a bit.  We are still in the waiting process.  Waiting to sign the papers, waiting to come up with the $3000 (by the end of Feb), just waiting.  As soon as those papers are signed we can start going out and measuring, getting supplies, working, etc, but until then it’s so painful to just wait.  I’m calling the guy again tomorrow to check on the progress and to make sure he knows we are still interested.  I don’t even want to start packing until we sign the papers.  Ugh this is so frustrating.

In terms of progress we really wont know until the 1st how we did this month.  So far it looks like this: we will probably be finishing with $1200-$1400 saved.  That’s almost half with 3 paychecks to go until we need to turn it in.  That’s doable, i hope.  Things are still going to be tight, really tight, and it’s probably going to come down to the wire.  I hope not though.  I hope good things happen and we find ourselves at the $3000 well before the end of the month, but i somehow doubt that.

Here is the main problem, when we start to feel a little better about money we tend to spend a little more than we should.  For instance, we were both sick on Sunday so we ordered in and we had a late night Midwife appointment yesterday so we went through a drive through.  It’s hard to talk about how tight we have to be knowing that we blew $30 on fast food in the past week.  We can do this though.  We just have to get through February and all will be good.

Semi Annual Cleaning and meal planning

Twice a year I get fed up and clean the fridge.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t scrub it or anything, that’s crazy talk.  I go through and throw out all the gross stuff that isn’t edible anymore.  Food that was never eaten, leftovers that were forgotten about, i even found an old mummified avocado in there.

I hate doing this, which is why I only do it every 6 months.  I hate the smell, I hate the mold, It’s absolutely disgusting.  Above all that, above the forcing myself to deal with nasty stuff, I hate the thought that we waste food.  We struggle so much to keep food on the table that throwing anything away seems like such a travesty to me.  Like we were saying, “I am hungry, but not hungry enough for THAT”.

To me that’s not ok.

Yesterday was the first time I have cleaned out the fridge and have felt really good about it.  We wasted very little.  There were about five small containers of leftovers, a half a can of beans, a half a container of tomato sauce, a small container of Christmas ham that we got tired of eating after 4 days, and a small portion of rabbit stew from our crock pot, oh and a mummified avocado.  very little of what we have bought in the past 6 months has gone to waste.  We make sure that when we buy things it’s not because they look good, but because they have a purpose.  If we buy produce we process it (vacuum seal it or dehydrate it) within a few days of buying it so it doesn’t go bad.  Those processed foods either go into containers on the counter, the fridge (if i have plans for it within a week or two), or the freezer.  The same goes for the meat.  I take inventory of what we have left in the fridge when we go to the grocery to make sure that my meal plans involve the items in the fridge that we still have.  We bought a giant chunk of blue cheese two weeks ago.  We currently have half of it left.  I bought sweet potatoes this week so I could make sweet potato cakes with blue cheese sauce.

When I was done cleaning my fridge it was pretty empty, and I was happy.  It should be empty.  There should only be food in the fridge that will be consumed within the next 3-5 days, no longer than that.

This is what my fridge looks like:

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The next 10 day meal plan looks like this:

– leftover jambalaya (cost about $8-10)

-grilled veggie sandwiches with mac and cheese (cost $6)

– jalapeno popper grilled cheese with sweet potato and kale chips ($7)

– pulled pork sandwiches with steamed broccoli ($5)

– chili rellenos and rice (free because i made and froze them 3 months ago)

– stir fry quinoa and veggies ($5)

– hashbrown casserole ($5)

– calzones ($6)

– white pizza with grilled brussel sprouts ($6)

– sweet potato cakes with blue cheese sauce (maybe $5)

plus there is leftovers, ham and cheese, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunches.  Breakfast consists of pancakes, scrambled eggs, cranberry or apple oatmeal, mini hash brown quiches.  The only thing we have to buy in the next 10 days is butter, bread (if i don’t make it), and milk, and possibly more cheese.  Everything we need for all this food is in the freezer, fridge, cabinet, or produce basket. The only thing coming from a box is the mac and cheese, and the rice (which technically is in a bag).  We have enough food to last us until the 23rd and we still have $200 of our food stamps left.  You don’t need to be rich to eat well.  You just need to plan well.

Is Entitlement Generational?

A friend posted a really interesting article today, it was from the Business Insider and it was about who the most entitled generation is.  I will summarize but I wont go into great detail.  if you would like to read it here is the link http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-entitled-generation-isnt-millennials-2015-1.  It basically said that the millennials are being blamed for being entitled because “we are a lazy cohort of entitled and narcissistic brats — the proverbial Generation Me”.  The go on to say that the actual entitled generation is the Baby Boomer generation who focus on short term economic boosts that serve themselves and not future generations.  I completely agree yet disagree with this article.

I agree with this article because taken at surface value they are right.  The older generation which is currently in power are far more concerned with their own economic gain than they are on the greater good for the country as well as future generations.  Politicians make decisions based on who pays them the most, most of them have stock in major companies that focus more on profits than on whats good for the people, or even what is ethical.  Government agencies are being run by people who hold stock in companies they are supposed to keep in check.  The government today is extremely corrupt, and it is mainly being run by the baby boomers, so yes they would be blamed for being the “entitled generation”.

I disagree though because I honestly believe that it has nothing to do with generations and everything to do with accessibility.  I think the author of this article forgot to look at history, as most people do.  I think we can, based on the assumptions of the article, completely predict what is going to happen in the next 50 years or so.  How can we predict, because history repeats itself.  The ideas proposed by the millennials aren’t new ideas.  In fact many of them are taken directly from the baby boomers when they were that age.  Look at the counterculture of the 1960’s.  Instead of gaining momentum from the Civil Rights movement we have the LGBT movement.  Instead of the Vietnam War we have the War on Terror.  Women’s Rights are making a comeback.  Take a second look at the hippie and bohemian lifestyle.  The farm, Haight Ashbury, communes.  We now have the tiny house movement, co-op farming, even the communes are making a comeback.  These ideas aren’t new.  Focusing on alternative energy, getting ourselves away from under the corporate thumb, even the Occupy movement isn’t a new idea.

If these ideas were shared by the generation that we are now claiming are “entitled” and doing the same things they were fighting against, what went wrong and how can we prevent it?

I think the problem comes in with how America is set up and how forgetful we are.  In the 1960’s as in today The younger generation was upset with the focus on material possessions that the older generation was focused on.  In both instances there is a huge push to separate ourselves from material possessions.  The problem comes in where as the dissatisfied generation grows up the opportunities that were denied to them by the older generation now becomes available.  They are now in charge of companies, the government, have the ability to make the money they didn’t have access to before.  Now all the material possessions they couldn’t have before are available to them.  Greed sets in.  The article even says “More than any other generation, we eschew expensive possessions like cars and large houses, opting instead for bikes and shared living spaces. Sure, we would like to own all that fancy stuff someday, but we realize that we can’t have everything we want.” Two things about this: 1) l think the baby boomers shunned these material possessions just as much when they were the same age. and 2) Even the author is admitting that if they did have the resources they would “own all that fancy stuff one day”.  Thus becoming their parent’s generation.  To truly fix the system, to truly be a generation that will “make the “hard” choices the baby boomers have refused to make.” we have to first stop WANTING these things.  We can’t complain about the older generation being “entitled” just because they have the things that we want.  Nothing will change if this is the case.  To truly make a difference, to truly make a real change we have to finally put what is right for our country above money and material possessions, and i don’t think this generation gets it either.

Living in fear

There is something that people don’t realize about being on the edge of poverty.  You live in constant fear of your bank account.  You check it when you wake up, you check it throughout the day, you check it before you go to bed, just in case.  Every text message, every email, could be an overdraft notification.  The problem with living on the edge of poverty is that you have the occasional reassurance that you have money so you can sign up for things that only work on a monthly bank withdrawal.  You have that thought of “of course i will have $8 by this time next month, $50 a year from now, that can happen.  The problem is that by the time it does happen you 1) don’t always remember and 2) don’t always have the money.

This fear can be completely debilitating.  It makes you not want to get out of bed, not want to go out in public.  You hoard money away so that you have cash “just in case”.  You know exactly what time you have to deposit or transfer money in order for it to count for that day so you don’t get an overdraft.  You try desperately hard to not let people know how little you have.   It’s by far the worst place to be.  It’s very hard to get out of it.

We are finally on our way out.  saving this money, buying this land, moving, C getting a new job, it’s all helping us come out of this.  In fact, as long as everything goes as planned (famous last words), this should hopefully be the last month of this.  Today i looked at our accounts and they all had money in them.  I know we have bills to pay, I know we have no clue when C will get his first paycheck, I know that we aren’t out of the woods, but for once in a really long time our accounts have over $100 in them, each, not combined.  Yet I still can’t breath.  I still feel like the bottom is going to fall out, and it still may.  We are still waiting to see if C gets an unemployment check for December, we are still waiting to see on a lot of things.

I want you to realize though that it’s not easy.  Please don’t dismiss the struggle.  Don’t talk about how lazy poor people are, or how people just want the easy way out.  That may be true for a few, but it certainly isn’t true for most.  We don’t want to be here.  So stop your judgements, stop your preconceived prejudices, stop looking down on us from your high towers and help.

Christmas Miracles

This time of year has always been really tough on me.  It’s a combination of winding everything down, paying for gifts and all the other Christmas who-ha, my birthday (which is really more of a hassle than anything else, especially since the lovely state of Kentucky likes to make your car taxes and tags due on the last day of your birthday month.  Happy birthday!  pay taxes), stressing about money we don’t have, and wrapping up all the business stuff for both of our businesses.  We usually spend almost the entire month of December looking forward to the next year and how much better IT will be because it must be better than this year.  This year hasn’t been much different, in fact, this year has probably been the most stressful year we have had yet.  From what I understand many people are in the same boat we are in.  From hours being cut, surgeries (which kept me living at the hospital for almost 2 months), stepping down from my position at work, the wedding, kids, being pregnant with our fourth, dealing with breaking down and getting government aid, and adding this project on top of everything (which has really kept us sane), I don’t know how I haven’t completely imploded.  Somehow I have survived.  Not only have I survived, but this has been the best, most productive December in a VERY long time.

I have been losing a lot of sleep in the past two months.  All of the stress of everything, mostly money, has kept me up from about 3-6 most every night.  I pace the house, watch tv, blog, and work on the budget during that time.  Oh, and have massive heartburn.  It’s not pleasant and i wouldn’t wish this sort of insomnia on anyone.

About a month ago I wrote a list, i like lists, i tend to write a lot of them.  This was a different list than I have written before.  It was a “Things that keep me up at night and stress me out” list.  I wrote down everything that I need to have resolved by the end of the year.  This was the list:

Things that keep me up and night and stress me out:

  1. The divorce (my attourney sucks and has taken close to 2 years to finalize my very uncomplicated divorce)
  2. Get our marriage license (we NEED to file taxes as married next year)
  3. C’s job (either make more money or get a new one)
  4. file for partial unemployment
  5. SNAP benefits
  6. Fix baby girl’s insurance

As of Christmas eve EVERY SINGLE ONE of these things had been taken care of.  I wrote a very nasty email to my attorney about how she had assured me multiple times that the divorce would be final by the end of the year and (at the time) there were only 16 days left, half of which were holidays and I needed to know what she planned on doing about it.  I hate being stern with people, or threatening people,  but sometimes you just have to grow a set and take care of it.  Three days later the divorce went through.  The following day we went and got our marriage license, and on Christmas eve the certified license arrived in the mail.  C had a second interview on Christmas eve and got the job which is such a relief for the both of us. We received our SNAP benefits which allowed us to eat for this month.  C applied for partial unemployment, which he only has to take advantage of for the month of December.    Lastly I spent about an hour talking on the phone with 3 different people to fix baby girls insurance.  She should be able to see the doctor again after the 1st of the year which is a HUGE relief for us.

Every time something got checked off the list we would joke about how it was a “Christmas Miracle!!”.  I told C today that it was a God thing.  I know that not everything is going to work out for us, in fact looking at our track record nothing should work out for us.  When it does I give praise where I feel it is deserved.  We also have to thank our friends and family that have helped us along the way too.  We couldn’t have done it without them.  We still have a really long journey ahead of us, but this gives me hope.

I know I have said this before but I’ll say it again, stress IS NOT healthy.  A small amount of stress is healthy, we need it, but not the kind of stress that I was suffering from.  Don’t let yourself go through this.  Making that list of all the stressful things in my life has made a HUGE difference in my mental and physical well being.  I think I am going to continue to do this.  Make a list of the six things I need to have completed by the end of the month and work towards those.  Please don’t let stress get to you like it got to me, figure out how to break your stress down and work on it piece by piece.  We are told at work “eat an elephant one bite at a time”, and it works.  it’s so much better to break things down instead of looking at the giant picture.

Also we currently have $700 saved towards our goal.  I know it’s not quite our goal for this month but it’s better than $400, and based on how this month has gone I’LL TAKE IT!!  Plus we have 5 days left, and 5 days is a long time.

Budgeting

I’m gonna get down and dirty here.  One thing that I have been very guilty of is being overly optimistic about money.  To be completely truthful, we have none.  However, when we DO have some we tend to be a little less strict on our spending than we typically are.  I think that’s fairly typical of people in our position.

I am going to be completely truthful about our budgeting right now, as i think we all should be.  I think we all give this air of “everything is ok” and that’s not ok.  We need to share our burdens with someone, it’s not healthy to live with that sort of stress.  I’m not just talking about money either, i mean at all, in all circumstances.  Maybe you have money but you are lonely, or are having stress in an area that you really shouldn’t be handling on your own.  Talk to someone, please.  Stress is not healthy.

This is our current budget:

$750 rent

$200 electric

$185 cell phones

$80 internet

$25 water

$85 car insurance

$200 gas for the car

$15 for trash (we pay $45 every three months)

then we have various other bills we pay whenever we have a little extra money

Thankfully we don’t have to worry about food anymore, although our food budget was never very large anyway.  We were given $277 for food every month, although they gave us a month and a half to start.  We have a full fridge and enough food to last us into the new year.  The only thing we have to buy before then is the fresh vegetables.  That’s it, and we still have over $200 left over to go into next month.  I am thrilled.

We end up paying about $1540 a month in just basic bills and getting to and from work.  C typically makes about $1500 when he is working full time.  At the moment he is making closer to $800, which basically means we barely pay our rent.  We also get $360 from my sons disability and i bring in about $600 from my work.  right now we are basically scrounging to make things work, but we are still somehow able to save even little bits for our project.  As it stands right now we probably aren’t going to end the month with $1500, but $1000 still looks very doable.  We had great success with our fundraiser, which was really exciting and encouraging.  This is my one stress, money.  The thing that keeps us up at night.

Our landlord has been awesome and has allowed us to pay our rent in two segments during the month.  We paid our second segment yesterday.  After we got home C got a call from the property manager telling us he had to come over and bring us something.  For about 30 minutes we were very freaked out that we would be getting an eviction notice.  When he showed up at the door with a giant ham we just about cried.  It was pretty amazing.

The point of this is: it’s ok to open up about your struggles.  It’s ok to say, “we barely make our budget every month”.  it’s ok.  We plan on being very open with our budget not only through this whole process but from now on.  We need to be in order to do what we want to do and teach people to stop being victims and start taking control of their lives and their finances.

This is our ultimate plan:

$450 mortgage payment ($50,000 at 15 years)

$185 phone

$80 internet

$85 car insurance

$200 gas for car

Which would be about $1000 for everything.  This is a prediction of the amount we will be spending but we are hoping to be able to build the house with only a $20,000 loan, which would be closer to $250 a month.  Plus our cell phones and internet should really be paid for by our businesses.  Once again we are not counting food, however, buy this point we really shouldn’t be spending much on outside food.  We will be spending money on growing our own but we aren’t sure yet what that will cost.  Nothing near what we are currently spending though.

That’s a little more than one of C’s current paychecks to pay for everything.  That’s exciting for me to think about.  This is what makes me press on.  We shouldn’t be making enough to survive, we shouldn’t be working to pay bills and everything else falls to the wayside.  That’s not a life.  That’s not living.  We want to LIVE and show other people how to live as well.

Christmas

Christmas is such a stressful time of year for me.  Not just because you somehow have to scrounge together enough money to have a decent christmas (which for us means a tree, and two gifts for each child, one from us and one from santa), but also because it is the slow season at C’s work so we have to do everything on a shoe string budget.  We also have to wrap up everything we need done before the end of the year.  This year I have had to deal with a lot of government stuff.  I hate government stuff.  Not to mention that the government shuts down for about 2 weeks right before the new year so everything has to be completed before, well, basically today.  The two offices we need will be open next monday and tues, and the 29th.  So yay, lets complete everything in 3 short days with one car.

You know that things are bad when you have a list called “Things that are causing me stress which is why I am not sleeping”, and only 2 things out of 7 have been crossed off that list.  I am really concerned that we wont be able to pay our rent let alone save anything this month.  The good news is that unemployment came through for C so that will hopefully make some sort of a difference.  I have heartburn.

I seem to always have this breakdown around this time every month.  it’s that freak out period where I have no clue how any of this is going to come together, but I have faith that it will.  I have learned that in situations like these faith is about all you can have because I really spend most of my time holding my breath waiting for things to happen.  For people to come through, for the usual disappointment of C’s paycheck, for just things in general. I can’t predict the future.  I don’t know if C will get a bonus this year, or how much it will be.  If we will get an unemployment check and how much it will be.  If C will get paid enough to pay bills.  I can sit and worry (which I do about 3-5 hours out of the day), or i can have faith that God has a plan and things will work out if I keep plugging along.  So i’ll keep plugging along.

Money is no God to have

I am learning a lot about this journey as we strive closer to our goal.  I find it amazing how this isn’t just a piece of land, or a house, or a dream, it’s a life choice that will not only change us but also hopefully change those around us.

A lot has happened in the past two weeks to drive us even closer to this goal.  We are moving in May, period.  Things may happen but we will figure it out, we always do, but we have to move in May.  We can no longer live the life that we are living.  It’s not healthy for me, for C, and definitely not for our kids.  I do not want to raise my kids in the situation we are in now.  They deserve better than this.

I am going to get religious here, and I’m sorry if I offend people but I feel this has to be said.  I have spent too many years getting more and more frustrated with the way America is going.  At bible study the other night we were watching a video, a woman was giving a sermon and in it she said that as Christians it was our duty to vote for the politicians that held up good Christian moral values, and as soon as she said it I laughed.  I couldn’t stop myself.  Those politicians don’t exist anymore. If we were to truly follow what she was saying nobody would vote for anyone.  We are told as Christians that we are to worship no other God, and have no idols, but we do have idols.  Money is our God.  I hear time and time again from people that we are a Christian nation, well aside from the obvious religious freedom aspect of America, we will also NEVER be a Christian nation because we worship money. If you took any politician and gave him the choice between money and what is good for the people they would chose money hands down.  That isn’t the world that I want to live in, nor is it the world I want my children to live in.

I absolutely love my church family, we are a small church, very close knit, and for the first time I feel like I am in a church family that strives to live by Jesus’s teachings, to love others as He loved us.  I get so frustrated watching Christians today hide behind the mask of being Christian as a reason why they should get away with not following that command.  It’s very hard for me to be in close relationship with people who think only of themselves and how they can gain from other people or situations.  I want to scream, “It’s not about you”.  Stop trying to manipulate situations to be in your best interest.  Take a step back and look at the situation as a whole.  How will your actions effect not only yourself but those around you.  What consequences are going to come from this.  Are other people going to be hurt in the process or just you? Stop putting your best interests in front of others, that is not the Christian way.  That’s not the way of any religion.  As much as it pains me, and as much as I have to swallow my pride time and time again, I would much rather do what is best for the greater good and take the hit myself than gain from my actions and watch others suffer.  I couldn’t live with myself.

We don’t want to be a slave to money anymore.  We don’t want to have to put money ahead of people, and i feel sad for those who do.  Money is no God to have.  It will only make you miserable.

Important lessons we should be teaching our children

We hear this time and time again, “I want to give my kids the things that I didn’t have”.  It’s a great sentiment, especially for those who didn’t grow up with much.

I have been in both places.  I have wanted for nothing and have had extra to spare and I have struggled to pay for food and gas to get to work.  Neither place is an especially happy place for me to be, but if I had to chose between one or the other I would chose the later.

I never again want to live in excess, and I don’t want to teach my kids to live in excess either.

In church today the sermon touched on how we aren’t truly grateful (and the way that I took it) you don’t truly know yourself until you have nothing.  We live in a world of excess, where we praise excess, expect excess, and we live in the comfort of this excess, yet it can be lost easily.  It’s just things, money, arbitrary items and numbers that can be taken from you in an instant.  It isn’t until these things are gone and you are truly humbled do you realize your strength and where it comes from.  I still struggle with the thought of other people knowing how little we have, I feel that it makes me less than them, but it doesn’t.  Whether your strength comes from yourself, or your God, or whatever it is that you believe in that keeps you stable, you don’t really know until you lose it all.  Two years ago I realized that no matter what happened in my life that God had a plan for me and I had to trust that plan.  The less I have in my life the more I trust the plan that he has.  It’s a comfort to know this.  I am a better person for it.

When we have more money, when we are finally able to pay all of our bills and put money aside, will I give my kids the things that I can’t give them now?  Probably not.  I will put money aside for their college funds, I will put money in a retirement fund for us, and we will probably have some sort of small savings, but i like who we are now better than who I am when I have disposable income.  We have discussed it in great detail and whatever excess funds we have we will donate to a greater cause.  I don’t want us to buy something new every time an old thing breaks, I want us to try and fix it first.  I want our kids to have essential problem solving skills aside from just spending money.

I recently went on a rant about how we put things above people.  It was a harsh rant, and probably should have been more thought out more than it was, but the truth of it is still the same.  When I had excess I put money and things about the Lord, people, and my family.  I became a person I was no longer proud of.  I don’t ever want to see that person again, and I don’t want to see that person in my children.  I want to teach them the value of money, the value of faith, the value of critical thinking, and the value of people.

When we do have more money we will sit down every few months, with our kids, and decide what we want to live on, what we want to put in savings/college/retirement funds, and the rest is going to people in greater need than us.  We will involve our children because I want them to understand what we do and why we do it.  I want them to understand money before they leave home and have to control and handle it on their own, and I want them to have faith that no matter how much money they have that they can be happy.

More ups and downs

I would absolutely love for this blog to be all about the ups. We propose this goal and things are just awesome everyday, and the momentum keeps growing exponentially, but it’s not. It’s life, and life doesn’t work that way.

You have your ups and your downs. Sometimes the ups are very up and sometimes the downs are very down. As much as I want this blog to be about how you can make a great fulfilling life for yourself even given the hard circumstances most Americans have to face, it also has to be real. It has to face the real harsh realities that those of us living in it have to face on a daily basis. It’s hard. It’s very hard.

I don’t feel like getting out of bed today. I have massive sinus pressure, I can’t breath, I have a throbbing headache, I’m stressed to the max because of money. after promising he wouldn’t get less than 30 hours at work they once again cut Cs hours down to 24, we can’t live off that and nobody is hiring anything other than seasonal employment right now. Both kids are screaming at me. All I want to do Is take a nap but between the kids being hungry, needing to use the bathroom, thirsty, bored, throwing fits, I can’t even sit down for longer than 10 minutes and truthfully all I want to do is cry.

So welcome to my life. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.

Update: Things are still rough, we are getting through though.  For anyone who says that people who are on assistance are lazy, that may be true for some, but it is the most annoying process that I have ever encountered in my life and if we weren’t days from having our electric shut off I wouldn’t even bother.  Also C has some pretty good job prospects so please keep him in your prayers that he will get something.  this month is going to be ROUGH.