Saturday, February 28, 2009

February in Review

For some reason, I spent most of the month of January thinking that it was February. So when February really did come around, it felt exceptionally long, especially for the shortest month of the year! It was a good month though, financially speaking, something I was not expecting. Last month we found out that Mike was among the many people who would have to take take 10 unpaid furlough days over the next five months, resulting in a temporary 10% pay cut. Perhaps I was a little more cryptic, and dramatic, than I needed to be when I posted about it, but it was difficult news to swallow. Yes, we're extremely fortunate that so far he won't need to be laid off. And yes, it could have been so much worse than 10%! But when you're living paycheck to paycheck, and using every last penny of those paychecks just to get basic needs met.. 10% feels enormous, and at times insurmountable. I allowed myself to feel extraordinarily frustrated for a good part of the last month... and then I moved on.

We got our tax return and used it as carefully and deliberately as we possibly could. We paid off some outstanding bills, got our Wii repaired (an $85 fix that we'd been waiting on since December), and paid a portion to our lowest balance credit card. Once that was all taken care of, it was on to the task at hand: adjusting our budget to accommodate the 10% decrease in pay. I have to laugh when I read or hear most tips on stretching your dollar - things like bringing your own coffee to work instead of going to Starbucks, getting your hair cut every 10 weeks instead of 6, going out to eat just once a month. Etc. We are way, way beyond that. We never go to Starbucks, never EVER go to hair salons, and "going out to eat" consists of infrequent $5 Hot N Ready pizzas from Little Caesars. We don't go out to the movies (one of my favorite things) save but once or twice a year. We conserve water, conserve electricity, don't shop for clothes - or anything, really - unless it is a necessity. I thought our budget was just about as stripped down as we could get it, but we've managed to strip it even further. I'm strangely proud of the progress we've made on our groceries.

Just a few short months ago we were spending upwards of $800 a month on groceries. As of this month, we have cut that in half (without compromising the quality or quantity of the food we eat) We've been shopping the sales, clipping coupons, utilizing our Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet, and only shopping twice a month instead of weekly. It's become a sort of game, and I have to say that as exhausting as it is to shop 6 different stores on one Saturday - just for a few weeks of groceries - the prize is worth the effort.

All told, we ended up shaving 2473.83 off our total debt for the month of February, and are feeling cautiously optimistic about March. On Mike's next payday, we will already be one third of the way through the furloughs.

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