Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making Changes

My husband and I are like many other families we know. We have a car payment, we have some credit card debt, we are paying back student loans, we are brand name shoppers, and have never given much thought to how we spend our money. We eat out now and then, stop for fast food when we travel, drive an SUV and a large truck, and buy new when what we have is no longer meeting our needs. We are lucky enough to be able to do that.

We do have some frugal habits. We bought a fixer-upper home 4 years ago. We remodeled the home little by little as we saved enough money for each project. Because we bought what we could afford and saved to make it our own, we do not have a mortgage. We cook our meals and do not eat out every night. We also buy ingredients to prepare meals and snacks, rather than purchasing high priced prepared meals and snacks. We make our breakfast and coffee at home, choosing not to stop at Dunkin Donuts each morning. We take leftovers for our lunches at work and our hobbies involve activities that are free and destressing, such as hiking, kayaking, and gardening. We feel very comfortable with our current earning and spending situation. We live the lifestyle we want and rarely go without. 

A year ago, my husband was stationed in North Carolina as his Marine Corps unit readied for Iraq. With only one mouth to feed (mine), a stipend for utilities, and a pay increase for being in a combat zone, we were able to save a lot of money. As our savings account grew, we began to discuss how we would spend that money. One of my husband's hobbies is farming. Our 190 acre family farm is a growing business. Most of our savings was used to purchase larger and newer equipment. It was important to us to leave a large chunk of our savings untouched. Saving became a habit while my husband was deployed and we both became very proud of the amount of money we were able to put into savings each week.

Two months after my husband returned home, we discovered that we were pregnant. We joked about "getting it right" the first time. We couldn't be more thrilled to begin our journey as parents. Six months into my pregnancy, I began to discuss my maternity leave with my human resources person. Since I am very new to my job, I only am able to contribute 15 sick days to my leave. 45 of my leave days will be unpaid.

Yikes!

We began to contemplate becoming a one income family for the duration of my leave. As I began to read articles and blogs about financially preparing for maternity leave, I discovered that I'm not the first new mom to experience anxiety about an unpaid leave. I also discovered that I could learn many tips and tricks from those who have successfully made it through!

I had four months to prepare. I'm a list maker. I'm a planner. I have faith and support from my husband. I can do this.

I decided that I needed to cut out our largest expenses--groceries, paper goods, cleaning products, and bathroom products. The stocking up began immediately. My goal is to spend now, not while I am on maternity leave. Follow me on the journey to becoming a frugal family!

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