Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's Crunch Time, Baby...

We now officially feel like your typical "starving students." (Except we are definitely NOT starving). We knew this day would come, and we assumed it'd be the second year of PT school. Ethan and I have been talking about it lately, discussing possible ways to cut back, while recognizing the blessings and good things we have in our life. We realized that we've been living like poor students for awhile now; we just never felt like it. But lately, we're trying to find additional ways to trim the budget now that it's "crunch time".

***Feel free to skip over the next few "journal entry" paragraphs to the pictures at the bottom.***

We've had our share of financial blessings. Our families have been very generous and helpful, whether it was offering to watch Anna while I was in school, regularly having us over for meals, sweet gifts for the kids, or Eth's family having some money set aside for his education. Another blessing: right after we were married, we moved into the cutest little house in a great neighborhood, pretty much courtesy of State Farm. (I was in a very bad car accident, that wasn't my fault, and they settled it generously. It took a few years to show itself, but I do live with regularly recurring neck/back pain now, and my c-sections were most likely necessary due to those injuries. So the money wasn't without it's sacrifice, but can still be looked at as a huge blessing.) We put almost all the settlement money in the house, and lived the thrifty student lifestyle. And yeah, there were some fun things we considered doing/buying/traveling instead of a house, but went with the responsible thing. So the blessings from a bad situation (the car accident): we lived in a beautiful home for 4 years, seen here, and when we sold it, we paid off our bachelor's degrees, bought a vehicle for our expanding family, and had left-overs to get us through the first year of PT school with no income. Nice.

I'm not really sure what the point of this blog is, besides announcing to the world our personal financial situation. I know, awkward. hehe. But that's not really the point; I guess I'm just trying to "put on paper" things I've been reflecting on lately. I handle the finances, and all this stuff has been on my mind a lot lately. Ethan is always the perfect balance of calm, and perspective for me when I start worrying. He reminds me that we have so much to be grateful for. Even though we live in a little apartment now, and don't have the security of "money in the house" we used to have, we have a very fortunate life. Even though we are going to be paying back graduate school student loans for quite some time, we feel like the sacrifice will be so worth it. And even though there are some material things we'd love to have; we have what we need, we have fun family experiences, and we are comfortable.

In relation to all this, I've also been thinking about my parents. They were definitely strong examples to me of financial responsibility, sacrifice, and showing the difference between necessities and wants. They forced the kids to live that way too. (I say forced, because what teenager wants to hear that they have to get a job and pay for those name brand things they want?) Thanks mom and dad!!! Seriously, growing up I had no idea what important lessons they were teaching me, but it all made sense my freshman year of college. My parents provided well for us, and paid for (when we were little) or helped pay for many great experiences in our lives. At the same time, they taught us how important it was to contribute, and to have priorities when it comes to your finances. I recently read an article in a magazine about young adults having a hard time supporting themselves because they'd grown accustomed to what their parents had always given to them growing up, and wouldn't/couldn't imagine living with less. Thanks again mom and dad, that wasn't a problem for me. hehe.

So like I said, we've tried to live simply while we're getting through school. We were a single car family for 4 of the last 5 years. We didn't have cable or Internet until earlier this year (we had to buckle and buy it because Ethan needed a reliable Internet source for school...and getting basic cable with our connection made it 20 dollars cheaper, go figure). We mostly buy clothes second hand for the kids, and always look for sale/clearance items for ourselves, and plan ahead to buy things in the off season (but we're generally not buying any new clothes right now :). We find free, or cheap things to do together as a family...something that is easy since we just have little ones at home - they don't know the difference. We love eating out - who doesn't - and always tried to keep it to once a week. This second year we've gone to every other week, and that is good for us. And we aren't talking anything fancy these days...mainly along the lines of McDonald's. We use our library for books and movies regularly (because it's free). We grocery shop at Wal-mart, stock up when there are sales, and try to keep the "snacky" food to a minimum - except when we have visitors. (I will 'splurge' a bit to provide healthy, well balanced food for the fam: fresh produce year round, whole grain goods, fish, etc.) We have some appliances "on the fritz," but plan on using them to the bitter end. We just generally don't have big spending habits, because we aren't in the position to. And that's okay.

That's not to say we aren't totally looking forward to having a real income. Oh yes, our list of "I Can't Wait 'Til We're Not In School Anymore So We Can Afford _____" is getting quite long. It'd be nice to not have my mom or "Dollar Cuts" cut my hair anymore, and indulge in a few other self pampering things. It'd be nice to not stay in for our weekly date night - to save on the cost of a baby sitter/dinner/movies, etc. It'd be nice to have a wii, and a new TV to use it on. (This is high on Ethan's list. I'm not quite sure how old our little 'hand-me-down' TV is, but it's getting up there.) It'd be nice to get a cool cell phone, not just the free one that comes with the contract (we don't do a land line though). It'd be nice to go on a trip as a family, or just Ethan and I, or both. I better cut myself get the idea. ***I do realize that when Ethan is done in a year and a half, we'll most likely still be living the same "simple life" for awhile. But we can dream. :) ***

Again, the main point: My little family is blessed in so many ways. We love each other, and have so many good things in our lives. Sometimes I stress about stuff that isn't important. And my goodness, compared to so many people in the world, or compared to past generations, we have so much and are so very fortunate. I am thankful for all the wonderful things in my life.
If you made it through this, wow. Move right along to the cute pics below.

Recent Family Adventures:

Benjamin eating bread while Ethan feeds bread to the geese. Both kids could not stop themselves from eating the bread, haha. Anna and I were pretty nervous around the overly friendly geese (we ran away screaming)...we took pictures from a distance, and fed our bread to the less outgoing ducks. This was on a little family adventure we took to the next town over. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it felt exciting and special. Ethan and I really built up the 'adventure' aspect of it to Anna, and she was on the lookout for anything fun we could do. It was great, "Dad! I see a park! Dad! I see some ducks!"

Wow, kids are so easily entertained. We found a new park we'd never been to before, and Anna and Ben-Ben thought it was the greatest thing ever. It's the simple things, at least at this age...and boy are we taking advantage.

Mommy and Benjamin on a hay ride to the pumpkin patch. Brrrrr!!! A fun trip to the Montrose Orchard with the SKIP (Sucessful Kids=Involved Parents) group.

When we were waiting for the hay ride to start, Benjamin spent his time pointing out every pumpkin he passed and would say, "Apple?" I'd say, "No Ben-Ben, pumpkin." And then Benjamin would point again and say, "Ball?" I'd say, "Pumpkin." It was great. Anna got to sit by her good friend Madeline on the the hay ride. Fun, fun.

Anna and Benjamin walking into the pumpkin field looking for the very best one. They were all pretty small, but we can't complain...they were 'on the house' since we were with the skip group. Anna shows off her muscles by carrying both her and Benjamin's pumpkin, strong girl.

Two other significant things about this trip: ONE) Benjamin had a melt down on the hay ride back. It was less than 10 minutes back to the barn, but it felt like FOREVER. He wasn't just cranky, he was screaming and crying. As soon as I set him in his car seat, he fell right asleep, so I guess he was just really, really tired. I don't know why; it was still about an hour away from his normal nap time. Thank goodness I was surrounded by other understanding and helpful parents...those kinds of situations really stress me out.

And for numero TWO) I think it must happen in most kid's growing up experience, and it happened to Anna. We were outside, talking with friends and admiring all the pumpkins while we waited for the hay ride. Anna was playing with her friends, but I could see her the whole time. When I knelt down to ask Anna if she needed to go potty before the hay ride, I felt something hard and round in her pocket. Oh boy. Out came a little pumpkin. Guess what our Family Night lesson was about that night? Making good choices, with an emphasis on not stealing. Anna felt so terrible, and took the whole situation very seriously. I took the situation very seriously too. I mean, yeah we were there to pick out some free pumpkins, but Anna knew the difference and had hidden it in her pocket. My little sweet pea is growing up, making mistakes and learning lessons. Ahhh, it's bitter sweet. :)


Pat & Amber said...

Hey Angela! Enjoyed this post, and thanks for sharing. What you've described as the starving student life may likely follow you into the single income family, stay-at-home-mom life. We continue to do the sorts of things you described. But it is a blessing to have grown up not expecting to have things handed to us. We'll keep you in our prayers as you face "crunch time." --Pat

Kelly said...

I made it through! I enjoyed the post. I love hearing the life lessons people are learning, the personal ones and the ones with children. You really are a good example to others.

Dewey and Susan said...

If Anna needs an attorney, Andrew is looking for clients.

Becky said...

Well said! It's such a great thing to learn, huh? (having to save save save and not get some "fun" things in life) Thanks for sharing! :)