When Ryan graduated from college with his bachelors I was finishing up my first year of teaching and ready to pop out a baby at any moment. Literally the day he walked was my due date. We had used my small teacher salary to purchase a home and live off of for a year. It was hard being the main bread winner; there was a lot of pressure to get up early and shower and go to work, and I hate those things. But, I had no choice, it was up to me to pay the mortgage. Once Ryan graduated he began his career immediately at an engineering firm with a good salary. Okay, a great salary. It blew mine out of the water. We felt like we were rolling in the dough when we went from 28k to 40k. I was and do remain grateful for my husband's employment and his desire to go to work every day so that I can stay home with our children. It is a huge blessing in our lives.
Six years later, several good raises, and two growing boys, one salary doesn't seem to go as far as it should. We've never really had problems paying bills and have never been in debt (minus student loans and a mortgage), but we've also never been able to save as much as we want either. We're like your average middle class family living from paycheck to paycheck but in a financially responsible way, if that makes sense. But, we were happy, we didn't feel too strained and never lacked for anything.
We'll needless to say, times change. The economy is in the crapper and everyone at Ryan's firm received a 5% cut in pay. I didn't think much of it at the time and sadly didn't change my spending habits. I've been pretty frugal and thought that we would be fine. Over the summer we discovered Justin's food allergies and had to make some severe changes to our diets. I was overwhelmed, but determined to feed my child what he needed. As it turns out gluten free and dairy free alternatives can rock the boat of one's financial situation. One month this summer we spent close to $1000.00 on groceries when $450.00 is what we have budgeted (although we always spend more than that). Yikes! Our grocery budget (or rather our ignoring our grocery budget) has put us in debt. Nearly $3000.00 in debt and man does it feel terrible. This is the most debt that Ryan and I have ever had as a couple and it's strangling us. I feel panicked when I go the grocery store. I don't want to eat so I can save money, and I've lost my desire to cook which isn't good either because then we end up eating out perpetuating the problem. So what should we do? What will we do?
Ryan and I sat last night brainstorming on how to deal with these problems. And, so far this is our immediate plan/goal. 1. We will get out of debt by the end of the year. 2. We will pay for groceries using cash or debit cards and will not spend past our designated budget. 3. We will give up other luxuries and use those misc allowances to pay off debt. 4. We will give up some non-necessities of groceries: cookies, ice cream, cheese, Italian sausage. I know these items may seem strange to you but they are our favorites. I figure some items we can drop cold turkey and others we can make from scratch for a cheaper price then buying them pre-made. 5. We will cook, cook, cook. We've decided to try cooking and freezing meals using food storage. This way we will use up the groceries we have on hand and have meals ready to go. We will also start making our own staples like bread and will try our hand at rice milk and chicken stock.
We really feel motivated but need to have a defined plan with a schedule to get out of debt and change our lifestyle. We will have to make some sacrifices to reach our goal but it's worth it. Just having the freedom from debt will be enough of a prize for me. I never thought I'd say it or feel it, but living on one income is hard. I suppose it will only get harder the more children I have. I suppose I've learned my lesson and need to be more disciplined in my spending habits. Or, maybe I should just stop feeding my family. That's an option too.