Welcome back to my last post on How I Keep Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month. I’ve already spelled out how our family menu plans, shops, and saves money at home. Now I’m going to wrap up this series with a short reminder on keeping things in perspective.
We have always lived on a tight budget, even though my husband’s income is a lot more reliable now than when we first got married and spent a full year living out of savings and odd jobs. We’re trying to save up to purchase our own home, and that means saying no to some things now so that we might afford better things in the future.
When we first got married, I had a budget of $200 per month. Four years and two kids later, I’ve gotten a ‘raise’ to $300 a month. That might sound nice and comfy since I cloth diaper and the kids don’t eat much, but keep in mind that everything has more than or almost doubled in price since then. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:
Gallon of Milk in 2009: $1.39
Gallon of Milk in 2013: $2.99
Loaf of Bread in 2009: $1.02
Loaf of Bread in 2013: $1.89
Bag of Wipes in 2009: $0.89 (for a pack of 93)
Bag of Wipes in 2013: $0.85 (for a pack of 54) <– sneaky, sneaky!
Postage Stamp in 2009: $0.34
Postage Stamp in 2013: $0.49
Depressed yet? I often am. Even with my raise, it’s almost like I’m living on $150 a month in 2009, except with two additional little people to feed and raise.
(Let me add a little off-topic disclaimer here: Please don’t go ranting about ‘evil’ companies raising their prices. My husband is in the restaurant business and has had to raise his own prices because his distributors raised theirs first. The distributors raised theirs because the farming costs have gone up. The farmer’s costs have gone up because… Well, you get the idea. I believe the root cause is due to government inflation stealing the worth of your money (Thanks, Washington), but that’s an entirely different conversation.)
So what is a frugal housewife to do? Here are a couple of things I’ve found helpful:
1) Don’t panic.
Let me put this in the words of someone who can say it better than I can:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27
2) Remember that having what you want does not make you happy. Instead, learn to want what you have.
This is America, after all. Just because I can’t have steak as often as I’d like, doesn’t mean I’m living on a bowl of rice three times a day. We are very, very blessed here compared to the majority of people around the world. Our life expectancies are upper seventies, and that has not been the norm for most of the history of the world. So embrace your ‘cheaper dinners’ with gratefulness and thankfulness. Make them yummy and rejoice with your family as you eat. NEVER sit down sullen and martyr-like, or give up trying to make the food taste good because “What’s-the-point? It’s just potatoes…”
3) Here’s where I say something completely counter-cultural and shocking, so prepare yourself. Seriously, are you sitting down? Here it goes: Perfectly healthy living isn’t a moral imperative.
*gasp* Wait, wait! Don’t yell at me yet. Let me explain. Certainly, we as wives/mothers are responsible for the care and nourishment of our families to the best of our ability. I think it’s wonderful and good to strive for well-balanced meals and healthy food, so don’t take the above statement the wrong way. At the same time, I think there is an ‘unhealthy’ push (pun intended) in our society to over-think healthy eating. It is NOT a sin to eat non-organic vegetables. It’s not even a sin to serve a dinner entirely void of vegetables or to feed your toddler only McDonald’s french fries for dinner (I may or may not have done that once or twice).
Of course, all things have repercussions. If you never eat vegetables, or become a McDonald’s regular, you’re going to be more likely to get sick. If you don’t care what pesticides/additives you’re consuming, you might die earlier. Unhealthy people live more uncomfortable lives, to be sure, but perfect health isn’t the answer to everything.
I say, live the best you can afford to, remembering also, that wealth comes in different forms. You might think that you can’t afford organic vegetables, so spending hours growing your own might be the answer. If it’s that important, then go for it! But please be sure you have enough time to do both that and love on your husband and children. Basically, have your priorities straight. Having a mother who provides for all physical needs to perfection, won’t mean anything if I’m always too busy to read a book or laugh and smile with them.
So, now you know what I do with the practical and philosophical, I’d like to close this series with a little reminder. I assume since you’ve been following this series, that you’re at least a bit ‘money-minded’. Remember that having an abundant amount of cash in the bank is not the ultimate blessing. Instead, money is just a means of blessing others. Particularly, your husband and the adorable little people God placed in your life. So be a faithful steward, and do the best with what you’ve been given.
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