When my husband lost his job, our savings quickly disappeared. He was lucky enough to find a temporary teaching job to fill in the gap, but it was still difficult to make our mortgage payment and meet our monthly expenses. I poured over job search websites for hours on end, filling out applications for him and sending resumes. After six months of desperation, he finally found a position. While the job itself is far better than his last one, the pay is not, and we have learned to make lifestyle adjustments both big and small to compensate.
Our spending has ground to a halt, save basic necessities such as utilities and groceries. Even for those things, money is tight. Our thermostat remains set to 55 degrees, sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing, but not enough to make the house truly comfortable. When the summer heat strikes, I will do my writing and reading in the basement, where the temperature usually remains tolerable even with air conditioner off.
My husband has given up a lifetime habit of drinking cola, tolerating tea or powdered drink mixes instead. Going out to restaurants, even fast food places, is out of reach; we eat cheap meals at home. I’ve become adept at “budgeting food” to ensure that all of it gets used since we can’t afford waste anymore.
In fact, today I plan to make croutons out of some old bread that is starting to go stale. They’ll be a good replacement for the commercial croutons my husband tends to dump on his salads. He’s almost out of those, and he’s not getting more until I go to the grocery store. I go once a week, at most, to save fuel. No more running to the store just because we’re out of something.
Because we are rebuilding our savings, we can no longer pay extra on the mortgage. Worse, I have a hard time cajoling my husband into transferring money from checking to savings. He’s always afraid we won’t have enough to cover the bills (though we always do). I cringe at the opportunity cost of having that money not earning interest.
We haven’t given up everything. My husband enjoys watching college sports, and so I can’t bring myself to raise the idea of giving up cable TV. That’s really our one entertainment expense, other than the electricity I expend reading stories online or visiting web pages. Our Internet access is more than paid for by my articles. Sometimes I think about paying a dollar to rent a movie, but even that seems far too extravagant.
Having to cut back so severely on expenses has been an education, and I believe the lessons that I learned will remain with me for the rest of my life. Spending has become almost physically painful. From now on, all purchases will be necessary ones, and even then, each dollar spent is a knife cutting into my savings, and it hurts.