I grew up poor. Uhm, no, that’s not right. I grew up broke. My father was a mechanic who showed up drunk to work a few too many times so was often out of a job. Because he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corp, we received a check from the government every month. I’m not sure what to call it. At times that was all we had for the month. All we had to make the house payment, utilities, pickup payment, buy gas, food, clothes. Everything a family of 5 needed had to come from that check.
At times we had carrot soup, which was just water, salt, pepper and carrots. We had that because that was all there was. I remember always knowing when the check came because we feasted for lunch like we were kings. Bread, lunch meat, and chips. Sometimes we even had pop. (soda, coke)
I grew up learning by osmosis and example that if there was something you saw that you needed/wanted and you had the money in your pocket you had to buy it right then. If you didn’t, you either wouldn’t have enough money later, or it would be gone. Thinking about a purchase for 24-hours was unheard of.
Saving money was another thing that wasn’t heard of or talked about much. I grew up thinking saving was what rich people did. Savings accounts were for those who were rich enough to have extra money to save. We weren’t that rich.
I heard once that “A budget is a systematic way of running out of money.” I didn’t need a systematic way, I could run out of money just fine in my own loosey-goosey way. I was extremely opposed to a budget. I saw no use for a savings account, because if you weren’t saving for anything in particular, what was the point?
Several times in my 20s I would think I should do a better a job with my money. One time I bought “A Woman’s Guide to Financial Peace of Mind” by Ron Blue. The only thing I learned from the book was I couldn’t afford the book, but Focus on the Family wouldn’t take it back.
I carried all this excess stinky baggage in to marriage. You can imagine living in my house…sometimes it wasn’t quite all love and roses.
This past Spring my church offered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University as a Sunday School class. I was the first one to sign up. I didn’t necessarily care if Russ was on board (although I knew he probably would be) with the whole thing or not. I only wanted help with the household money I worked with every month. I thought if Dave Ramsey could help with that, he would be worth his weight in gold. (in a good gold market when it is really paying to have stock in gold.)
I started setting aside a certain amount every month immediately after starting the class. This went into a checking account that had very limited access. I could only write 3 checks a month. I requested no debit card with it. For what I planned to use this account for, I contemplated opening a savings account, until I saw this account offered no minimum balance, and it earned interest at a greater rate than a savings account, I chose to go for the checking account.
At times the money I put in the account hurt. I could think of 150 different things I could do with that money. But still I put it in every month. I am close to having my emergency fund fully stocked, and already it has come in handy.
For years I thought there was no way I could ever afford to shop at Sam’s or Costco. I knew I could get more buying in bulk and over time it would be cheaper, but initially I knew I’d spend more. And I didn’t have more to spend. Every pay period I was spending all I had on food and other things we needed, like toothpaste, toilet paper, kleenex’ soap, etc.
Six weeks ago or so, we traveled to visit family and check out Sam’s. I took my meager money with me, hoping to get enough food to last at least for 2 weeks and hopefully a month. It worked. I even went home with money in my pocket.
Two weeks ago, I went to a nearby town to again shop at Sam’s. I spent a little more than I had the first time, but I was able to get more. And again I went home with money in my pocket.
I was noticing earlier this week that our bath towels are getting to be rather sad looking. Elizabeth’s towel has a hole in it, all the towels have the frayed edges. But instead of thinking we could all ask for towels for Christmas, I realized I can go buy the towels we need.
Because of Dave Ramsey, I am able to say “We need towels.” and go buy new towels. I didn’t have to think of what I could do without this time to get the towels.
Believe me when I say six months ago, that wouldn’t have happened. This lifestyle is so freeing. Yes, some people think I’m crazy for denying myself certain perks of life, but honestly the more I save the less likely I am to want to part with any money. Especially money on things that are just a perk. I have a hard enough time spending money on some needs of my own (my families needs I have no problem spending money), to spend money on a “want” is enough to send me into a near panic. (only slightly kidding)
Getting rich was not my intent by taking the class. I just wanted help to have enough, even if our income never increased, I just wanted to have enough to get what was needed.