Wednesday, January 6, 2016

One Year, Many Changes

Well, we've done it! On December 30, we celebrated one year in our small house!

A lot has happened in the last year...
- we moved (obviously).
- we sold our old house.
- we started a business.
- we had a baby (#2)!
- we made so, so many wonderful new friends and started to get involved in our community.
- we made it through the holidays - without needing to build an addition!
With a small house, a woodstove and two kids, we opted for an outdoor Christmas tree.
We've continued to sort through our belongings and simplify what we have. I just brought three bags of "stuff" to the local thrift store last Saturday and sent a huge box to (also a new favorite place for buying used clothes!). We still find things in the house that have closed the final chapter of their utility in our lives.

In the new year, we're not doing any specific moratoriums on buying new things or spending money on ourselves, but we did make one decision recently that's greatly transforming my life and what we have. 

Goodbye Credit, Hello Cash

We made the leap to go credit card-free, and instead use good, old, cold, hard cash. 

Well, mostly. 

Which means I'm slowly letting go and changing the way I handle day-to-day money. 

It also means I still have our three credit cards and one store card (yup, the one with the big red bull's-eye). I still have them because...
1. We have two small kids. Pumping gas without a credit card means waking up sleeping babies, unbuckling two car seats (god I HATE car seat buckles!) a 15 minute trip into the store to pay cash, 15 minutes of explaining why we can't buy 6 bags of M&M's, saying "No!" to ice cream, feeling like a horrible mom for saying "No!" to everything when I JUST WANT TO GET GAS!, crying (you figure out who!), rebuckling two car seats... anyway, you get the idea.

2. I worked HARD for those credit cards!
Okay, actually I didn't. Actually, one was sent to me pre-approved when I was 19, had just gotten fired from my job (YES, I actually got fired ONCE from a job. And that boss was at best an #$)%*$ on a good day so good riddance!), was in college, had no money, and practically peed my pants when they actually sent me a card with a credit limit higher than my cumulative GPA times 2,250! Which just goes to show you that credit card companies are NOT your friends. They're more like the mean kid who pretends to be your friend just so he can slap a "kick me" note on your back. Yeah, kick me, and then make me pay forty times over for a toy I could have saved for and probably don't need. Anyway.

3. I keep them because, well, what happens if I lose my main card, or somebody steals it? What would I do?! (and actually, while travelling in foreign countries it does come in handy to have a backup). And the third one lets me get cash back at checkouts. I use this about once a year on a weird holiday when I forgot the bank is closed and I don't feel like paying $3 to use the ATM.

4. I like getting cash back rewards. Free! Money!

5. Also, I have a hard time letting go. Whatever.

But okay, the gist of it is that we sat down and figured out a budget. A real, realistic budget of how much we actually need to spend on what we actually need. And a few joys here and there.

It wasn't too hard to do (did I mention I like Excel spreadsheets?), but the first draft didn't include a lot of things. Like, firewood. How could I forget that?! I guess I'm still getting accustomed to some things in our new North Country life!

I also had to budget down to the dollar for everything, because really that's the only way a cash-based lifestyle can really work. Every little thing has to be accounted for. After a few conversations and revisions, I think we've got it pretty close. So, every week, we take out of the bank what we need for all our various expenses, stick the moolah in their respective envelopes, and when it's gone, it's gone.

We started in December, which, even if you don't spend a lot on the holidays, I would NOT recommend. We would have been much better off starting in a month where we get three bi-weekly paychecks instead of the regular two, because we had to pay out for last month's credit card bill AND pay all our current monthly expenses all at once. It was a little tough but I think we made it past the hump. We're six weeks in, everyone's been fed, clothed, cared for, loved, and provided for. The only ones who aren't happy might be my credit card companies!

Well, that's one of our new adventures in 2016, with a few more to come (soon)! I hope you had a very minimalist Christmas and wish you all a happy, healthy, smart new year!