Scratching for change ~ by Sam

Let me tell you, buying a house puts a strain on the pocketbook.  In the longrun, we’ll come ut ahead (let’s not consider the fact that we could have paid for a house outright with the money we spent on rent for the first 17 years we lived together), and we are getting by just fine, but scrambling to come up with the downpayment and closing costs in short order did take its toll.  Now we are in recovery mode: trying to pay back everything we borrowed and pay down what we put on credit cards while we were trying to keep as much cash in our accounts as possible.  Illness, injury and a big plumbing bill have not helped, but we’re doing all right, I guess.

For now, I have had to let go of my super-strict grocery budget.  Shane and the kids are all very busy, and I am not able to do a lot of “from scratch” food prep.  I did manage to make a loaf of beer bread and a pot of vegetable soup for dinner last night, but only because I bought precut onions, carrots, celery & garlic and used some frozen organic mixed vegetables (and had Hallie open some canned tomatoes for me).  It kills me to know that my pot of soup could have cost so much less if i had cut everything myself, but that’s the way life is.  I have been buying bread, because making it with one hand it hard; but I managed to make that loaf last night, and, today, I will try to throw a loaf of wheat bread into the bread machine.  

It also kills me to know that we broke some of our rules when we bought the house.  Big ones.  The rules about not spending money we don’t have.  We aren’t credit card users.  We are still recovering from having made that mistake in college.  In this case, I really don’t think it was a mistake.  We are managing to pay off the bills rather quickly.  In fact, I don’t doubt that it will all be paid off before we have been in the house for one year, and that’s not terrible.  You know, sometimes, life drops your dream house into your lap, and you just have to scoop it up.

I have read about people observing a “No-spend Month,” when they just don’t buy anything (of course, I assume you still have to pay the bills).  On one hand, this seems like a great idea.  On the other, I am not sure we could make it through a “No-spend Week” (‘though we have certainly come close recently, around mortgage-payment time).  I think, perhaps, we should start with a “No-spend Day,” and go from there.  Having just balanced the books this morning, I have to say, I am constantly amazed at just how much money we spend on a daily basis, without even thinking about it ~ just filling the gas tank…and maybe I’ll grab a cup of coffee…oh, and someone forgot to pack a snack…and I need $5 to register for this exam…  It’s crazy.  So, we are trying to get all of that extraneous, unplanned spending under control.  Keeping non-perishable snacks in the car, for instance.  We are getting back on track, I think, after a crazy, busy few months, but I am still recovering form my injury, and some stuff will just have to be forgiven for a while longer (like those precut vegetables).

In the meantime, despite the broken scaphoid and lack of work for me, we are doing what we can to cut costs and recover financially from the unexpected homebuying adventure.  Recently, the girls helped me put in a lovely vegetable garden, which should be a real boon when it starts producing.  We are lucky enough to have fruit trees (guava and mulberry) out front, and have planted a dwarf fuji apple tree in the backyard, as well as the two banana plants we moved from the old house.  I am working on setting up an informal cooperative of fruit and veggie growers in the area, so we can trade for things we don’t grow.  So far, I have made two successful exchanges, giving away some excess guava and mulberries and receiving tangerines and Meyer lemons.  We have also put in a lovely little herb garden, and will trade those, too, if the plants take off the way we hope they will.  In addition to saving a few bucks, the girls are learning valuable skills, and participating in a grassroots effort to promote healthy, responsible, frugal lifestyle choices, as well as connecting with their community and nature.  This is all of the stuff I think is really important ~ not just for us and our kids, but for society.  And I’m pretty sure the fresh air and sunshine aren’t hurting them, either.

My cast comes off on May 13th…and then begins the long road toward recovery.  There is no guarantee that I will regain full use of my right wrist/hand, but i am sure going to work hard to recover as fully as possible.  Heck, a couple of years ago, I couldn’t walk without a cane.  I’ll keep you posted.  



Our humble little herb garden.