the austerity program, day one

After many months of ups and downs in his current job, my husband found out two days ago–and let me in on the not-so-joyous noise just yesterday–that he will be without a job in thirty days. That’s two more paychecks away.

I work, but what I bring in is less than one-fifth of what he makes and what he makes pays all the bills, with a little left over, usually, to save. The maximum that unemployment insurance will pay out in this state is $1,800 a month, which to some may seem like a lot, but for us will only cover our mortgage and real estate taxes on a quite modest home. In other words, we’re screwed.

When he was in school and we had one baby and then another and nothing but part-time jobs, we were able to live off what little we made plus the student loans he got for attending school. But that was when we had no mortgage, had one car, had no other debt, and were young and stupid. Now, we have four offspring, a mortgage, four vehicles (the newest being seven years old, the oldest being twenty-one), a gas-and-electric bill, a water bill, a basic cable bill, a golden retriever, an overweight tabby cat, homeowner’s insurance, health insurance (which costs over $1,100 a month alone), auto insurance, and life insurance, plus expenses for the newspaper, gasoline, food, church donations, doctor’s visits, etc., etc. That’s a lot more than we had to manage, even with two babies, back in the late ’80s. What to do?

First of all, my husband has to not only look for (which he’s been doing for the past twenty months), but now find a job. And I have to go full force into an austerity program to try to stretch the minimal amount of dollars we will have coming in until his next paycheck.

So, I am setting in motion a full-on Austerity Program, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Great Depression, World War II, or modern-day England, whichever is worst.

Austerity Program, Day 1. What did I do to make or save money so far?

I grabbed the last few purchases I made and looked at what, if anything, I could return. I was able to gather three tops from Target (one at $9, two each at $5) and a pair of shoes I’d bought over a month ago for a special occasion, but that never fit quite right, and returned them to Target and Payless (another $18.30 returned to my MasterCard). I have another T-shirt to go back to a sporting goods store that I didn’t have time to get to today. I also drove the twenty-one-year-old non-air-conditioned car, which I will continue to use as long as possible to avoid putting gas into the family-sized vehicle.

We have two birthdays coming up in the next few days: my husband’s and our youngest child’s. My son needs some clothes, so while at the mall, I ran into JCPenney, because I know their Arizona brand shorts fit him well, and “purchased” a pair of those shorts, using a gift card I had received for Christmas. (Fortunately, I’m not much of a clothes horse–as can be witnessed by the above-mentioned thrifty clothes and shoes I’d recently purchased–nor am I much of a shopper in general. Therefore, I still have from Christmas or my birthday another JCPenney gift card, a few small ones from Target, one from Macy’s, and one from a movie theater, which I will probably use on my son’s birthday, so I can treat him to a little something special.)

My next step is using up all the food in the house before buying anything else at the grocery store, save for vegetables, milk, butter, and other perishables that will need restocking. Tonight, I plan to take inventory of what I have and what I can do with it.

I’ve gone through austerity measures in the past, and I can do it again. If the queen of England can freeze her salary for the sake of the kingdom, then I too can do my part to save. I just wish I were saving what the queen makes.

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