the austerity program, day twenty-six–still wishing and hoping and praying

The saying goes that no news is good news, but to those of us with a strong sense of reality, no news can just be bad news put on hold. Still no word from the people my husband interviewed with for a job. And nothing else has come close to surfacing. It’s unusual to even get a ding letter these days, as most prospective employers are overwhelmed with applications and resumes and don’t even bother–or don’t have the time or resources–to get back to everyone.

So we wait.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep our expenses down. I had to fill both vehicles with gasoline last week, but I’m garaging the gas guzzler except on occasion. And I’ve been able to keep our grocery bill down to around $70 to $80 a week. I did have to pay for my son’s college tuition the other day, which will set us back, and my husband had to see the doctor for a bad cough (it turned out to be bronchitis, which required a couple prescriptions, an over-the-counter drug, and an X-ray to analyze and treat). Now I’m sick, but I’m trying to fight it with OTC meds unless my sinuses feel ready to explode. It’s not easy looking at every trip to the store (or doctor) as a grab at your pocketbook, but that’s how it’s going to be for a while.

Yesterday, I talked with my friend whose husband lost his job recently. He’s applying all over the West Coast, trying to land anything he can, even if that means his having to move away from the family and getting an apartment in another city. That scenario has crossed my mind too, as there appear to be more jobs in certain cities for my husband. San Francisco, for one, which, ironically, is where we lived when he launched his career. I wouldn’t mind living there again, but moving no longer means packing up a diaper bag and a few boxes and small pieces of furniture and vacating one rental home for another. Owning a house, having adult children who have settled into homes in this city, having another child in college here and yet another in middle school, whose entire life has developed inside this house, is a whole ‘nother story. Add into that two elderly parents who need attention and one of whom has no other family in town, and things get even more complicated. I’m sure our friends feel the same way. They’ve moved around more than we have, but that was when the kids were not yet born or were just little ones, when the roots to friends, schools, and activities hadn’t yet taken hold.

I don’t know how things will turn out for us (or for them), but not knowing is so difficult. No news may mean that there is still hope, but that doesn’t make the wait any less painful.

the austerity program, day sixteen–trying to remain positive

It’s been more than a couple weeks since I took on the austerity program, and it was about a week earlier than that that my husband got word of his layoff. He’s applied to several places and has actually had one interview at a firm he is extremely interested in. He’s waiting, however, for the final word on whether he or another candidate will get the job. He’s willing to make another effort at convincing the powers that be that he is the perfect choice, but it’s wait and see until then.

I learned the other day that a friend of ours lost his job, but he was let go under quite different circumstances. He was the head of an organization, its executive director, and he was ousted for what appear to be political reasons. His job is pretty specialized, so it may be difficult to find another similar position, especially in this town. But he has some recourse: He’s asking to be reinstated and he’s also filed a lawsuit because of wrongful termination. I’ve since learned that he was making an extremely good living, so I think the family will be just fine monetarily until the next job comes along–or he wins the suit, which is a bit different from our situation. Still, losing a job is stressful to the entire family, no matter what.

I was feeling pretty good the day I heard that news, not because of my friend’s hardship but because my husband had had that successful interview and because my friend had confided in me (after several months, I later learned) of her husband’s circumstances. It helps to have a kindred spirit, even if the circumstances are less than positive–or maybe especially so. The next day, however, I wasn’t faring so well. Or the day after that. Maybe it’s our suddenly gloomy weather mixed into the pot, but I felt as though I’d begun a downward spiral. It takes the right personality to be able to see the positive in things, especially during hard times. I’m afraid to say that I don’t possess that personality, although I wish I did.

I have another friend who’s much like me in our outlook on life: The glass is half empty; the sun may not come out tomorrow. Her husband went through a layoff a few years back that lasted six months and during that time he was quite ill. He finally found stable employment, but she is now forever in a race to build up the family income and savings in the event the pot boils over again.

I’m trying to see the sunny side of things and that if my husband doesn’t get this great job he’s currently after, another opportunity will come along. It may not be as perfect, but it will pay the bills. It has to be that way. It just has to. In the meantime, I’ll try to walk on the sunny side of the street and I’ll turn the burner to a steady simmer to at least keep the lid from falling off.

the austerity program day seven–independence day

Today is the Fourth of July, but the weather is uncharacteristically gloomy and so is my mood. Already a week has passed since the bad news and nothing has yet come through for my husband.

Yesterday was our son’s thirteenth birthday. His Little League team pulled off an amazing win against one of our district’s strong horses and after the game, he, my husband, our elder daughter, and I went to a pizza place for dinner. I had received an online offer for an extra large one-topping pizza, four sodas, cinnamon bread, and a small salad for under $19, so we went there. The food took a long time to get to our table and my son wanted to join up with his team for a post-game celebration at the house of one of his friends. After eating, my husband took him over. I’ve yet to plan a real birthday celebration for him, so I’m glad he had some fun, but I also wonder if I will be able to throw him a party right now with our lack of funds. He doesn’t yet know about our circumstances.

Fortunately, my sister invited us over to my mom’s for a meal today, so I didn’t have to make another trip to the grocery store for food. I was happy to accept the invitation.

It’s about time to go. I will say a prayer for the resources we have–family, friends, and some money in the bank–and will pray for  financial independence.

the austerity program, day four–buying groceries

Yesterday I took inventory of what I have in my freezer and cupboards and today was my first day at grocery shopping. My mission was to save as much as possible and get just what we needed to make what I already have into meals.  I think I did really well.

First of all, I have been accumulating points on a grocery store members’ card that I did not know how to convert to money off my bill. Before shopping, I phoned the grocery company’s 800 number (thankfully, someone was in on a Sunday) and I also printed a $10 off of a $50 purchase coupon from the store’s website.

I then shopped, leaving everything I didn’t need on the shelves. I still got a decent haul: a six-pack of mega-sized rolls of paper towels (I’d just hung my last roll this morning), a carton of OJ, three Gatorades, a bag of frozen french fries, a one-pound package of turkey breast and a nine-0unce package of ham, a package of Goldfish crackers, a tub of soft butter, four cans of tuna, a loaf of sourdough bread, a loaf of wheat bread, a package of six sandwich rolls, asparagus, tomatoes, green onions, organic broccoli, two packages of romaine lettuce, a pound of potato salad, two bags of chips (it’s Fourth of July week, so a lot of this stuff was on special), bananas, and a bag of apples. Total: $64.50. Then I subtracted my $10 coupon and swiped my store card containing $34 in rewards, bringing the total of my grocery trip down to $20.44! Not bad at all.

The coupons are often available, and it’s not too difficult to accumulate the extra reward money at this store, but this one trip was a bit of an oddity, being that I had saved up that $34 for months. Still, it proves that saving money by looking for bargains and shopping for only the things you need is possible in keeping the total grocery bill down. Fortunately, I have accumulated many years of bargain shopping and have learned much from my forebears. (Whenever I do something especially on the cheap side, my son tells me, “That was very Boucher of you,” meaning I have learned my cheap, or what I’d call thrifty, ways from the masters themselves, my parents and older siblings.)

I’m not saying that next week’s grocery trip will be this impressive or that I won’t need to run out to buy barbecue stuff for the Fourth or spend on food for my son’s birthday this week, but at least it makes me feel good knowing I can keep our bills down–the ones that are flexible, at least–with a little forethought.