Sunday, January 10, 2010

Money ....sigh...

" Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money but you can't get more time."--John Rohn

Isn't it the truth! In our house, we are in the midst of transition in the way that we relate to money which feels more like a significant paradigm shift. Some of this is reflective of what is occurring in the broader economy but most of it has evolved from our own personal circumstances. We have a place to go, we just have to figure out how to get there.

So here is our history. Hubby is still living 2 hours a way during the work week. He has been doing this since September when school began. He will be doing this all school year. This is very difficult on our family. He gets home on Friday evening and is gone early Monday morning. It had been our hope that we could rent our current home while it was on the market and rent another home in the area that hubby works. But ( isn't there always a but) after spending a significant amount of our reserves on getting our current home ready to put on the market, we didn't have much money for moving. We had some for an off-grid home. But when we pondered our hay bill and a little more wood for the season we realized that one major car repair would leave us in absolute straights. This, also, was not taking into account any moving expenses, some repairs to the off-grid home that would be needed to live in it for the winter. Well, gotta be grown up sometimes. So we realized that we had to do something different but we weren't quite sure what this meant...yet.

Right before Thanksgiving we found a home where Hubby works which would fit the bill. It is a lovely 2 bedroom, passive solar, hand crafted home on 7 acres with mature fruit trees and pasture for our sheep. We can purchase it through owner-financing until our current home and land sell. We made an offer for 65,000 and the owner accepted our offer. We need a 10% down payment. We have worked out an arrangement with the seller so that we can move into it by June.

Well, and then the bus broke down again and hubby had to take the car I normally use. I can tell you for a few weeks there we felt like it was never raining but always pouring. We had to take out a small loan to buy a new second hand car. Boy did that stink! We really need 2 reliable cars right now.

Not having the car for almost a month enforced some new habits; getting a car loan during the holiday season enforced some new habits as well.

As a couple we have always felt that we were responsible with money. When I met hubby, he was in the middle of paying off his credit card debt. I had a credit card with a very small line of credit. Hubby has his student loans. I cancelled my credit card. Hubby paid his off. We only buy second hand cars. We put a money in savings every month. In all the ways that folks share about being frugal we have practiced them. We buy second hand. Our electric bill is only 30.00 a month. We grow most of our produce and buy in bulk. WE have one cell phone because Hubby is away for the week. But we weren't really paying attention to our money. Our checking account never dropped below zero but if there was an expense we had not anticipated we would just take the money out of savings. Sure the balance would drop a bit but there would always be that extra gig hubby would have to help replenish it. This may have worked just fine for us if we want to keep the status quo. But as we have already established status quo is keeping our family apart.

So, although we knew how to live within our means; we hadn't really practiced savings in any meaningful way. Something else needed to happen. One of the first things that we decided was to have kitchen table conversations about money every weekend that Hubby is home. We have always been able to talk about money. We found we just weren't talking about money in the right way. We needed to anticipate where expenditures outside normal expenses would occur and how we would manage the payment of them.. We needed to understand where our money would go. We needed to, if not necessarily budget, understand what parameters we were functioning under. With essentially two households right now, money, with all the weight and possibilities it holds, had to be more intentional.

So how does this look. First and foremost, we have just stopped spending money on anything we do not need. We budget for gas, expected groceries, miscellaneous expenses, and sheep feed. We sit down and do this together. I used to be the one to do the grocery list and sometimes it would grow with extras on it. Now it is a list that is adhered to like glue. Hubby would pick up a six pack on occasion, we might on a whim go out for breakfast. These are now considered extras and we mutually agree on whether the money is there for them. We anticipate how much gas we will use during the week and how much we will need to purchase.

We looked at the way we paid our bills. Hubby gets paid every other week. This is new to us this year. He used to be paid weekly. We found that when we were paying a couple of our larger bills with one check, we looked at the other check as the one to spend a little extra on. We were able to rearrange or even out the bills that we were better able to see where the surplus cash was hiding.

We anticipate future expenditures. Hubby needs a part for the bus. We need to paint our bathroom. The handy man is coming in February. The old car has inspection in March. In the past we would withdraw the money from savings to handle these. Now we include these in our operating expenses.

Ultimately all this is being done to build up that savings account. Hubby is teaching music lessons after school, all extra money from that goes into savings. Any extra money left over before the next paycheck is deposited gets put into savings. Give our current approach we anticipate putting in at least 400.00 a month into savings. This is the minimum expectation. But with prudent money management we hope it will be more. Bottom line is that if the money goes into savings, it doesn't come out.

Well, so this is how we are approaching this but the lessons we are learning are so much greater. We are learning to use it up. We use up all the leftovers in the fridge. Except for a small wipe down ,the fridge should never need a purge. We've been big practitioners of the wear it out mantra. We really are learning to make do. This involves tapping into a deep well of creativity which is exciting on many levels. We are learning to do without. This can be an uncomfortable place sometimes. It is so easy to just run to the store to get a do-hicky, thingy-ma-bob just because the whim requires it. We just tell ourselves it is for a greater cause.

Our short term hope is to be together as a family by summer. A long term goal is take the lessons learned from this paradigm shift to explore deeper meanings of living simply, without debt. We know we have a way to go. But once all the particulars shake out we have discussed finally paying off that student loan, and then working to get mortgage free.

It comes down to this simply. This weekend Hubby and I were discussing what we would do with the extra monthly cash we will have when we no longer are paying on our land. We agreed that we should put that towards paying off his student loan. Once this is done the amount of money to pay off the loan ( given the extra we would pay) amounts to 3 days of work a month.
Time he could spend pursing his music career. Time he could spend building up his sheep shearing business. Time he could be at home.

Pretty cool huh?


Robj98168 said...

This reminds me of when we were first introduced to the Waltons in the movie THE HOMECOMING-John Walton (Andrew Duggan) had just quit his job, miles away from Walton's Mountain, he made it home and him and Olivia (Patricia Neal) are sitting on the couch talking-
"Olivia: What are we going to live on this coming week?
John: Love, Woman"

Point is the Waltons made it, I suspect you guys will as well

Wendy said...

Yes. Very cool, indeed.

Thank you for sharing all of that. I've been thinking a lot about the time-money connection lately. We may be going through a job transition (with luck) and will have less money, but hopefully more time. If it works out like we're hoping ....

On a different note, we'll be bottling our hard cider soon (won't be ready to drink until June) and making some beer. I know you've closely budgeted gasoline, but if coming this way is in the budget, feel free to stop by and pick up a six pack ;). It's not much fun to have to deny oneself everything.

Oh, and we might have some paint leftover from some painting we did ... but I'm not sure of the colors. You might end up with mud-brown walls :).

Fleecenik Farm said...

Thanks Wendy! The teen starts a new art class at the end of February and we will be coming down again. Hubby homebrews but with him gone so much he is unable to get a regular brewing routine going.

We have a bathroom with knotty pine and really bad ventilation so we need to freshen up the walls to sell the place.

Fleecenik Farm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naturalearthfarm said...

What an honest post. We have chosen a different path as well that I wrote more about on my last two blog posts. So wonderful to have goals and to keep talking about it... sometimes I had to pull it out of my husband and insist that he give his input.
Congratulations, too, on winning the fabric from farmama!
Warm wishes,

gardenofsimple said...

I recently wrote a post on finances, and yours is the second blog I've come across in the last couple of days talking about, essentially, the same thing.
And I'm *so* glad. I know that a lot of families are making changes do to the economy, but it's sort of thrilling in an odd way, to see like-minded people talking about this sort of thing. Paring down isn't anything new to us (unlike many families) but we have had to get creative and buckle down even more. Anyway, while I'm not happy to see anyone else struggling I am happy to see the dialogue going on in so many places.

Hip Mountain Mama said...

Thanks for sharing this! We, too, are being more frugal these days since my husband quit his job to join the home business. We are making a lot less, but we are together and having fun. I have realized how much money I used to spend on really added up. It was pretty easy to leave some of these extras behind...some not so hard, but we manage!

farmama said...

Thanks for your advice on a lumber wood floor today. I went over to mother earth news and was able to find the article very easily! We have a lumberjack friend who we are going to call now....we just never considered pine for flooring, but it sounds as though it could thanks!
Good luck to you in these hard times! I wish you all the best! Stay positive....things will get better!
with love,

farmama said...

HI KArin,
Did you get my email? I've sent so many lately that never get delivered. Can you send me your mailing address so I can send you off these fabrics? (My email is

Kathy said...

Oh, I'm so glad you shared all this. Know that, even here, in Boonville, we are struggling every day to make right choices, pay down the mortgage, eat the fridge empty ...

Some days are more difficult than others, but in the end, if we can actually retire, and only work because we want to we'll be happy.

Hopewell said...

Just came across your blog--nice post. I can so relate. And Robj98168--the Homecoming was a wonderful film and I've also thought of that scene during "tight" times.

Earth Mama said...

I came over from Community of Change. What a strong family you are! Knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel always helps. We are similarly trying to find the loophole to freedom from the dollar signs over here. I like how you talked about talking through to a plan.