So, the school year got busy, we got lazy, and we fell off the wagon.
One goal was to pay down the credit cards. Thanks to some Christmas splurges and some medical bills, we now have about $4000 in credit card debt, up from $3000 in September. We have a cross state move looming this summer. We need to once again tighten our belts. The nice thing about life is that do-overs and learning from our mistakes are available.
So, what happened? A few things: we never did define needs and luxuries. A few members of the family even forgot about our no-spend pledge. As the semester ground on, it became harder to be excited. The Dude had a hard drive crash and try to go an inexpensive route, which just added additional cost to the later more expensive route. Boys are missing the bus more and more and so needing rides to school. I like meeting friends for coffee, and going out to lunch. Going out is tricky. Socializing often means money.
Computers were a big expense this semester. I had mine die at the beginning of the semester, and had to buy a new one. No way around it. I could use the computer at school, but needing to be home nights with the kids, not terribly convenient. As much as I love my iPad, I cannot do real writing work on it. So, I bought a new computer. Magnus' computer began to run ridiculously slow, due to a lot of programs running at once. He needed more processor speed. Rin needed a new hard drive when his got corrupted. He used an OS running on a flash drive, but not all programs would work and it was an exercise in frustration. I know, I know. We could live without computers, or just have one. However, we are a computer family. We don't have a television or really elaborate gaming systems. We do things mostly on the computer. Magnus reads and absorbs information so quickly that a computer is the only way to keep up with him. He can read a book in about an hour. He reads lots of books, but he likes the internet also. Rin loves computers and programming and wants to spend his life working with them. Luigi loves Minecraft. And now My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Giving them each a computer is okay by me. Magnus is at the point (10th grade) where computer is needed or at least very very helpful for schoolwork. The Dude went to the university surplus shop and picked up a "new" tower running Linux for $100. It came with keyboard, mouse, and monitor. He stripped Magnus' old computer, updated it, and gave it to Luigi. For playing Minecraft, checking email, and watching netflix, it is fine. We bought a new hard drive for cheap ($60) and Rin is good to go. The Dude bought a laptop at the surplus store for $50, but it did not work well (5 minute page loading sort of thing). He ended up buying the $280 Samsung Chromebook. I think mine was $450 with rebates. So, that is somewhere almost $1000 in computer stuff this semester! In addition to the $900 for an iPad and $400 for a tablet in the spring, and I think we need to stop spending money on technology for a while! Hopefully the Dude can sell the laptop he bought and get a little cash back. In some ways I am okay with this, because it is easy to spend $1000-$2000 on a single computer, but when on a tight budget, this is a serious outlay.
We had agreed to go to Leavenworth for Christmas and go we did. We packed snacks but did eat dinner out 3 nights. We also had a blast and since we do not travel to see family over the holidays, this trip is very important to us. We had also given the okay to spend money on Christmas and birthday gifts. Rin's hard drive was his birthday present and we used Amazon points for much of it. Magnus' computer was his birthday present and we have gift cards to use for his Christmas present, so that helped some. But we were also hit with an unexpected vet bill when the little Doodle threw out his back. We were fortunate that he didn't need surgery, just pills and rest. Still, a couple hundred dollars. Also, the 20 year old van need hundreds of dollars in investment.
But then there is the bleed. "Oh, let's stop at Jack in the Box" "Let's go for coffee" The Dude and I, thanks to South Beach Diet, now split entrees, which helps bring the cost down. But still-$10-$20 for lunch adds up. We got weak and visited some thrift shops. Overall, I think we did better than we have in the past, often leaving stores empty handed, but we still violated the no spend contract.
So, where do we go from here? We started as we always do: with the family meeting. We talked about a commitment to retool. We defined luxury and necessity more clearly. We have given ourselves $20 a month to spend on restaurants. We have decided to revisit the grocery bill-which is way out of control. We got some lovely coffee shop gift cards to help the studying fees. I am going to give up the beloved latte for a simple coffee or tea. I am planning to buy an espresso maker so that I can make lattes at home, which will help me stay on track in the shops. We have recommitted to coming up with alternatives to spending. And, most importantly, we have scheduled monthly meetings to track progress and discuss struggles. We have decided to only commit to a month at a time. Hopefully that will help.
The Dude is tackling our budget now, going through and figuring out what the heck we are spending on and how to change our ways. No time like the present to figure out the future!