DG’s Poverty Party


November 10, 2008 by Marj Hatzell

I’m finally doing it. I’m owning up to my debt.  Bossy had this FANTABULOUS idea about everyone being all accountable-like about their monies, and I’m jumping on the bandwagon ’cause, well, I’m not accountable.  Are you ready?  Peek through your fingers, it’s about to get ugly.  Like, ugliest dog-ugly.

The husband and I barely have any debt. We pay off credit cards monthly, don’t buy anything we can’t pay off THAT MONTH and we really are quite frugal.  We don’t buy things unless they are on super-duper sale and we have cars that don’t guzzle gas. Except for our mortgage and monthly bills, we really don’t have much in the red.  Really.

Don’t hate me, it gets worse. Better. Worse.  It changes:

See, our problem?  I don’t have anything to do with the money. We have no real budget. We have never, ever, EVER had a pow-wow and discussed a budget.  I hand him the mail, he takes it to the black hole that is his area of the bedroom, where the bills disappear in a basket, end up magically paid and then the invoice gets put on top of the filing cabinet, where once a month I stash everything away in the appropriate file folder. TADA!!!! Great system, isn’t it?  I don’t look at the bills, I don’t pay the bills, I don’t care about the bills. Except…I don’t care about the bills. So what the heck am I learning? That I have no responsibility towards our finances?  That I don’t have to be accountable?  Heck, I don’t even know OUR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER. But rest assured, I know our CREDIT CARD NUMBER.  See?  Not responsible.

I have a habit of just running the card through little machines and signing my name on the screen. Sometimes I am tempted to sign other people’s names, but I digress.  I don’t even know how much I’ve spent sometimes. I guess I just take it on faith that the money is in our bank account. I don’t have a budget or a limit. I try to stay under $200 a week. Now, you may think that is TOO MUCH for a family of four, but with dietary restrictions, food allergies and diapers, well, it adds up.  Add in meds not covered by insurance and we go OVER $200.  But, the point is that I do not really pay attention.

Until BOSSY started her poverty party.

Then I was all, “OMG!  I have eighteen rolls of toilet paper!  Why did I buy it two weeks in a row!”  And I was all, “If I buy more rags and hand towels we can stop using paper towels!” And since I don’t believe in paper cups and paper plates, that one was easy.  Paper tissues, however, are where I draw the line. I don’t mind using a hanky but my kids are dirty, filthy, nasty, little creatures and I have to dispose of what come out of their spooky little honkers as soon as they are done wiping it all over their faces ’cause it’s all EWWWWW, mmkay?

Where were we?  Oh yes. Poverty.

The thing is, I see things on sale and I scoop up mass quantities. We don’t really need a plethora of toilet paper in our linen closet. I mean, it doesn’t go bad but eighteen rolls?  We go through six a week!  That’s three weeks worth!  Ridiculoso!  The worst part?  I spend $200 a week on stuff, still forget things and then have to go back to the store later in the week. So this is where my efforts are going to go in the next few weeks:

  1. I am going to make better lists for the store. I am writing down EVERYTHING we ABSO-SMURFLY need.  Need. Not want or could have, NEED.  Then I will stick to the list.
  2. I’m meal planning for the first time in my life.  Writing down five meals a week and counting in lunches saves me money because I am not running out to the store at 4pm everyday to get one more onion or another lime because I don’t have a complete list of ingredients. Meal planning is saving me money, time and GAS.
  3. Packing lunches. I am now packing lunches for everyone at least three days a week.  I fell into the lazy habit of allowing them to buy school or work lunches in the cafeteria, which are NOT as healthy.  And too expensive.  I think I can pack a kid’s lunch for $2.50 and a Dad’s lunch for $7. Under that, actually.  And me? I plan on eating left-overs each day or something simple from the fridge.
  4. I’ve stopped my weekly or twice-weekly coffee hours and lunches with my friends. I do, however, ask them to stop by for play dates more often. Yes, the kids are there and coffee dates are kid-less, but if they go to the basement playroom and play for 1/2 an hour, it is worth it. And I make a mean cup of tea.
  5. I made a list of holiday and birthday gifts this year. We are making some cool homemade gifts for teachers and therapists this year and I managed to get stuff and use stuff I had to make the gifts for under $40.  For 20 people. That’s hot.
  6. My sisters and I finally decided that instead of buying things for EVERY family in our family (redundant much?) we’d let the kids do pollyannas like we did as kids.  We’re also doing an adult Chinese gift exchange this year. All gifts must be under $20, not need batteries and smaller than a shoe box.
  7. I’m using cash whenever possible. As in, I have to pay more attention to what I am buying when it comes out of my pocket. And when I don’t have cash I use my DEBIT card instead of my CREDIT card. See?  Instant accountability!  No waiting until the end of the month!
  8. I have been opening bills and looking at them.  *shiver*.  I even wrote a check in the ledger last week. That’s progress, peeps.  And this month the husband and I plan on sitting down and going over a budget and he’s gonna teach me to do all of the bill stuff online.  If ANYTHING ever happened to him I’d have no clue.  I’d be royally screwed. And I’m not trying to be morbid, I’m just sayin’.  I need to know what is going on for everyone’s best interests.
  9. I am continuing to ask myself every time I pick something up in the store, “Do we NEED this or WANT this?  Can we get buy without it?  Can I get it for less money?  Can it wait?”  It is helping tremendously.
  10. I still hit consignment and Goodwill stores for clothing and other items.  This saves us TONS of money, trust me. I find some awesome finds.  It takes work, but I got both kids clothed for under $100 total this year. That’s hot, too.

I think we are off to a good start.  After losing 1/3 of our investments in the past few weeks, we were scared. We also had to stop private therapy with Bugaboo,which hurt like a knife twisted in my stomach. I know he NEEDS it. But we spent $15,000 on it this year OUT OF POCKET.  Meaning, hello?  Savings?  No answer!  NOBODY HOME!  And? We had to stop putting money in the kids’ TAP accounts for the time being. We’re still doing better than most people, i recognize that.  And we are hoping that after the holidays things will be more comfy and Bugaboo can go back to therapy and we can go back to putting money in their college accounts.

Okey dokey, there you have it. My poverty party in a nutshell.If you are still here you just scored ten points. If you aren’t still here you have -2,999 points. And if you aren’t here, you don’t know that so SHAME ON YOU.

6 thoughts on “DG’s Poverty Party

  1. Margaret says:

    Oooh DG. I’m like you in that I have no idea how our money works. None. I have a separate account that money for the week magically appears in and I try to spend that cash and not use the credit card. Until Bossy’s Poverty Party, I didn’t even know what our mortgage payment was! I love your list ~ I’m going to use it too!

  2. natalie says:

    we are the same way. we had accumulated some debt before we moved overseas, but we paid it off before we set sail. since we have been here i have had no desire to shop like i did in america. it may have something to do with the fact that all i did the first 6 weeks i was here was shop for furniture, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, electronics, and pretty much everything. i was shopped out! it could also have to do with the fact that to do any shopping meant taking some sort of public transportation to another form of public transportation in order to get anywhere. then once i shopped i had to figure out how to get whatever it was i purchased home on public transportation. um…no thank you. hopefully i’m out of the habit of buying stuff i don’t need. i feel like i am for sure. shopping…not interested!

  3. Anjali says:

    I just posted on this very same subject yesterday! Great minds think alike! (Except I have always handled all things money.)

  4. I need to take control of my finances a bit. I am going to take stock later this weekend.

    I’d like to do a frugal PSA announcement and let everyone know that Junior League of Wilmington will be hosting Delaware’s Indoor Largest Yard Sale this Saturday in Wilmington, DE!!!! Please go to the JL’s website which can be Googled and come!!! You may even see AG there working and pushing kiddies around.

    There will be prizes and lots of great deals!

  5. MemeGRL says:

    So funny–I was just going to point you to Anjali’s post but she beat me to it.
    AG, thanks for the invite! We needed to get to Frank’s and Fulton Paper this weekend anyway so maybe this will be my weekend jaunt–Wilmington!
    And a great tip from OnlyMe’s author (not on her blog, just an IRL suggestion): make the list for shopping, stick to it, and only allow yourself two things that are not on your list. (I make it three–one for each begging child and one for me when I realize we forgot something important, like, say, peanut butter.) It’s too hard to remember every single bingle thing and not be reminded at the store.
    Good luck!

  6. HG says:

    I’m jumping on the poverty party too. We don’t have a lot of debt (rarely carry a balance on the credit card and when we do, technically we could pay it off if we had to), but our savings is pathetic.

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