I’m excited to introduce you to Steph who blogs over at From the Burbs to the Boonies. She’s our first Fresh Start Mondays guest poster. Steph found herself making a Fresh Start more than once. I hope her story encourages you.
My fresh start story didn’t happen overnight. There was no sudden epiphany or revelation. I just gradually became aware of a growing problem.
After years of spending too much and incurring debt, the transition from full-time work to stay-at-home mom forced me to change my ways. And it’s a good thing too, since 3 years later everything I learned became critical to survival.
When my Brady came along at 34, I was research assistant to an oceanographer and my ex-husband was a sports journalist.
Our combined income was pretty good and though I had thought about staying home, debt and postpartum depression led me back to outside work. But by age 7 months, it became clear Brady’s little immune system did not enjoy day care.
He was sick constantly which meant we were sick constantly which meant using all my vacation and sick time and losing hours. They were talking tubes in his ears because of near-continuous ear infections. I commuted 60 miles a day, day care was $480 per month, I ate out for lunch almost every day despite my efforts … and … well, staying home became much more appealing.
It was the single best “job” I ever had. I will never regret it. And Brady didn’t have another ear infection until he was 5.
However, the resulting drop in income – even after subtracting the losses above – was a shock. That debt we were paying off went up again. Buying what I thought I needed became more difficult.
The usual way of doing things would no longer work. Here are the ways I began to change:
- I started focusing on needs, not wants. I learned most of what I thought I needed I really only wanted.
- Through that one simple change in perspective, I found I could live with a lot less.
- Through tips from the Money Saving Mom, I completely revamped how I shopped for groceries.
- I shopped sales and coupled them with coupons.
- I made weekly meal plans based on ads.
- I learned to love Goodwill and yard sales and bought everything we needed for a fraction of the price.
- I also discovered Freecycle. I can’t tell you how many free clothes, shoes and toys I got this way.
- I looked at what I already had and repurposed things instead of buying.
- I made extra money selling on Ebay, holding yard sales, freelance writing and using freebie websites like Smiley360, Inbox Dollars, Swagbucks and My Points.
- Instead of buying magazines, I subscribed to free ones I learned about at Money Saving Mom and elsewhere.
- I learned how to use my heat, AC and water more efficiently to lower our bills.
- I paid bills online to avoid processing fees.
- I took Brady to free days at the zoo and free nights at the kids’ museum.
- I joined free playgroups and moms clubs and library programs.
- I started comparison shopping to find the best deal.
- I researched how to conserve gas and become more fuel efficient.
- I learned to love my old car that was paid off and had no desire for a new one.
- Above all I learned to sacrifice and be patient.
These few things saved an incredible amount.
Then life happened again. When Brady was a month shy of 4 years old, his father and I divorced. I had stayed home so had no job. Child support was good but it only covered the rent and we were in no position to move.
It took four months to find a job and even then, it was only 30 hours a week as a cake decorator with no health insurance.
Times were tough. All of those things I’d learned before came into play even more – as well as some new lessons from financial guru Dave Ramsey like budgeting and having an emergency fund – and I was able to make it without getting a credit card or incurring more debt. There were some lean months to be sure and lots of prayers, but we got by fine.
Eventually I got a good full-time job right around the time my now-husband and I reconnected after 16 years (I guess that was another kind of fresh start). That job lasted 6 months before I was laid off and all of the lessons came into sharp focus again.
I’ve now been married 2 years and am self-employed with my husband. Things are good. But I still live by those simple rules I learned during the challenging times and I probably always will.
About Steph: Steph is mom to a spirited 7-year-old boy & is self employed with her husband. After having lived in a town of 1 million, she now lives in a small Kansas town of less than 1,000 people. She writes at From the Burbs to the Boonies, a blog about life in small-town USA, frugal living, healthy cooking, encouragement parenting, co-schooling or supplementing public school education, modern day hunting and gathering, living by faith and getting families outdoors.
About Fresh Start Mondays: Mondays is a new day and the beginning of a new week. It’s also a great day to make fresh start, whether it’s something big or small. Try something new, make a change — it’s never too late for a fresh start. Do you have a fresh start story to share? Drop me a note at mommiedaze (at) gmail.com and let me know.