As I write this, you’ve just fallen asleep in your room next door, Mommy is buying groceries at Whole Foods, and I am letting John Mayer’s new album, Paradise Valley, serve as my background for this quiet (for now) Saturday afternoon.
I didn’t want to feel sad right now, but I kind of do.
Just like I don’t think John Mayer intended to make a sad-feeling album, but somehow in all of its mid-tempo mellowness and subtleties, it makes me feel… almost… alone.
And that’s crazy!
The last thing I ever have time to think these days is that I feel lonely.
By default, it seems nearly impossible for me to feel that way. How could I?
We don’t have a large family. It’s just the three of us.
But having you and Mommy to need me to make your lives function right, it keeps me feeling like part of a whole that would otherwise be incomplete.
Even if we never add a fourth member to our family, we’ll still always be family. It’s us. For life.
It’s just that I am so grateful for our family. I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come and grown together:
I think about how you were brought into this world in a time when Mommy and I had just moved away from our home in Nashville, only to have to move back about 8 months later because we struggled to find jobs the whole time, and lived off our savings until they were all gone.
I think about that financial burden and how deeply that psychologically affected me. To be too honest, I’m just now realizing as I’m writing this that I am actually still finishing up the healing process from that dark time in my life.
I think about how over the past two years we’ve dug ourselves out of $58,000 of debt, becoming debt-free a few months ago, the Dave Ramsey way, not by winning the lottery or even by getting raises, but thanks to living by a merciless budget which has included zero tolerance for eating meals out, cable TV or smart phones.
We’ve paid our dues and still are.
I think about the lyrics of the Steve Miller Band song, “Jet Airliner,” where it says, “You know you got to go through hell before you get to heaven.”
Our family has officially made it through to that crossroads, that ground zero, where we can build our lives together, upwards.
I feel it. It’s like I’m standing on top of a mountain right now looking down, seeing the difficult way we got here, then turning around to see that paradise valley on the other side. It’s like I’m finally taking some time to take long deep breaths now. (Both figuratively and literally.)
Life is always uncertain, but now, it’s somehow more certain than it’s ever been or felt.
And we have each other for it. We have our family. This is me expressing gratitude. Amen.
From first glance, we look like a pretty normal American family. If people only knew…
As for this time around, I would like to focus on 5 impractical ways that our family saves money…
I’ve heard it said that Generation Y parents are predicted to become much like the penny-pinching generation who was our age during the Great Depression.
Well, I believe it. Here’s the how and the why.
These are 5 impractical ways we as a family save money:
1. We don’t pay for cable or satellite TV. Instead, we pay $7.99 a month for the Netflix streaming plan. We have unlimited access all the shows you love, like Thomas & Friends and Sesame Street; for Mommy and me, there’s Lost and The Office. That’s not even mentioning all the movies that are available.
2. We don’t pay for Internet on our phones. Since we’re already paying for wireless Internet for our house and because our jobs don’t directly depend on it, it’s difficult for us to justify paying even more for Internet so we can play Angry Birds on our phones while we’re bored. Because honestly, as your parents, we never have time to be bored. I wouldn’t mind that, though.
3. We hardly ever go out to eat. By hardly ever, I mean, on a bad month, about twice. While the documentary Food Inc. conveys a message that a family of 4 can eat for less on McDonald’s Dollar Menu, that’s not accounting for the fact there won’t be leftovers the next day. Shunning restaurants saves money.
4. We don’t update our electronics or possessions that cost over $100. My iPod has a cracked screen and its charge only lasts about 2 days. The screen of our 2006 model TV is only 30 inches wide, yet the length of it is nearly just as long. Oh yeah, and it’s been struck by lightning, so parts of the screen are discolored. Mommy and I have had the same cell phones for well over 2 years, but because Verizon recently started charging an “activation fee” for their “free phones,” we decided to just keep our old ones. In other words, if it ain’t dead, don’t fix it.
5. We live by a strict weekly budget, on an Excel spreadsheet. Like financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “If you don’t tell your money where to go, it will tell you where to go.” It’s impractical to account for every dollar spent, but knowing that we are projected to reach “debt free” status in 2013, I don’t mind living an impractical lifestyle.
So what if we shun credit cards and cable TV like the plague, or perhaps more relevantly, like high-fructose corn syrup? Mommy and I are obsessed with telling our money where to go.
We’ve learned the hard way. Just a couple of years ago, our money was telling us where to go. As for 2013, Lord willing, we will finally be free of debt.
Somehow, becoming debt-free is one of the most practical things I can think of.