We really did finally make it.

It's a bit long, but I had to get it out. Thanks for reading. Love you all. (Warning - big pics at end of post, hope you're not on dial-up. :) )

I have made a budget even before I was married. I had gone to college to be an accountant and just loved it. Unfortunately there was just never much money coming in. I'd had big dreams as a teenager about getting married and buying a cottage with the white picket fence and pets and kids and all that stuff... it never ever even crossed my mind then that things would not be that way.

Then reality smacked me in the face. When we got married, I was pregnant (yeah yeah scandalous - my MIL was pregnant when she got married too, it's a family tradition LOL ONE I HOPE STOPS WITH ME! Anyway!... Christopher was in his senior year at college and had student teaching yet to do, and had to get a seasonal job at Kmart in the Christmas dept to support us that first winter. After that would end, we had no idea what we'd do, but we planned on him getting a teaching position the next fall and everything would be fine then... just had to tough it out that first year.. ...Well, he decided he did not want to teach after he did his student teaching and the kids took cinder blocks to our car's paint finish and threatened him. (Did I mention I live in REDNECKVILLE?) Fortunately Kmart loved him and kept him on even though the let the other seasonal people go. He's been there practically ever since.

I'm not going to bore you with year by year account of how tough life was. I will point out some of the harder spots in the last 20 years...

I have been on Food Stamps multiple times as well as govt health coverage. We were never on "welfare" where they send you money for utilities or whatever. We just needed help with food, though there were some months when we had to sell the food stamps to family members to get cash to buy diapers. Our life was as real as it gets. Let me tell you, there is nothing more humiliating or frustrating than having an infant in your arms or a carrier and an 18 month old toddler and a 6 year old brat running all over the place while you're trying to sit through an approval or renewal meeting for food stamps or medicaid (called TennCare here now). The case-workers usually looked at you (and sometimes treated you) like you were not worth the dirt on the bottom of their high heels. Everytime, I wished the ground would just swallow me whole.

Then there were the visits to the health clinic to get on WIC so the baby would have formula whether I was nursing or not. If anything happened that I couldn't nurse, I had to know we'd have the formula just in case. With one of them, they never took a bottle in their entire first year, but another was tongue tied and could never nurse. Now THOSE were some humiliating meetings too. I had to tell them what I was eating or what the baby was eating (pre or post natal), and had to give details about nursing them. Plus the exams.

Of course buying groceries with food stamps was never fun. Before they put them on a debit type card, they were real paper tickets, and it was obvious what they were, and if you had anything fancier than store-brand Cheerios, ramen noodles and koolaid, the other customers would scowl. Well, people on food stamps get to have a Sunday roast just like everyone else. And checking out with the WIC coupons always had to be done by a manager and took forever.

I know embarrassment. I know humility. I know poverty. I know it well.

I know what it's like to be the poorest people in the extended family, and show up to a family gathering and have a junker vehicle full of 6 rag tag people, when everyone else is driving brand new cars and talking amongst themselves about the cars and the trade-in experiences and the great deals they got etc. (My family has been in a certain make of car's business either in sales or service etc for years.)
To dread Christmas because there's just no way to get everyone in the huge family a gift they'd even want to take home. I was thankful when we went to exchanging names, but that was actually worse after-all because since everyone only had one gift to give they were expensive ones... we couldn't do that. Finally it switched to a white elephant exchange when family members started feeling the economy and then the auto industry crashed along with the house one and everything else...

Remember I started this entry talking about budgeting. Well I am good at putting them on paper, but SUCK at following them and so does the hubs. But year after year we'd try and try and try. Well, I always did the budget by paycheck, so if he got paid every other Friday, I'd make a page in the notebook for each of the paydays and start with the estimated check amount at the top and subtract expenses and bills etc down in a line til I got to 0 dollars. So the budget was never a monthly one, but a paycheck-to-paycheck one, because it was the only way we could survive most of the time. Anyway, I loved budgeting a few months into the future, speculating on what his paycheck would be and what bills would be based on averages. I never really took unexpected stuff into account in those budgets. They were kind of a best case scenario... what "could" happen if we were able to stick to the budget and nothing happened. Then I'd look at it, and compare what the budget could look like some day in a couple months to what it actually looked like for the current paycheck and just get so discouraged. The future budget looked so nice. Money left over after bills, money for kids' allowances, money for a date night or take the kids to the movies or out to McDonalds, etc... but the one I was actually having to deal with had tons of over draft fees from the bank from checks not going through due to some other fee from some other thing happening, or having to make an unexpected payment to one place to keep something turned on when I'd been hoping I could make it til the next paycheck for that. Well, my point here is that I loved looking into the future of what might be through those numbers on the pages in the notebook. Month after month, year after year, I kept doing it. Just when I thought we were getting close to actually making it to one of those future pages without having to rip them out and start all over with the bank fees and all those other payments and bills... something would happen. Vehicles dying, Christopher getting laid off work, his heart attack, bankruptcies and bad judgment on our part,... you name it, it's happened to us. Well, not an act of God yet, KNOCK ON WOOD!

Then this year got here....

I have done my budget for each paycheck on notebook paper in my "control journal" or "Home Management Binder" or whatever you call it. It's a huge binder with tons of house info in it.. and for some reason this year I have been able to stick to these budget pages every time. When everything is marked off of the page, I take the page out of the binder, and put it into the back pocket of the binder. Then I can see the next week's budget and know what to plan for and look for anything I might have missed. So far so good... Then last night I found something.

I found a spiral notebook under a stack of papers I finally went through. I flipped through it to see if it had paper for Zoe to draw on, and I realized it was an old budget book. In fact, it was the one I had been using before I switched to my Binder. Then, I saw that I had done the future speculation/dreaming thing in it too, and that it had been done all the way though this week and a little beyond. So, for kicks, I thought I'd check it out and see how far off I really was and how bad things really are now afterall... and you know what? The budget we are working with this week and sticking to and having extra money for fun stuff out of... it's almost identical to this dream budget I had made months and months ago. It looked like I had made it around last Christmas (man were things TIGHT that month whew!).

So, we made it. We really made it. We have finally gotten to the point that the actual budget is just like a dream budget. I guess in the back of my mind I knew it, because I really did have money left over at the end of the month for fun stuff and MOST of all Stuff for the HOUSE.... and each other. I hadn't realized how much Christopher and I hadn't really been getting ourselves any splurge or unnecessary items like we used to do as a younger couple. We did without anything new for a long time. When anyone needed something, I usually got it at charity and thrift stores.

Recently, I was able to get myself a new computer for work since the laptop was really about on its last legs, and I have to be able to get to work and do it well. I also got Christopher a real Father's Day gift. He got it a week early, but for the first time since we have been married, I got him something he loves, had wished for but never imagined getting and has bragged about getting all week at work... a 42" flat screen HDTV. It's in the bedroom. He can hook his laptop to it. He is IN HEAVEN. Both the computer and TV are on a payment plan and have an excellent service agreement while I am paying on them, though I can pay them off early and save 40%. So, yeah that's happening with next year's tax refund.

I also got my new dining table and chairs out of layaway. All in the same week... My mind is boggling. But I know that we no longer have huge bank fees (some months in the past we paid over $500 in OVERDRAFT FEES, can you imagine!?!?). We no longer have cash advances we have to keep renewing. (Those were costing us $180 a month!)

We still drive the junky clunker, but it's on the list of things to replace. I do want to get an emergency fund set up first. I know I know I should have done that before getting all these other THINGS, but...well it felt right, and it still does.

The table is used nightly for the family to eat together and the girls play cards TOGETHER, and we're having a FAMILY GAME DAY later today after I've had some sleep and Christopher's fixed a little plumbing issue. We're going to spend the day playing games with the kids. Have dinner together as a family. Then we're gonna pile on the bed with popcorn and watch a movie on the GINORMOUS screen.

Oh and my stress level is WAY down after getting my new computer. All my work programs load quickly, actually work, and I can use a browser without it crashing. And the screen is a 19" HD screen. I can see everything all at once now! No more yelling at my computer to do what I told it. I had no idea how much stress it had been causing me.

There is one more rather largish purchase I need to make too. I need a steam cleaner for the carpets. A friend has one and it did amazing things to carpet I thought was done for. I REALLY need one. I am NOT taking before and after pics of the hallway floor....ewwwwwww. *shudders*. So, yeah getting that soon.

It felt for years like we'd just never get to this place. It's kind of weird. Christopher is really have a time dealing with it. He had such a low self esteem and no self confidence and I think it stemmed from just not having ANY money for so long. Now he always has money in his pocket. He has a new huge TV he's always dreamed off and joking asked for (knowing he'd never really get one). We were able to get the table and chairs out of layaway early. (Needed them for family coming from out of town anyway). He's just so used to the way things used to be... and he's not seen it coming along a littler at a time in the budget like I have. He prefers not to have anything to do with the budget and bills, and lets me do it all.

We went to dinner and a movie last night for date night. We have stayed in and watched DVDs and had crackers and dip for like the last 6 months or more worth of date nights...There may have been a few dinners or movies, but certainly not many. There still won't be too many. We do have a fantastic place to watch DVDs now afterall. :) Snuggling on the bed with chips and dip and ice cream once every couple weeks sounds good :) Just have to sweep out the crumbs LOL.

I think he'll start to get used to the idea that we finally are in the place we always dreamed we'd be someday. I am really knocking on wood y'all!! I don't want to jinx it!

Now, my new challenge in the budget will be to start saving money. To continue to live within and below our means, but still comfortably. To not go into debt so far that all that extra money gets used yup and we're back to square one. No no no, we do not want that to happen. Debt is BAD.

He and I talked tonight on the way home from our date in the bigger "city" an hour away... we both actually like city life. He's from Detroit, and misses "civilization". And as for me,... well I think I'm just tired of the country, and I know in my heart I am not cut out for the whole "living in the middle of nowhere to get the mountain views and chickens" lifestyle. I prefer the front porch view of the lights of town over the back porch view of the far off mountains and overgrown farmland. Christopher was flabbergasted! (love that word) He said I never wanted to live in the city,.. well true, but I was young and naive and well really, I'd rather not raise kids in an urban environment. But the kids are getting older now...

So, we talked about time and plans... it just so happens our house will be paid off (just the trailer, remember we do not own the land it's on), around the same time as our bankruptcy clearing off our credit records... in about 6 1/2 - 7 years from now.
That also happens to be right around when Zoe will be starting highschool.

So, we have made tentative plans to stay here til Zoe graduates highschool, and for those 4 years that we do not have a house payment anymore, we'll put that money plus as much as we can into savings for a down payment on a real HOUSE ... in Indianapolis.

Yep. A city. Another state. I have never lived anywhere but Tennessee, and I may end up moving away from grandkids... but I LOVE Indy. We've been there to a convention before and fell in love with the place. Christopher has family in Indiana, in fact he was born in Wabash. I have co-workers and friends in Fort Wayne. It just feels like the right place for us to "retire" to. Oh we'll still be working, but it'll just be me and him ... two empty nesters finally starting *our* life together. I think it's an amazing thing to plan for.

Besides we can always come back and visit my family here.. though we're just not really close. We're all too busy I guess... And as for grandkids, well... we'll see what happens. They may all marry or get great careers and move away to the west coast. Who knows. I do know that Christopher and I need something more to look forward to. Our 19th anniversary is this year, and it's been a LONG and HARD 19 years... time to relax a little bit, have some fun with our kids, make some memories, and dream of the future.


  1. How fantastic to see that things are beginning to ease up for you. I know you are so thrilled. It's wonderful to have a treat every once in a while. Sticking to a budget is such hard work, but we all have to do it. God Bless and I hope all your dreams come true. Hugs, Marty

  2. I am so glad that everything is going so much better for you guys, I am still working on our budget around it. One of these days we are going to get there too...I just love your blog you are so real and I love everything about it please continue to keep blogging it is blogs like yours that lets me know that everything is not always good but God can take the bad and change it for our good. I love the TV my hubby wants one too but it is on our wish list especially now since we have the new baby, diapers is at the top of the list....Enjoy everything you guys deserve it. God bless

  3. Thanks ladies!!

    DeNiece I love your blog too! Your faith really does inspire me and I love when you post videos!
    Congrats on the new baby, she is gorgeous!

  4. Congratulations! I hope everything continues to go well for you and your family. :)

  5. Hey Patty,

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    I was on food stamps in California eight years ago, and trust me, they treat you just as badly there as in Tennessee. They must have a special training class for government social service workers on how to treat people like garbage and be pretentious....?

    I've been to Indianapolis a couple of times, the second time last summer, and I really like it there. There is a lot to do, the people are friendly, and the living is less expensive (than say, California.). I hope your dreams come true!!





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I love getting comments, and I read every one. Thanks for coming by my site and reading my ramblings. I hope you have a wonderful day! -Patty

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