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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Economic Stress!

Being a mom and surviving this tough economy is an incredible challenge. Everyone has their own challenges and I think nearly everyone has altered their lifestyles in reaction to the state of the current economy. I have a friend who is battling ovarian cancer, for example. Yet another friend’s husband, no sooner did they move into their new home, lost his job. In comparison, my problems seem very small.

If anything, this crazy economy has taught me a valuable lesson about saving money. In our case, my husband is a builder and I am a Realtor®. I hope one day to get out of debt and save enough money to last us a year if we need it.

I can bellyache about a lot of things regarding my lack of work in the real estate business. I can use that old adage that I am not working in spite of my child, I am working for him.

But the truth is I got into this business thinking that I could sell my husband’s homes on the side while staying at home and do both. The truth is I would rather be spending time with my nearly-three-year-old than having some jerk argue with me about a home warranty he promised to pay for. The truth is, I want another child but I can’t because we don’t have health insurance and even if we did, I’d be afraid of the costs on already tight resources.

When the stock market crashed in September ‘08, I knew my “cheese” had to be moved again. I didn’t like that. Already tightening the household belt, I didn’t want to have to tighten it further. But we did. I’d dropped my cheap gym membership and I would end up shopping at Aldi for our groceries (this helped us both save money on certain items and avoid other tempting items that Aldi just doesn’t carry, not to mention I hate cutting coupons). We got rid of almost every extra expense- our newspaper subscription, our AAA, and our Costco membership- that we felt we did not “need.”

I tried to think of how we could cut down on our other bills. Here are just a few examples on how we trimmed the fat:

I’ve started heating up water in our electric kettle instead of on our stove for things like pasta. During the winter months, I keep our thermostat down low and just put on an extra sweater. We’ve limited the amount of times we use our laundry drier and started using a clothes line for some of our loads.

Our showers have been cut back to 5 minutes. My husband was already good at this but I needed training. We are now bringing our son into showers with us versus drawing him a separate bath. For our land lines, we cut the one for our personal use and kept only the one for the business, since it’s run out of an office in our house. Plus, we decreased our internet speed so we could pay less. We are pleased to report we haven’t even noticed a difference (although, what were we paying for that whole time?!)

One of the hardest habits to break was our addiction to credit cards. We started living solely off our already strapped checking account. Besides, even with excellent credit scores, both of our credit cards had informed us they were jacking up our rates from 8% to 25% and that if we “refused” this, our accounts would be closed.

The cell phones and vehicles are a different story. These items are critical to our jobs. Otherwise, I probably would have volunteered to get rid of both my 2006 Rav4 and my mobile. But what we don’t need, in my opinion, is the TV.

I am still a firm believer that there is mostly junk on the boob tube and what might be useful is hard to tolerate, i.e. “the news.” However, we would have spent just as much money to get out of our contract as we would have if we would just keep the subscription for 9 more months. My husband has since convinced someone at our satellite company to give us some sort of price break and we’ve had a credit on our account for two or three months now.

Have I mentioned we are doing all of this on my husband’s unemployment checks? That I have been working part time at a local eatery and that the current administration’s “Home Affordable Modification” didn’t accept us because we have “too much equity” in our home? Don’t get me started on that!

When I do have a closing, that’s great and all, but $1,500 only gets us so far. That will pay our mortgage for another month but not a penny more.

The life insurance we decided to keep. Now that my husband is doing more manual labor, I fear something will happen to him and we will be left destitute. We also decided to keep health insurance for our toddler.

What I am trying to drop is my attitude. I know that my two-year-old is tapping into the stress. It is harder than ever for me to let things go about which I would normally be patient. I don’t want my son to be angry. I don’t want my son to be deprived. I want him to be confident and resilient and I hope I can discipline myself to provide those things for him in spite of our predicament.

Another way to trim the fat.

Lisa Duke is a wife, mother, dreamer, and Realtor® in High Point, NC. She is a member of You can view her blogs at or

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