What is your first financial reaction to a hard week? To spend or save? I know for me, I want to spend to ease the difficulty. “Let’s eat out tonight, I’m too tired to plan a meal and cook”. Or, “we can make this easier by paying for that”. A few weeks ago my husband and I were tested by a series of events that made it so unbelievably tempting to escape it all by using money in flippant ways. As mentioned in my previous post, we were on a strict money diet due to over indulgence from a weekend away. September was our month to make it all back by being more frugal than usual.
We have known for months that at the end of the September we would be having two house guests for four days, followed by four house guests for five days the following week. I budgeted for this in my grocery shopping and made sure to include a homemade meal in the first couple’s visit and a hearty enough breakfast item to last the week and avoid spending three meals a day on restaurants. Eating out is the enemy when you’re trying to be good (and I think travelers would agree!). So, we were careful about where and how we chose to do that and I even bowed out of a couple of meal opportunities knowing that it would make the bill lower if I stayed home.
The evening they arrived, my sister (who is also my neighbor) went to the emergency room for stomach pains and it turned out to be a ten centimeter ovarian cyst that required same day surgical removal. Being the older sister, and her only family in town, I naturally wanted to be present for as much of the day as I could–full well knowing that I also had guests to entertain while my husband was at work. My sister has the same healthcare provider as us and one of the many advantages of where we live is that our hospital is within a few blocks of our apartment. I was able to dip in and out of there all day in between naps and surgery to check in on her, hang with her or wait to see her and get updates from the doctors and still keep our guests happy.
Blessing #1: Surgery went well and no emergency funds had to be pulled from in order to support the situation. Her insurance covered everything outside of a very small and reasonable co-pay and we were able to travel between the hospital and home with great ease and no cost.
The weekend our friends were to arrive we woke up to a huge ant infestation in our kitchen two days in a row. I had a big morning of cooking planned for the following day in preparation for the guests. We called our landlord, who promptly handled it by sending a worker with supplies to try to remedy the situation. The ant traps and sprays didn’t really solve the problem, but it certainly helped and we didn’t have to spend a dime of our own money to make the fixes. It easily could have been a scenario where our landlord didn’t respond for days and made us go out to buy our own products. Instead, he also set up an exterminator for the following week which required us to pack up the entire apartment, pull out every kitchen drawer, take down the curtains, clear out the pantry, etc. We ended up compromising and only doing the kitchen, living room and bathroom which were the main areas where we have seen ants in the past. That meant everything went into the bedrooms and that I had to leave the apartment for at least eight hours. I took a short job that started the next day and spent my crucial time away from home prepping for it in a local coffee shop with my on the mend sister. For the cost of decaf latte I was paid a day of prep to get my house debugged. Also nice to have a boost of second income when trying to recover from a tight spot. Our second round of house guests had a change of plans and didn’t end up staying with us, so that took a little pressure off getting the house back in order right away for their arrival.
Blessing #2: Because we rent, we were able to handle a very ugly situation with little additional cost to us. I bought three very cheap painting drop cloths from Home Depot to cover furniture and our landlord allows us to take expenses like that out of our rent, so that is what I will do for next month.
My parents flew into town last minute to take over providing for my sister. My husband and I had insisted that she stay in our apartment (along with our house guests) for two nights while she recovered because she needed 24/7 care and still had trouble standing up or sitting down and preparing her own meals.We did end up going over our grocery budget by $30 that week because of the need to provide food for these emergency circumstances. As I’ve mentioned before, I have gone far over $30 in a month before and for far less important reasons.
I had my monthly prenatal check up with the doctor in the midst of all this and found out I tested high for pregnancy diabetes. In order to get a more specific reading, I would have to fast for ten hours (which could be done overnight) and then take a three hour blood test that consisted of drawing blood four times. So you know, ask a pregnant woman to not eat all morning while stealing blood from her system and slap a little boredom on it and what do you have? A very irritable pregnant woman at the end of a long week who may or may not have diabetes.
Blessing #3: The tests came back negative and as I listened to patient after patient come into the lab having to cough up a $30 co-pay, I thanked God that my coverage made the tests free.
Then to top it all off, my husband’s grandmother died! It was at this point that we looked at each other and thought, “what else could possibly happen this week?”. This wasn’t exactly expected, but also not a total shock because she was 98, almost 99–so we knew it was eminent. No immediate action was necessary on our part, but it was still another thing on a pile of others. What a crazy time.
I haven’t had a two week period that felt quite the way this one did in a long time. Juggling thing after thing–no time to think, let alone respond to a text–all while trying to maintain your normal weekly routines and provide for others. I love the feeling of being busy, and I believe I am someone who thrives under stressful circumstances. But I was a whole new level of tired. Sleep hasn’t been as good as it used to be with a little baby growing inside me, so there were days where I felt like a zombie. I even ran a stop sign at one point, which was (thankfully) funny to my passengers (we were in a very empty warehouse-y part of town), but that was a sign that I needed to hand the wheel over to someone else–probably in more ways than one!
The thing I am most proud of when I look back on this two week period is how well my husband and I were able to work as a team to iron out anything that came our way. As much as it felt like a crisis at certain points and hilariously inconvenient at others; we trusted that each hit that came our way would be overcome. We rolled with the punches and served each other and our friends and family as best we could–and special kudos to my husband who still had to work full time amidst it all. I think a great lesson which came from this is we can get through a very stressful time without using money as a crutch, while still continuing to save (and believe me, I considered skipping a week or two of saving contributions!) and coping with discipline rather than money. I now know if we can make it through hardship and not falter financially, then there is no good excuse for failing at any other time. These kind of experiences strengthen us emotionally, but they are a great lesson in economic discipline as well.