Almost 2 months into it…

And I thought some of you might be curious as to how my transition to no paycheck at all has gone.

I stopped working at all at the end of June (I’m a freelance writer and although at home with my 2yo since Feb 1, have been doing several stories a month while she naps/before she gets up.)

Not working is kind of a mental shock. I’ve worked half my life, and to not bring in any money at all is strange. My initial reaction to this was frantic cleaning/organizing, etc…figuring everything had to be done and perfect at home since my DH was the only one working.

I was really disoriented, unfocused, and frankly nowhere near as productive as I could have been. But a friend, another SAHM who’s been at it longer, reminded me that I work too: chasing around a toddler, managing the budget, doing all the housework/gardening/shopping/cooking is work, as we all know 🙂

And then there was the spending. If I look back to my old days, I’m a reformed person, but I’m nowhere near reformed enough to live on DH’s nice salary in the SF Bay Area. We have no debts except our 5 hundred dollar loan and the mortgage, but that’s huge, more than half his take home every month. I’ve had to really tighten things more.

Here’s what’s worked (and hasn’t):

1. Cooking from scratch: doing even more of that than I was before, but it’s ONLY cheaper if you shop around for ingredients. In this area, buying flour/sugar/etc. can vary widely in price from store to store. A price book and an ability to stock up helped me. Plus I realized I was willing to pay more for bread machine flour since we see a big taste difference — and I make all our bread — but I won’t pay more than 99c a bag for 5lbs of regular flour which is what I use for everything else.

2. Gardening — this can be a huge money sink, and confession time, I think mine has been. Though I’ve had great potatos, tomatos, herbs, zukes, peppers…it’s cost me money to buy topsoil to hill the potatos, mulch, and of course the plants themselves. Next year I’m going to see if I can do everything from seed.

3. Thrift stores/garage sales: every piece of clothing I’ve purchased in the last six months has come from one of these two sources. Plus the vast majority of her toys, including all outdoor toys. Plus shoes, plus decorative items, etc. However, I have been known to get carried away, and since cash is always tight, I set a $ limit each week and then if I go over it, I have less the following week. The only way in which this area is great to live in — from a frugal perspective — is the garage sales. There is so much money here you can’t believe what people get rid of, often brand new. It’s kind of sickening, really.

4. Library — I go on, see what I want to read, then reserve themat the library. This works particularly well for new books…when you find out one of your favorite authors has a new one coming out, you can just reserve it. You may wait a bit, and it costs 50c here to reserve, but it’s worth it. DH does this as well. We LOVE the library. I also take DD to free toddler story time, we check out books together, and she’s as into reading as mom an dad.

5. Free entertainment: Zoo membership pays big dividends for us…we can go to 30 great attractions in Northern California alone, for free, and more throughout the state. And we take advantage of free concerts and events. Even a historic walking tour is fun for our 2yo, since she can run around, ride her bike, etc. A trip to the beach, a picnic lunch, lots of playing in the sand goes a long way for both DD and I to recharge LOL

6. Attitude: you’re either deprived or you’re creative. I think I said this earlier this week but I daily have to talk to myself about this. If I’m creative, I’m empowered, in charge, on top of things, and the world is going my way. If I’m deprived, well, forget it!!

7. Think about every single purchase: this is hard for me. Tough to not buy for my DD (she doesn’t ask for the most part, it’s me who wants to LOL), tough to have to wait, tough to have to make do. But when I do this, I find I can make do.

8. Decorating: one of my biggest money sinkholes of all time. I’m a closet interior designer – not really, I just like it – and I’ve always had a hard time controlling how I spend on the house.

Garage/thrift stores help, but…sometimes you just get that itch to redo things. And right now, there’s no money. So my strategy: I rearrange/redecorate with what I have. It works well, I feel I have a fresh new look, and most importantly, I don’t feel deprived.

Sorry for the book! But I’ve vowed to be less of a lurker now that I’m back on the list.