One of the things I read about many times as I contemplated starting a blog was the importance of having an editorial calendar so that you had blog posts scheduled in advance. That way when your schedule shifts due to an unexpected event, you have some wiggle room in terms of keeping your blog on track while dealing with life’s twists and turns. Turns out this is really great advice – advice I didn’t follow even a little but – but great advice. All that to say, lots of life has been happening around here in the last few months and posts haven’t gotten past the swirling around in my head stage for several weeks.
- First ER visit with either of our kids
- Major surgery and recovery for my husband
- Saying goodbye to my uncle after a long, hard-fought battle with MS
- Learning firsthand the role the executor plays in the probate process
First off, my son and husband are doing well (fully recovered and on the mend, respectively). My heart, however, will never be the same.
Apologies for the radio silence. I am back in action and determined to get on a regular posting schedule. Some of you have asked for the option of subscribing to the blog so the posts will be e-mailed to you. If that is of interest, please subscribe at the bottom of this post. It would totally make my day. Today I am sharing some thoughts from our recent happenings to get back in the groove.
The Importance of Health and Wellness
Our family experienced a harsh dose of reality this spring when we found ourselves with half the crew on injured reserve and the other half trying desperately to adjust to new caregiving routines and find some semblance of equilibrium.
Fortunately, the recent period of healing and caregiving at our house was short-lived in the grand scheme of things, but it included some long days and nights that served as a vivid reminder of how easy (and foolish) it is to take your health and normal daily living activities for granted. Humbling doesn’t even begin to cover it.
We are in the process of learning how to better care for ourselves, fuel our bodies with real food and incorporate more movement and activity into our days. It’s simple, common sense stuff but represents a pretty big change in mindset for us. Lifestyle changes are largely focused on behaviors and habits, just as effective money management and accomplishing financial goals are more dependent on behaviors than math.
The Power of an Emergency Fund
We have maintained a rainy day fund for the last several years. During the creation phase when we were setting money aside each month to build our emergency fund, it was top of mind. After it was funded, however, it became something we really appreciate, but often take for granted because it is always there and requires no attention. Up until recently, we hadn’t faced a situation where tapping the emergency fund was a real possibility. My husband’s recovery from surgery this spring was longer than we anticipated with more time off work than planned…and it was a noticeable hit to our budget. We ultimately didn’t need to dip into the emergency fund, but knowing it was in place provided a much-needed financial security blanket during a time of uncertainty and stress. It was an absolute relief to know that we could focus 100% on getting everyone healthy without worrying about how to cover the mortgage payment.
Medical Savings Accounts Can Quickly Disappear
Our general approach to covering medical expenses has been to keep enough money in our medical savings account to cover the annual deductible for the family ($4,000 in our case) and rely on our emergency fund to cover out-of-pocket costs above and beyond the deductible, should they arise. Let’s just say that an ER visit with a toddler for second degree burns, several follow up visits for dressing changes, a major surgery for your husband with pre and post-op MRIs and post-surgical physical therapy sessions will make quick work of reducing your medical savings account to zero. We are currently rebuilding our medical savings account and contemplating beefing up the “minimum” balance given our recent experience. I hope to never grace the doors of the emergency room again, but our fearless two-year-old may have other ideas.
Retail therapy is a slippery slope
I am not a shopper. Going shopping doesn’t register as a fun thing to do or something I would seek out as entertainment. At least that was true before I had kids. During the stress and exhaustion of our recent adventures, I found myself buying things to “make things easier” or “cheer us up.” Sure, they were small items and nothing that by itself would bust our budget, but a bunch of little impulse purchases can add up over time. Impulse shopping seems to be a bit like keeping potato chips in your house. Once you open the bag, you have almost zero chance of resisting the temptation. It is clear that I need to remain a stick-to-your-list shopper to avoid a repeat of retail therapy indulgences. And possibly cancel our Amazon Prime membership.
Cash is King for Grocery Budgets (at least at our house)
I am a big believer in using cash to manage your grocery budget. Mostly because I am lazy and don’t want to mess with trying to keep track of grocery spending for the month via a debit card. I do the bulk of the grocery shopping for our house and find it much easier to “track” the grocery spending by looking in my wallet each week to know how much I have to spend for the week’s meals.
We have consistently used cash for grocery shopping for the last four years…right up until medical mayhem arrived on our doorstep this spring. I had plenty of excuses handy. I was tired. So tired. I was sad. I was worried. I was scared. I was still tired. I forgot to go to the bank to get cash before going to the store. I’ll use my debit card this one time and then get back to our usual system. That went on for about six weeks, during which time I overspent the grocery budget by 40%. Ugh.
The reason cash works so well (for me) is that I do a much better job sticking to my list (and meal plan) when I am shopping. I have a finite amount of cash in my wallet for groceries and when it is gone I am forced to resort to shopping in my pantry and freezer. There’s a reason soup often makes an appearance on our menu the last week of the month. Using cash keeps me between the guard rails. There is no way to “overspend” the grocery budget when it is in cash. You either have cash or don’t. End of story.
When I use my debit card for grocery shopping, it is way easier (for me) to rationalize impulse purchases because somehow a $125 per week cash grocery budget becomes “around $125” in my brain when a debit card is involved. So, if I end up spending $150 instead, it doesn’t feel like a big deal with my debit card even though with cash I would clearly be coming up short to pay the bill. It doesn’t take very many $20-$30 overspends to screw up the plan and leave you scratching your head at the end of the month wondering where the train got derailed. All this to say, use cash for groceries. It works.
Estate proceedings require patience (and yoga and wine)
We are making our way through the process to settle my uncle’s estate. It is messy and painful and complicated and exhausting. A classic game of hurry up and wait, which is not a strong suit for my type A self. Please, please, please tell the people you love what you want to happen with your belongings upon your death. Even Especially if the conversations are tough ones. A difficult conversation, while you are living, beats the pants off of someone trying to guess what you had in mind after you are gone. If you don’t already have one, get a will and update your beneficiary designations. It really is important and a tremendous gift to those you love.
thanks for reading,
P.S. Amidst all the adventures, we also bought a new-to-us car to replace our much-loved and high-mileage commuter. It is a lot of work (and a slow process) to save up the money to pay cash for a car, but it is so gratifying to opt out of the payment-of-the-month club.
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