05 June 2021

The Day Disaster Struck

I was a happily married mum to two gorgeous little boys. We lived a comfortable existence. I worked part-time and we were renovating our home, slowly, as we could afford to.

We lived a very good life, going on holiday and weekend trips six or seven times a year.  Everything we bought, we bought new. We ate well, our fridge and freezer were always full, as was our bin each week when I plonked the contents of the fridge into it.  We drove a nice car. Our boys had toys, so many toys we could have opened a toy shop. And we had expensive hobbies (mine is creative tapestry, Wayne's is model trains).

Thankfully we didn't have a lot of debt apart from our home loan.

Because one Thursday my part-time job ended unexpectedly. It was a little upsetting, but after we talked about it that night we decided we could manage on one wage for a little while, at least until the boys were both in school.

And then the next day Wayne lost his job. Out of the blue, he was jobless for the first time in his life.  Oh my goodness, was I upset . I was so upset I made myself sick, and spent all weekend in bed. On Monday morning my very caring husband dragged me off to the doctor.

Turns out I was sick for a reason, and it wasn't unemployment. Baby number three was on her way!

So we had one mortgage, two toddlers and a baby on the way. We also had a half a house. We had started renovating two weeks before Disaster Struck.

I wish I could say that I mustered my resources and became an instant Cheapskate. Instead, I went into denial and shock for about six months.  It took that long for me to figure out that I didn't want to change our lifestyle, I really liked the way we lived.

To say we were stressed is an understatement. It took me those six long months to get my act together and realise that we could sink and lose everything we had worked for or we could change our attitude and our habits and get through what I thought would be a temporary hiccup. As it turns out that was one long hiccup - three years and 9 months in fact.

We survived, and from that disaster we grew stronger and much, much wiser and learned some valuable life lessons too.
We learned that we didn't need to have new clothes for every special (or not so special) occasion we went to.
We learned that little children really do have more fun with the packaging than the contents.
We learned that new babies will come when they are ready, whether you are ready for them or not. And that they don't need freshly decorated nurseries, lots of brand new baby clothes or new bassinets, bouncers, strollers, prams, baths or any other baby accessory that is fashionable.

We learned to shop for the things we needed and wanted on a very tight budget.

We learned to appreciate the things we had: books, videos, games, our own backyard and our own dining room.

We learned that being the first in our peer group to have home birthday parties started a trend - and saved money.

We learned that camping on the banks of Blowering Dam for free was the best family holiday we'd ever had and repeated it over and over until we moved away.

We learned that eating meals cooked from scratch was so much nicer than eating pre-prepared meals. And I learned to really cook, from scratch, with ingredients, not products.

We learned that little boys had as much fun riding their bikes around the block with their Daddy as they did at the play centre - and Daddy had more!
We learned that we could still wear stylish clothes, have holidays, give gifts and entertain - we just did it differently.

And we learned not to panic. Continuing to pay bills on time, being honest with our mortgage lender and sticking to a very tight budget (we had less $340 a week coming in) kept food on the table and a roof over our heads.

The day I realised saving my family was up to me was the day I vowed we would never, ever be in that position again.

From that day on we took control of our money, we stopped it controlling us.

We took a long hard look at our lifestyle and the way we were living and made some changes. We were stunned at just how much some of the things we thought essential were actually costing us - and just how unessential they really were. We cut right back and no one noticed!

In fact I had mums at playgroup asking me what we were doing. They knew we were both out of work, but they couldn't see the changes in our lifestyle. To all intents and purposes it hadn't changed at all. We still did most of the things we'd always done.  

There was a change though, and it was so simple: we ditched the things that weren't important to us so we would have the money to enjoy the things that are.

We became Cheapskates and we started living the Cheapskates way.

Twenty-three years on we are still Cheapskates and we still live the Cheapskates way.

We still live on a tight budget. We still account for every cent we spend. I still cook from scratch, grow as much of our food as I can, preserve the excess, make some of our clothes, buy in bulk, shop the markdowns first, save regularly, never knock back a freebie and the list goes on and on.

Our life is better than ever, better, I am sure, than it would have been if disaster hadn't struck.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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