Most people are pretty optimistic, happy folks. Or at least, they try to be.
When you make a lot of money, the world is all sunshine and rainbows, things never look or feel like they can go wrong.
I have at least a few stories that go pretty much something like this:
Family pulls in over $100,000 as a household income, everything is going rosy and up, babies are on the way, new houses are purchased for said babies and new cars to go along with the new, shiny, OMG-my-life-is-awesome lifestyle.
A sickness hits. A job is lost. Suddenly the family is thrown into a deep black hole and they start leaning on a line of credit or credit cards to make ends meet.
It takes them a bit longer to understand that their lifestyle has changed.
They don’t go out to eat.. as much.
They don’t shop … as much.
They host their families and pay for everything only once every 2 weeks rather than every weekend.
They don’t buy that bottle of wine they’re used to, they pick another, cheaper one.
…. but as the months tick by, and soon a year comes around and things don’t look like they’re improving, reality starts to sink in.
The line of credit is drying up.
The credit cards are getting maxed out.
Suddenly, they have to make a decision between buying milk for the kids to drink or putting gas in the car to get to work.
Sound familiar? It happens every day.
PEOPLE NEVER SEE THE BAD NEWS COMING
That’s why we talk about having a backup plan for things you simply can’t anticipate or plan for.
An emergency fund or a backup plan when these problems and snags in your life happen, are to help you weather the storm. The storm you prepare for, can be 3 months (at a minimum) or in some cases, a whole year.
Who knows how long it might take for you to get another job? Maybe the new job you get, doesn’t pay you as much as your first one did.
All of these things HAPPEN and you need to plan for them.
TRY BEING A LITTLE PESSIMISTIC WHEN DOING YOUR BUDGET OR SPENDING MONEY
When you set up your budget to track your expenses, try thinking about what is the worst that could happen (even if it never does, knock on wood).
What is the minimum (bare minimum) I need to live?
…and create a budget based on that net amount per month
What areas could I cut in a pinch if I had to?
Don’t go half-assed on this and say: Oh gas.. or Oh food.
Be realistic and detailed.
If you choose “gas”, what is your plan B? That you’ll get a public transportation pass? How much would THAT cost? How long would it take for you to get to work and back?
If it is unrealistic, an it is 4 hours to get to work and back versus half an hour and it is not feasible, then you need to find another solution (carpooling, maybe?)
If you choose “food”, what are the things you can do to cut back on food?
Don’t say “eat less”, because everyone has a minimum they need to eat.
Also, be realistic and practical. For instance, babies and children need milk or at least calcium supplements to grow, so you need to make that a PERMANENT, MANDATORY line in your food budget.
In contrast, you don’t need meat to live.
Plenty of people are vegetarian and vegan. We are mostly vegetarian/vegan during the week and eat meat only once a week and in a small amount. Baby Bun is also mostly vegetarian.
So brainstorm creative, realistic ways to cut back on your food before you are in the situation where you need to panic and actually do it.
Have a plan on hand and say IN DETAIL what you will do to cut the food budget:
- We will eat less meat because it is the biggest amount in our budget & we can cut back
- We will eat more [oatmeal / rice / pasta ] to fill up for cheap
- We will switch to [X brand] or buy the cheaper version of pasta instead of the fancy one we like
- We will bring our lunches daily rather than eating out
- We will stop going to get a daily coffee that we’re used to and make it at home beforehand
TRY OUT YOUR PLAN & BUDGET FOR A WEEK
I even recommend trying it out for a week to see if it’s doable. A month if you’re really adventurous.
My partner and I did that for a week and I was not a happy camper at the end. I survived on rice, oatmeal, potatoes, no meat and just vegetables but I said at the end of our little experiment:
We are not reaching this point.
I am going to save like a MOFO or cut back in other ways, rather than on food.
It was a very handy experiment to make you appreciate your current lifestyle.
REMEMBER THAT THIS IS TEMPORARY AND WILL EVENTUALLY END
Obviously remember that the cuts an things you will do to your budget to cut back is a hopefully TEMPORARY SITUATION.
In the meantime, while you are in Crisis Budget Mode, you can brainstorm ways to bring in more money too, like:
- finding another job (or two) just to bump up your cash flow even if it is at minimum wage and below your dignity.
- ask family and friends if you can do things for them for money (e.g. babysit their children, help them with their work, etc)
- look out for unconventional jobs (e.g. waitressing, bartending, cleaning offices or homes)
- ask your partner (if you have one) to pick up more overtime
- ask for help from your community and go to the food bank (then remember to give back when you are back in the black)
You don’t imagine you could ever lose your $100,000 job with the economy the way it is, so you live it up.
No one likes negative news, we all think everything is positive all the time which is why we spend everything we make.
WHO KNOWS? MAYBE YOU’LL IMPLEMENT THOSE CHANGES
We ate (progressively) far less meat since our experiment, and have since really cut back on our food budget.
People can’t believe that we can eat what we do and not spend thousands a month, but the trick is everything in MODERATION.
We love things like duck confit, but that is once every 2 weeks, if that.
We love seafood, but we only eat it every 3 weeks, if that.
We still eat what we love and never feel deprived, and on top of all that, we really REALLY appreciate what we eat when it is a luxurious meal like smoked Atlantic salmon on a baguette.
It has been a very nice change of pace and balance at our dinner table not to mention having lowered our budgets considerably.