When Every Choice Feels Like Life or Death: Dave Ramsey with a Small Shovel

Last week, I spent too much of our grocery budget.

I was sick of not having snacks to eat or to give our toddlers. As any mom knows, all toddlers want to eat are snacks, all day long, every day, and it gets really old cooking a new meal every five minutes just for it to get thrown on the floor and crushed. Plus, I’m breastfeeding, so trying to get enough calories to sustain myself feels like a full time job in itself. On top of all of that, I was stressed, exhausted, and hungry, because the week before I didn’t overspend my grocery budget.

So I overspent.

Of course like every time I make a mistake, there was an avalanche of other things that went wrong in the paycheck, so there was nowhere to cushion. Plus, it was the first paycheck that I had really felt like I could breathe so I treated us a little bit. We got Downy Unstoppables, and I got the expensive bar soap. Some Dave enthusiasts would remind me that this was my stupid and it was fault, and I should’ve planned for the future better, do better next time. I can hear it now, because I’m telling myself all about it now.

The problem is, it’s not stupid. Right now, we really don’t have a lot of extra money. We are making big, big financial sacrifices to keep our babies healthy and loved. We can’t afford for me to be a stay at home mom, but we are working every day to make it possible and to survive it because it is so important to both of us that our little girls have me home with them.

Because of those financial sacrifices we are operating on a very low budget, with very few places to save money. Because of having so much going on, we have very little time to make more money, or to find ways to save more money. Yes, there are little places we could cut, but even our FPU coordinator said she thought we had it cut down to the barest bones possible.

The problem with being that low with only that much money coming in is that every single mistake is a world shattering stupid moment that can domino into a thousand different things going wrong. When more money is available, it’s easy to just switch around the budget to cover a mistake and it’ll be okay. In our situation, if I make a single mistake ever on how much I spend, it could affect our lives for the next month. If I get sick and don’t meal plan perfectly, or if I am tired, or if my husband works overtime, its like the entire world falls apart and I start to feel like there’s no point in even trying.

What’s even worse is the ridiculous amount of guilt I am consumed by, like it is my fault that we are suffering and I don’t even deserve for us to be better because I am so stupid. I am not stupid, I am a human going through a million different huge life transitions all at once with hormones flying in a thousand different directions. I am swimming against the current with weights tied to my back. In these moments, it is important to tell myself that. It is crucial to remind myself how freaking hard our situation is, or I just crumble in shame at my own weakness.

I have to remind myself every single day that even though it doesn’t feel like it we are moving forward. I have to remind myself to be grateful for what we do have, but it’s ok to struggle with what we don’t. I have to remind myself that we are learning important life lessons, and we have to be patient. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to accept help when it is the difference between spending time with our babes or not. I have to remind myself over and over again that there is hope.

I’m not always good about this, and sometimes the reminders feel ridiculous and I start to feel so worthless because we haven’t worked it out yet, and we haven’t finished our journey yet, but we are still trying. We are not giving up, no matter what it takes. We are moving forward even if it feels like it will never be enough. Even on the days when I feel like I am inside of a tornado, I am not giving up this fight.

If you know what it’s like to struggle like this, and you want to cry when some people talk about paying off huge chunks of debt, know that I am here fighting alongside you, you are not alone. There will be good days when you make some headway, and there may be days where living within your means feels like dying, and I am here with you for every one of them.

If you don’t know what this is like, that is totally fine. I am happy for you, and I am glad that your experience is better, but please just be gentle with the people who are in different situations than you are. Don’t assume someone is lazy because they aren’t making every choice you would, don’t assume anything about them. The greatest thing you can do is to just be there, hear them, and remember when something was hard for you, and what you needed back them. I pray every time I feel this way, that when I am rolling in the dough in my nice, big, beautiful house, I will never forget how hard it was to get there, and I will love on anyone who is trying to make their own journey forward.

I hope we see each other on Baby Step 7 one day, have a blessed day. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

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Opportunity Cost

The hardest lesson I learned while doing Dave Ramsey has to have been his brief mention of “Opportunity Cost.” He mentioned it as if it was a given, but ever since then I have been hung up on it, struggling with what it means. Basically, opportunity cost means that when you spend your money on one thing, you can’t spend it on something else, and vice versa. It’s a silly thing to be so hung up on, but as someone who is low income and struggles with money anxiety, it is really throwing me for a loop.

I keep catching myself about to spend money working myself into a tizzy about how if I spend this money on this now I won’t have it to spend later. This could be a choice between x or y. This paycheck we had a small amount of extra money, and I worked myself into a panic trying to decide whether to pay off debt, go to the doctor, or go to the dentist with it. It is an almost crushing fear that if I make the wrong decision God will never forgive me and we will never have money again, which is ridiculous, but it is the worst of the fears that arise in me. What sucks even more about this, is I’ve done it a couple of times, and ended up wasting the extra money because I couldn’t decide which important thing was most important.

Even writing this it sounds ridiculous. I keep debating if maybe I was too spoiled as a kid. Maybe I didn’t know it but I got everything I wanted, so now I’m incapable of accepting defeat, but to be fair, that’s not how my childhood was, however much the people say millennials are entitled because they got whatever they want, I didn’t. I watched my parents struggle, a lot. I was terrified about money as a kid, so I think it’s more likely that every defeat feels like a promise that there will only be more defeat, and it will never get better. I think what I fight within myself is less the spoiled rich kid and more the savage Scarlett O’Hara turns into when she is fighting to make sure her family never goes hungry again. Who knows which is crueler, one who is fighting for their life, or one who doesn’t know how to fight?

The point is, though, that I am working on learning to be patient as we work the baby steps, and to accept that we are meant to use our money, and it is ok to take the risk that we take every time we spend any. Every time we spend a single penny, we cost ourselves the chance to spend anything else. What I have found is that when my Scrooge takes over(the side of me that hoards and is afraid of letting go) the money doesn’t get spent until my irresponsible side screams her way out and throws the money away on something stupid. Then, I lost the opportunity to give the money to any of the truly important things that it belongs to.

As odd as it sounds, I have found the most effective way of fighting this is to spend some money. While I am in Scrooge mode, I go grocery shopping, or I set some money aside. I practice trust in myself and my decisions, let go of the money, and afterwards I am able to breathe a little better. It’s not irresponsible spending, but something that has to be spent anyway, to give myself the feeling of letting go, but in a responsible way. I’m not sure this is sustainable because sometimes I feel like I should have waited, but for now it works against the hoarding impulse.

The other thing that is really helpful for me is talking to my husband about it. Even if he doesn’t have the right advice at a given time, speaking my concern out loud sounds insane enough that I’m usually able to calm down a little and see what’s happening. But usually my hubby has some great calming words that help me to slow down, take a breath, and make the right decision.

Overall, doing Dave Ramsey is sure ripping up the carpets in my mental fixer upper. He’s opening up closets and caverns and broken pieces I didn’t know were there, or if I knew, I didn’t know how bad they were. I can feel the change happening in me as I try to stick with the baby steps and the intentionality that they require. It’s amazing to see how much money affects your personality and how much working on it can change who you are as a person. It’s humbling in a big way, but I’m hoping it pays off just as big in the long run. ♥️♥️♥️ Baby step 7 here we come!

The Problem with Gazelle Intensity

I should begin this with letting you know we are a low income family with a lot of big graces from God and our family right now. We are rich in so many ways, but when it comes to money, we are in a hard season.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling guilty over every single purchase I made. We set aside a small amount of fun money, and I spent it and my leftover Christmas money on gifts for my daughters birthday. I did go a little over budget, but I corrected it immediately when I got home. After that for a while, every time I spent money I felt arrested in a terrified state of “what if I spend it on the wrong thing, what if I spend too much, what if I buy the wrong thing?” And the worst question I asked myself, and I asked it the most, “Am I being gazelle intense enough?”

It was a constant refrain in my head. When I was cooking dinner, when I burnt dinner, when I cuddled with the kids instead of going out to earn extra money, when I watched a tv show, when I had to buy gas, when I made menus for dinner, when I worked on my writing instead of making money, it repeated over and over in my head, a sea of despair waiting for me around every corner.

Our lives right now are crazy, I know a lot of people’s are, but my husband is working full time, and in school full time, I stay home with our 2 kids one and two, who have been sick, teething, and not sleeping. I have a side hustle, but both of our cars broke so I couldn’t get to it for a while, and it’s hard to find time for it anyway. There are big sacrifices we are making for me to be able to stay at home with the kids, especially living with my parents, who have been gracious enough to allow us to do so.

Living in a basement has its challenges, we don’t have a standard kitchen set up, our storage is all makeshift and not built in, we don’t have a ton of space, cleaning and organizing and trying to figure out what to cook and trying to keep things from getting dirty so we dont have to clean take up a ton of time. Those things take money too. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty for the extra money spent on making sure we didn’t make a mess when we cooked, or staying home to clean instead of finding a way to make money, or forgetting to do VIPkid because I was caring for sick littles.

This last paycheck was tight, and then it was full of unexpected expenses. We got a really good look at being as Dave intense as possible, and it did not go well. I ended up in the hospital thinking I was having a stroke because I had the worst panic attack I had ever had. My husband and I started fighting constantly. We started resenting each other, the kids, and everyone else around us. We were miserable.

The thing is, that the baby steps are, for some people, a marathon, not a sprint. A tired, weak, broken gazelle cannot run at full speed ahead, they can only limp forward as fast as they possibly can. Yes, I know we need a bigger shovel(for Non Dave Ramsey people that means we need a higher income) and we are working on it, but we are not willing to sacrifice these early years with our babies to work every minute and lose this part of their lives when we are meant to be loving on them. We lost babies before, and I will not lose this time holding them, and snuggling them, because I know what it feels like to never get to hold your baby, and I never thought I would get to hold the ones I have.

But back to the point of the post, the problem with gazelle intensity, is that it looks different for everyone, and it can sometimes be hard to see your progress if all you can see is how slow you are running.

Last night, my husband sat down with me, and told me that our credit card is down $1000. All I knew before that, is that the payment just isn’t going down like it used to. We talked about the fact that we are cash flowing things that we never could have before. We talked about how many sacrifices we have made, and we talked about times in our lives when we made bad decisions, but for once, we also talked about the times we made good ones, and really, some of the bad ones we made as carefully as we could, and minimized damage.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have room for improvement, or that other people shouldn’t be working as hard as they can, or that YOU don’t need to be more gazelle intense. What I am saying is that it is important not to get so caught up in where you’re going and how fast you are or are not getting there, that you miss what you are becoming and what you are experiencing along the way. Gazelle intensity is important, but it is not everything. Your health and happiness still matter, so do your best, be as gazelle intense as you can, but breathe, and take care of yourself along the way.

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