Month 4

It’s the beginning of December.

Four months ago, Jennie and I were seriously talking about filing for bankruptcy. We had no money in the bank and we were spending more than we made, most of it on debt payments. We didn’t see any other way out.

Then a friend bought us a book, and paid to sign us up for a class.

We got that friend a nice card at Thanksgiving. It seemed the least we could do.

Four months ago, we were talking about bankruptcy. Now, we’ve saved up a $1,000 emergency fund. It took some hard choices, but we did it. We’ve got a budget that works. We’ve even budgeted money (not much, but money) to buy Christmas presents, and we don’t have to worry about not being able to pay the electric bill as a result. We’ve got a few more big bills coming up in the next couple of months, but after that, those credit card balances are going to take a beating like they’ve never seen before.

Our September budget was a disaster, but in October and again in November, it got easier and easier. Jennie works part-time, and her hours vary; and in October, we tried to make the budget work if she only got 20 hours a week, and wound up bumping it up to 25 to make things work at all. Now, with December starting, she’s out sick (ear infection and bronchitis), and her doctor wants her to stay home for a week. But the budget works so well now that, even with the unpaid sick leave, she’ll still make more than we need.

Our priorities have changed. We used to pay the credit cards first, and then worry about where we’d find money for groceries. Saving up an emergency fund was just about unthinkable. Now, we save first. Then we cover necessities — food, gas, mortgage, kitty litter, minor home repairs. Credit cards are last on the list.

And you know what? I think Somebody is telling us we’re doing the right thing. Because now that we’re doing it this way, we always seem to find the money to pay everything. Even though the credit cards are last on the list, we still find the money to pay even them.

And we’re not nearly as scared as we used to be.

I can’t think of a much better way to start the season.

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