One month down.

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Last month, I confessed that we’re broke and told you about how we’re going to fix it. This past month has been eye-opening, to say the least… and has sucked, more than a little. Here’s an update on the first month of our Total Money Makeover:

We budgeted everything out to the “t” and realized that we have way more expenses than income. Not a good thing. So, we decided to make some cuts.

First up, Starbucks. Ouch. Yeah. To fill the void left by a lack of Starbucks deliciousness, we have been making coffee at home. And, since hot coffee in the summer isn’t usually appealing, we make a pot of hot coffee, add some sugar, and put it in the fridge. Then, when we want a cold coffee, we pour it over ice, add a little milk or creamer and voila! Caffeine on ice.

(And it cost pennies for an entire pitcher of coffee as opposed to $4 per cup. Win.)

Next, going out to eat. We used up a gift card for a Father’s Day dinner (and made total dorks of ourselves). We have been eating at home, and inviting friends over. We have cut back on the alcohol purchases by settling for the super cheap stuff, and only on occasion. (Did you know that Mojitos are just as delicious with the bottom shelf rum? They totally are.) Of course, there are times when it’s lunch and the kids are screaming to eat and I don’t have the energy to make lunch after spending the morning at the park. In those occasions, we roll through McDs and settle for the Dollar Menu stuff, instead of getting those darn Happy Meals that cost a fortune.

Gas. We got kind of lucky on this one. Clint started a new job this month that is all of 5 miles down the road, instead of the 30+ miles he had been commuting before. We have been staying around home more, and I have curbed (most of) my whims to take long drives to visit friends and family who live a couple of hours south of us.

Credit Cards. Our current credit card has a 0% APR until September. We knew full-well that we wouldn’t be able to pay off the $7,000+ that was on the card in the next month, so we started looking at other options. We decided to divvy up the balances between three different credit cards that had 0% APR offers (and one that had free balance transfers, to boot). It sucks to pay balance transfer fees for basically nothing, but it would suck more to pay back-interest on $7,000. We’ll take the fees, thanks. So, now we have bought ourselves another year of paying off our debt and have vowed to not add any new debt to the cards.

Cutting the Cord. My hugest vice is my Costco credit card. I love Costco and I love finding things I didn’t know I “needed” when I’m there. With a family of 6, I can’t cut Costco out of my life, but I can cut up the card. I won’t impulse buy at Costco when I have a specific amount of cash in my hand, so that’s how I’ve had to force myself to face the big C. It is tough, but totally necessary.

This past month, we have turned down several different opportunities that would end up costing us money. We have gone through the highs and lows of making our way to financial freedom. Right now, it feels like we’re trapped, but I know that if we keep doing what we’re doing and stay smart, that things will turn around.

Our bank account looks slightly better than it did this time last month, which is funny, considering that we have been spending more money out of it, since we’re not putting anything on the cards. We still have a ways to go before we’ll see a significant balance, but I believe it will get better. It has to.

I have had a recurring dream that I can only attribute to the stress of our finances. In every dream, I am immobilized and can’t move, no matter how much I want to. Sometimes, I’m stuck in a very small space and start to hyperventilate because I don’t know if I can get out. Other times, I’m walking and have a place that I’m focused on getting to, but my legs give out beneath me.

These dreams are frequent, vivid, and disturbing. I really want them to go away and I am certain that they all reflect what I’m feeling about our finances. We can see where we need to be, but we can’t get there as fast as I want us to. Unless we have a windfall of thousands of dollars, paying off our debt and building savings is going to take a very, very long time. I want us to be able to splurge. I want us to decide to take a weekend roadtrip and have it happen without stressing us out financially. I know we will. But for now, I feel trapped.

Another month has begun and we’re still at it. We need to sit down and reevaluate our budget, compared to how it worked out last month, but I think this month is going to be even better. We have our Costco card and Macy’s card to pay off, and then we’re cutting them up, and that will feel awesome.

Until next month…

Lindsay Maddox sips on her budget-friendly coffee while she writes for My Life Monday on The Balancing Act’s blogging community and on her own blog Silly Mom Thoughts. Since you won’t find her racking up credit cards at the mall, you can find her here and here.

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