Monday, August 20, 2012

Managing debt in Bako

As I don’t work in the wonderful world of Bakersfield, CA, I would love to find a part time job where I can work during the kids nap time and school hours. Tall order isn’t it? I don’t exactly have a ton of friends to sell party items to, so those direct selling/MLM companies are out of the question. I have my $0 income photography business, but with us being almost $25,000 in debt, we’re barely staying afloat. 

I’ve learned how to manage the household somehow. The kids eat, are bathed, and clothed. The dishes washed, the floors mopped/vacuumed, and the dog is given food. Just because we have this debt doesn’t exactly mean we do nothing. 

Bakersfield has a few great things to do around town for free. My number one favorite free destination is the Beale Memorial Library on Truxtun. Not only do they have internet/downloadable audiobooks I can load from home, their children’s program is phenomenal.  They have a large selection of books, audiobooks, DVDs, and resources. Plus, if you can’t find the book you want, you can order it through the San Joaquin Valley Library System. There are very few books I have not been able to borrow through their system. They will even pull books off their own shelves for you if you place a hold on it. You don’t know how great that is when you have two young kids with you en route. The library’s hours aren’t the best, but hey, its California- 300% broke and spending more.

Another favorite activities are the sprayparks. I can’t tell you how much the kids use them. NOR just opened Polo Community Park half a mile from us. As soon as the gates opened, we have been walking there 2-3 times per week. Other than the spraypark, there’s numerous sports fields and 3 different playground areas for the kids. One is for 2-5, the other 6-12, and 12+. The only thing that the park is lacking is shade for the play areas. 

Bakersfield’s museums also have free days. The third Thursday of the month is the Buena Vista Natural History museum. If you have kids, you must absolutely go downstairs. The entire downstairs is a learning playground for all ages. It’s a little well-loved, so bring wipes or sanitizer for when you’re done playing/learning.

The third Friday is free admission at the Art Museum. We haven’t been there in awhile, but they have an area where kids can make a postcard and a leaf rubbing. At least that’s what we got to make. It’s a little small, but if you stop at each piece of art and ask the kids what’s going on in the picture, it makes it worth the trip- and don’t forget about the Art Museum’s garden off to the side. There’s a few neat sculptures in it and tons of shade! Who doesn’t love a pretty shade area?

Barnes and Noble also has storytime, but I dread going there with the kids. They see other kids screaming, wanting to pull books off the shelf, and tear up new books. Great if you’re into that sort of thing. I think I’ll stick to the library.

Neighbors. What kid doesn’t love other kids’ toys? Some neighbors even have a pool or a slip in slide. You can’t beat what others have. And it doesn’t cost anything.

As my family is in debt, we still have to live and manage what we have. We, at least I am, are grateful for what we’ve been given and am exhausted of all those advertisements and commercials for every materialistic thing. I’m tired of my kids thinking if we need something, we can just buy it at the store. We didn’t exactly shop ourselves in debt ($20,000 is the car; less than $5,000 is medical/bills). So instead of trying to find a part time job (where I would either never see my family or use ALL of my paycheck for daycare) I’ve decided to manage the household in a completely different manner.

One kid is out of diapers and the other is having a hard time remembering to use the potty. Only when he naps or goes to bed, he gets a diaper. Other than that, he can wear underwear or go nude (some days are just too hot to force clothes on kids). 

Shopping for necessities. Yes, I would love to buy a thinner bathroom rug, but the overly shaggy rug is doing just fine. I’ll just have to look for bugs before I step on it and pray nothing is breeding in it.

I purchase $20 worth of vegetables each week at the farmer’s market. We didn’t have a successful garden this year, so it made it hard to actually get anything from the garden. The birds and worms got to our tomatoes, the cucumbers produce a few too less, and the jalepenos who usually thrive in this weather quit on us. I think it was just way too hot this year for the veggies, hubby says it’s too many weeds. It was also poor planning on both our parts. My goal is to work on the garden this year so I can harvest and live off my garden next year. Little did I know, in zone 9, we can have a winter garden! You don’t know how excited I am about that! 

I buy milk, meat, luxury items, and gas at wholesale stores. I have a membership to both Costco and Sam’s Club. I purchase the two pack milk at Costco since Sam’s stopped carrying milk that way. I’ll buy gas at whichever. I buy only necessities and few luxuries (artichokes, Mac n Cheeese) at Sam’s since I know they carry the items I need year round. It seems like things are hit and miss at Costco for me. I’ve also found that Costco carries more foo-foo (gourmet/healthier) items at a slightly higher price. 

Another new way of managing the household is the diet. Do we really need 10 packages of packaged butter noodles? Ten boxes of Oreos? Absolutely not. So I’ve decided that we are going to eat healthier. Yes, $20 at the Farmer’s Market doesn’t seem like much, but skip the fruit and you can get a week’s worth of veggies. Bargaining also helps-they aren’t set prices. We, at least I, am trying to cut out sugar and carbs. No more fillers. Yes, the kids love PB & Js for lunch. If I make the bread, then they can have them, but no carbs for mommy and daddy. This means two vegetables and one meat at dinner. Period. Still hungry? Eat a salad or if you have some, fruit. Fruit must be in moderation.  My daughter thinks Lucky Charms and M&Ms  are good for you, but after telling her it’s chocked full of sugar, it really hurts her tummy and her teeth.

Speaking of teeth, $1,000 of our debt is I had to have an emergency crown put on one of my back molars. When he put that cap on, you don’t know how bad I wanted to bite my dentist. That sucker hurt not only my mouth, but our finances as well. Since then, I’ve brushed and flossed like there’s no tomorrow. I really don’t want my kids going through that pain.

These may seem drastic, but to tell you the truth, how much do you really need to buy? How much do you really need to eat? I know I don’t exercise, so I need to adjust my intake. We live in a 1,800 square foot home. How much clutter do we need in our life? If there’s a fire or earthquake, we won’t be able to save anything from our house. Life is about what is within yourself, not your house, fridge, or wallet.

Eventually we will get out of debt and someday hubby and I will take our honeymoon. Even if it is eight years late, that’s okay. We have each other and really, that’s all that matters. Yes I become anxious about the finances, but like hubby has told me numerous times, there’s really nothing I can do about them unless I get a job. I want the best for my family and my best is to be there for them.