Last October (2011), Lester and I declared that 2012 would be the Year of Austerity.
We scaled back on some non-essentials, reduced our weekly cash-on-hand, and resolved to save much more money.
A year later, here's the long and the short of it: We did save SOME money. But not nearly as much as we planned.
There are a couple reasons why. The biggest is our air conditioning fiasco, when our decades old AC unit conked out on us -- during the hottest summer ever! (I'm not making that up; 2012 is on record as the hottest year EVER.) We were forced to completely replace the AC system, and since we are debt-averse (when it can be helped), we just paid for it out of our savings. That was $6,000 we hadn't planned for. Ugh. Just typing that makes me want to weep.
Also, we underestimated how much having a new baby around would eat into "discretionary" money. Taking the full 3 months off for maternity leave, for instance, meant missing three paychecks. That doesn't seem like a lot, but when literally every dollar is accounted for (and with Lester Davis-budgeter-extraordinaire around, believe me EVERY dollar is accounted for) missing three paychecks was a big hit. Not to mention formula and extra diapers and other stuff. Small stuff all adds up.
And finally, I think we have really realized that having every dollar accounted for is just fine until life happens. Plumbing issues, school supplies, new fall clothes for the growing boys, car repairs, computer battery dies, prescription meds for sick kids, babysitting, etc. etc. The list goes on and on.
We realize there either has to be more "disposable" money (or else we will always be tapping into what we'd like to be savings), or we need to be more honest, or realistic is a better word, about how much it really costs to live day-to-day with three little kiddos.
It reminds me of when we first started with our accountant, Joe, and we were newly-married, without kids and saving money at a rapid clip. We were so proud, and so smug. "We're saving like 20-percent of our take-home," we told him, clasping hands and looking giddy.
"Yeah. That's not sustainable," he said.
We were so confused at the time. And we considered not sticking with Joe. Shouldn't your accountant be more encouraging about saving money?
But now we understand, Joe. Now we understand.