When Disaster Struck I was devastated. It felt like our world had crumbled around us and life would never, ever be good again.
That feeling lasted about six months. In that time we discovered we were expecting our gorgeous daughter. We were living in half a house (because we'd ripped the back off our house to start renovating). AJ was getting ready to start pre-school. Interest rates went up, and up, and up and still that mortgage had to be paid.
It was when we were at our lowest point that I said "NO MORE!" We were not going to live anything other than the life we had planned. We were not going to lose everything we had worked so hard for. We were not going to give up, roll over and spend the next 60 years miserable.
That's when I became a dyed in the wool, true Cheapskate. The pity party was over and plans were being made.
I won't lie to you and say it was easy. It wasn't. There were times when my babies were eating Weetbix for dinner yet again or when I had to call the gas company and arrange a payment plan for the bill so we'd have heat when I just wanted to run away.
But then good thing started happening. Little changes Wayne and I were making started reap benefits. Shopping once a month and only once a month with a detailed list meant our grocery bill was under $200 and no one was eating Weetbix for dinner.
We were eating healthier too. I didn't have the money to buy convenience or packaged foods, so our pantry, fridge and freezer were packed with ingredients. I learned to cook from scratch (really from scratch - not the "just add water and mix" from scratch).
Knowing the meals we were eating were truly homemade and healthful made time spent in the kitchen well worthwhile. The food we ate was preservative and pesticide free and often organic. It was enough to have me doing the happy dance around the kitchen.
Another benefit was fewer trips to the doctor. As a family we had fewer illnesses, caught fewer bugs and just generally seemed less susceptible to viruses and colds. The money we weren't spending on doctors and medicines helped pay the bills.
Not having any money, and there were times I didn't even have 5 cents in my purse, helped us decide what was important and what wasn't. We decided to focus on the things that were important to us as a family and ditch everything else.
Suddenly we were saving money, more than we had ever saved when we had two incomes. Our income was around one third of what it had been and yet the simple changes we were making out of desperation were working. We were living life pretty much as we wanted. The bills were being paid. And we were building savings. And we were happy.
Every time I went to town I'd stop at the ATM and get a mini statement, just to make sure we hadn't miscalculated or were dreaming.
By simplifying our lifestyle and ditching the things we didn't really care about we had reaped numerous rewards.
We are homebodies. We love our home and our family and like nothing better than being home together. While before DS we'd be out most weekends, after DS we started staying home. We'd invite friends over for a barbecue in the backyard. The kids would play in the sandpit and on the swings, on hot days they'd run under the sprinkler while we grown-ups watched from the back verandah.
Instead of going out of town to playgroup every week we had playgroup at our house.
And birthday parties became fantastic affairs, with the house decorated with balloons and streamers and the backyard full of hidden treasures and homemade piñatas waiting to be whacked.
Life was simple. It wasn't always easy. We still worked hard. We started growing as much of our food as we could. I learned to bottle and freeze and dehydrate to preserve excess food. I also thanked my mother over and over for persisting in teaching me to sew. We may not have had any money but we were all well-dressed. I've used those sewing lessons from Mum many times over the years to give hand-me-downs a frugal makeover or to stitch up something new from scrap fabric. I've even managed to master breadmaking. Those first few loaves made great bricks. These days my bread is delicious and I've progressed to naan and crumpets and English muffins and pita as well as rolls and scrolls. And they're all good, and frugal.
We were building community along with our family and it was good.
We discovered that living the Cheapskates lifestyle does not necessarily mean giving up everything. It just means scaling down to a more manageable place so that you have more time, money, and energy to enjoy your newfound simple life - focusing on the things that are important to you and ditching the rest.