Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Decade of Single Motherhood

It was in May 2003 that the girls and our cat and I boarded a plane, taking us from Rochester and X to L.A., and our new lives as a single parent family.

I will not deny it; that first year of single motherhood sucked a lot.

In addition to starting life over again, starting a new job, moving a couple of times, and dealing with the girls' adjustment to life without father, I was grieving. And making it even harder for myself by feeling like I had no right to my grief.

I had left him. I had moved. Everything had been my decision, so I didn't feel like I could feel bad about any of it.

But I did.

I knew it was the right thing to do, but it took some therapy to know that it was also okay to not necessarily be happy about it, either. That it was okay to mourn the loss of the life that I had wanted, that I had once believed I had, that I knew I would never have. And I had loved X for a long time, and it was okay to mourn the loss of that love that I had felt. And he had loved me in his own way, but I could also mourn the loss of a love that he could never give me.

Of course, that mourning had to be meticulously scheduled. I had to work, I had kids to feed, bathe and raise. I had to keep building our new life even as I mourned the old. It took a while.

And 10 years later, I am loving a life I never knew I wanted. I never knew I could juggle this much. I never knew I could be this close to my girls. I never knew I could have so many friends and so much love in my life.

Somehow I've managed to build this new life and strengthen our family and do it all my way. The girls and I have so many great memories of these last 10 years.

10 years ago, I was lost, angry and scared, but I can't fault myself for any of that. Had I not been those things, I wouldn't have delved into this new chapter of my life. And I know it was the best decision I ever made so that I can be here now. Long-time readers know that I hate to say I'm happy because that's an emotion with a beginning, a middle and an end. But I can say that I'm very happy to be celebrating this decade of single motherhood.

To all the single mothers, please know that you have much to celebrate this Mother's Day. But if what you really need to give yourself is a little time to grieve, please do. Tears are more valuable than flowers any day. The love of yourself and your children will make it a very special Mother's Day no matter what.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Budgeting Update: The Grocery Line Item

I don't think I've ever gone into detail about my grocery budget.  (So what if Financial Literacy Month is over?)

A few years ago, I started an excel spreadsheet that is now almost 1000 rows long of each item I buy, quantity, and cost per.

I menu plan first. And I almost exclusively cook in the slow cooker. I've accrued quite a few recipes through blogs, websites and books. Then I heard that emeals was now offering a slow cooker option, so I re-joined. (No, no referral fee or anything. I know, I'm so bad at trying to monetize this blog!)

I keep my grocery list in a note on my phone so that I can add things during the week as we run out.
On Thursday or Friday, I put together my menu for the coming week and finalize my grocery list. Then I go to my grocery budget spreadsheet.

It has been built one grocery trip at a time. It started with estimates of how much each item cost. Now, I take each receipt and update the spreadsheet with the actual amount spent for each item. Here in CA, we're not taxed on food items, but I do buy more than just food, so I go ahead and multiply the sub-total by the tax rate to come up with a total. I try to use coupons, but I don't always remember to do so, so I do not deduct any coupons from that total. Of course, if the total is over my budgeted amount, then I have to re-think my planned meals or forego a desired, but not needed, product or two.

8 out of 10 times, by putting together my list this way, I spend less than I have budgeted for my groceries. This week was one of those weeks where I went over. By seven bucks. Oh, well. It happens. I subtracted the overage from my "Miscellaneous" line item on my budget.

Previously, I've tried to keep track of my spending while shopping, but that's not nearly as reliable or efficient.

I also only shop once a week. If I forget something, then that recipe will just have to wait until next week. (Though, admittedly, it's not necessarily out of principle; it's more lack of willpower.) I usually have spaghetti or other easy items on hand to make do.

Every so often, I will make a trip to Costco to stock up. I also have a Costco shopping list tab in my grocery budget, but I do not dare rely on that alone. On Costco trips, we keep the calculator tool open on the phone so we can add as we go. I also compare and have found on some items, it is cheaper to buy at the grocery store than Costco so I know which items to leave off the Costco list. I'm proud to say, I have actually left Costco for less than $100.

I am absolutely dreadful at actually using left-overs, so I could still do better when it comes to saving money on groceries. And I wanted to kick myself when I came across a book of coupons from my grocery store that had already expired before I opened them. Still, I do have to balance my free time with saving money. Overall, this method is working for us.