We aren’t broke. Broken, maybe, but not penniless. Though we’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck for a while, we have built a small savings account. Like just enough for one month of bills. Yikes. 

To be honest, money stresses me the heck out. 

I applied for unemployment the day I was fired, but that determination takes a bit…we have two credit cards, but not much room on them…and we have family who could help. All these things add to my ball of stress. 

I’ve always been the finance person in our marriage: I pay the bills, I set the spending limits, I know the account balances. Yes, you can take $20 from the ATM; no, we can’t take a vacation right now; yes, you can get a new pair of hiking boots. 

But with all that control comes a whole lot of financial burden. Did I pay the car loan? Did I transfer money from savings? When is the mortgage due? Can we afford karate or ballet classes for our daughter? Can we even afford Christmas?

It’s been a rollarcoaster. Some years we are in much better shape. But now, with no income coming in, what am I to do? Stress, that’s what. Lots and lots of stress. Pounds of it. Piles. Vats. Mountains. 

And breathe. 

My husband has been bugging me to go grocery shopping. He usually does that task alone, but this time I want to come (with veto power in hand). It’s not that I think he will overspend or make poor choices, it’s that I need something I can control, something tangible, something I can wield in my life. 

So we go. We take coupons and a list and separate carts. We meet up in various aisles to compare notes. Did you get cheese? Was it on sale? Any good deals on crackers or chips? We are surprisingly successful. No fights or arguments. We are on the same page. And on budget. 

I haven’t had to shop like this in a while. I’m not super spendy, but I definitely don’t penny pinch. I usually forget my coupons. I tend to veer far off my list. I love to pick up something fun for my kid. But not now, not today. 

And it feels good to stay on budget. Why don’t I do this more often? Well, I’ve been spoiled…comfortable in my employed-ness. In having a bi-weekly paycheck. In having job security. 

I choke on that last thought. Shake my head. 

It’s still so surreal. And overwhelming and depressing…but today I had a small victory, and I’m going to relish in it, just for a minute, because it doesn’t cost me anything.