Tightening our belts

Look at this picture of Adrienne playing in the snow! She bundled herself up yesterday morning and was making snow angels when I got home from the gym. Daniel took her out for a photo shoot at the Lamberton Conservatory near Highland Park, and after experiencing the tropical temperatures inside, it was time for some fresh air. Fresh, cold, seven-degree air. Hey, at least the sun was shining.

Ah, February, the shortest month of the year. Also the longest month, at least in my most recent experience. This year, I have to say that January 2015 was the month from hell (and not just because of my birthday), what with all of the illness and those long, LONG, dark, sleep-deprived days and nights. I tried as hard as I could to stay positive and enjoy my sweet little two-month-old baby boy, but MAN, it just wasn’t happening most of the time.

Now I am pleasantly surprised and delighted when I realize it’s five o’clock p.m., I’m looking out of my kitchen window across the fields in the backyard, and HEY! It’s still light outside! This has been the sunniest winter in Western New York that I can recall in recent years, and I’m not complaining about that one little bit.

I will, however, complain about the cold, because it’s been freezing-ass cold. -9 degrees Fahrenheit this morning when we got up. Fires in the fireplace. Slippers required before feet hit the hardwood floor of our bedroom, which is located right over the garage. Endless mugs of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, anything to take the chill (and the fatigue) away. I can’t help but worry when I hear the furnace running around the clock, because I simultaneously hear cash registers ringing with a resounding “cha-CHING!” every minute it’s on.

Money. *sigh*

This fall, I sold my house in Buffalo and was finally able to pay off all of my credit card debt (applause, whoop whoop, hooray, etc.). Aside from student loans for my useless–I mean, esteemed graduate degree, we’re doing pretty well on the debt front these days. I do NOT want to go down that demoralizing road again, so we are determined to live within our means from now on. Lesson learned, finally.

Daniel also made the decision to quit working his night-shift job at Wegmans three times a week so that he has more energy to focus solely on making photography our livelihood. Because of the Affordable Care Act, Wegmans would no longer offer health insurance to its employees unless they worked 30 hours or more per week, beginning on the first of the year. That was not an option for us, so he left Wegmans on December 31st. While it’s been great having a non-zombie for a husband around and available in the mornings and evenings, it also meant our grocery money disappeared. I always joked that Wegmans should have just directly given us our groceries every week in exchange for Daniel throwing stuff up onto the shelves in aisle 15, but that’s not how they roll.

So here we are, dearest February, and I have to say it’s looking pretty lean but quite doable at the moment. We don’t have any expensive hobbies to maintain, unless you count music lessons, which I would never categorize as a “hobby” but I might be slightly biased. There’s lots of healthy vegan and vegetarian food on our menu rotation, and we make most of our food from scratch. Gently-used clothing comes in generously from family and friends, because why buy brand-new clothes for kids that they’ll grow out of in three weeks, or even better, put an unrepairable hole in it? We utilize our local library almost every week. We watch movies on Netflix and play outside in the snow. As I look for more and more ways to stretch our money, I have found that living frugally has made me live more mindfully and waste less than ever before. And as we put every ounce of our energy and resources into family and our photography business, I am becoming even more grateful for the things I have (health, great kids, and a wonderful marriage), and the many simple ways we like to fill our time.

Less has become more.