We Couldn’t Afford Cafeteria Food.

Have you heard of those people who have underground bunkers and tons of food and supplies stashed away in case of a zombie apocalypse? Now I don’t mean to tempt fate, but what are the chances of a zombie apocalypse?

Now what are the chances that your child, husband, wife, or loved one could become gravely ill? How prepared are you to take days or even weeks off of work to be with them?

If your answer is “not that prepared,” let’s chat.

Before my Dad got cancer, before Gannon’s health issues began, I was living a life of unpreparedness. I was thinking about my expenses only until the next paycheck. I had never stopped to consider what life would look like if Craig and I couldn’t work.

I was saving all my PTO for maternity leave, Craig didn’t have much PTO left after Gannon was born. I went back to work part time 3 weeks after my c-section just to make sure we still had income coming in. We were scraping the bottom of the barrel before Gannon got sick.

When Gannon got sick, he was hospitalized for 5 days. To put this in perspective, I have a few questions to ask you to help you evaluate your current financial situation.

  • Are you prepared to miss one week of work? Do you have enough PTO to cover? What about your spouse?
  • Are you prepared to miss a full week’s worth of income?
  • If you’re married, are you prepared for you BOTH of you to miss a full week of income? (that’s TWO paychecks)
  • If you had to afford a hotel for a day or two to stay close to your loved one, could you?
  • Can you afford the gas money to drive to and from the hospital several times a week?

Think about this: You’re in the hospital staying with your child. You can’t cook food. You can hardly leave the room. Your options are eating out, delivery, or eating in the cafeteria and let’s say your spouse is also staying in the hospital.

For rough numbers, let’s say cafeteria food costs $10/meal per person. That’s $20/meal three times a day. That’s $60/day for food and let’s say they were hospitalized for 5 days like Gannon was. That’s $300 for JUST FOOD. Cheap food. That doesn’t include snacks or coffee or vending machines.

This was us. We were BROKE. We hit rock bottom. HARD.

My mom and dad so generously donated money to us to help us get through this rough time. If they hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have been able to even afford cafeteria food.

I didn’t have ANY decent clothes to wear in the hospital. Maternity clothes were too big, pre pregnancy clothes were too small. I used that money to buy a nice sweatshirt and sweatpants to wear around the hospital. Thankfully we were able to stay in Gannon’s room because otherwise we would have had hotel expenses on top of that.

I was SCRAMBLING to find a fax machine to fax in my time card so I could get paid. Craig and I scrambled and debated and talked some more about who would go home and work and who would stay at the hospital. I ended up leaving them both to go home and work. I’m ashamed that I ever let it get that far. I can’t imagine leaving my 6 week old in the hospital with Craig now just so I could go to work.

Gannon was initially prescribed very expensive formula called Alimentum. It was about $40 per tiny tiny can. We were so shocked. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford the formula our son needed.

We had every kind of debt imaginable. A dentist bill, car repair bill, close to $10,000 in credit card debt, a loan to fix our roof, even a loan on a couch.

Now I know it isn’t polite to discuss salary but I want you guys to understand how poorly we managed our money. Our total salaries combined was just under $100,000 that year and we couldn’t afford lunch in the cafeteria.

On the way home, I looked up Dave Ramsey’s podcast. I listened and listened and listened until I had gone through all available episodes – about 30 hours of podcast. I downloaded the audible book and we listened on the way home.

We cut up our credit cards. We paused our 401K contribution. We downloaded the EveryDollar app.

We budgeted for the first time in our 6 years together. We had spent – wait for it – $600 IN TAKEOUT/RESTAURANTS the month before!! That figure did NOT count groceries! We found $2,000 of money going down the drain the very first month we budgeted. We put it all towards our new debt snowball and emergency fund.

Last time I calculated it all up, we had paid off well over $20,000 since April 1st 2019 but more importantly than that, we have a $1,000 emergency fund. In a pinch, $1,000 can get you pretty far. It can cover a missed paycheck, it can cover a hotel stay, it can cover cafeteria lunches, and it really is the responsible thing to do.

How embarrassing was it that my parents were in the midst of battling cancer and I had to ask for money. That was my “never again” moment.

I’m telling you this for a few reasons.

On average, each household with a credit card carries $8,398 in credit card debt and greater than 70% of Americans can’t afford a $1,000 emergency.

Is this you? Do you recognize yourself in this blog post? Is this your “never again” moment? Are you sick and tired of working so hard and giving your money away to banks and credit card companies?

You have the power to take control of your money.

Where to start? Make. A. Budget.

Now I used to make budgets all the time. AFTER THE MONTH WAS OVER! It was a “look where my money went!” instead of “Look where I’m putting my money.”

If you’re intimidated by jumping “all in,” start with listening to The Dave Ramsey Show podcasts. Warm up to the ideas and strategies that will build your “taking control of your money” journey.

I’ll leave you with this as we approach the anniversary of our rock bottom:

This couldn’t be more true.

So while Dave Ramsey had totally and entirely changed our lives, I want to sponsor another giveaway! I have FIVE books to give away – the book that changed my life! Dave Ramsey’s “how to” on how to get out of debt.

To enter the giveaway please comment and share this blog post on social media! I’ve tried to run giveaways before by having readers comment on this actual post but I haven’t been able to get a hold of them before so this will strictly be on Facebook! If you don’t want to share this post, you can share any blog post you’d like!

Thanks for reading – this was a long post but something I needed to get off my chest! I hope that by sharing my story I can impact others!

11 thoughts on “We Couldn’t Afford Cafeteria Food.

  1. Helen says:

    Same boat years ago – auto accident changed our lives horribly. Both people who hit me were uninsured. I was in and out of work for 4-6 months at a time. Even with a percentage of my pay and “good” corporate insurance we went into debt FAST. Single mom with three children – one challenged. Still single, I now have 5 children (adopted twins), 2K CASH emergency fund in home safe, ~$20K in savings, live in income based housing and continue to work PT before signing up for SS. Last two in third year of university.
    MAKE A PLAN FOLKS – Medical crisis was (maybe still) #1 reason for homelessness & bankruptcy.

  2. Wendy Howard says:

    Thanks for this info and sharing your truth. I am trying to do the same but have not invested the time for Dave Ramsey. That is our next step in our journey for sure.

  3. Robin says:

    No need to enter me into the drawing for the books, I have them ALL! I’ve been a Ramsey fan for years and can proudly say we are in the millionaire category. I also gave my kids book kits when they graduated from high school. When my youngest was a senior the program was taught in class. It’s important to start young. Good luck to you and Craig on your journey. There is no doubt in my mind you will be millionaires! “Live like no other so you can live like no other”!

    • Linda Vipond says:

      Wonderful post. I learned this the hard way, too. If I win, I’d share the book. I know several people who would enjoy it.

  4. Mary says:

    So proud of you for learning how to budget and pay off your debt. When my children were young I worked one day a week and got paid every two weeks. My check was small but paid for groceries, haircuts, etc. one week after I got paid I cashed my check into small bills and change. I spread the money out and told my kids that this is how much money mommy had made and they were so impressed! Then I told them we were going shopping and they were going to use this money to pay for things. At the end of our shopping day they were shocked to see what a little bit of money was left. This made a lasting impression on my then 5 and 8 year old children. So glad I did that because they are both very successful with minor debt.

  5. Susan the Farm Quilter says:

    Love Dave Ramsay!! I followed his advice before he was around to give it. No debt. It allowed me to step away from my longarm quilting business 4 years ago so I could live with and care for my father – he’ll be 99 in June. Hubby still works at home on the farm and running his business. It has been 3 years since I have been home, but thanks to hubby I have a home to go home to. It is amazing to live debt free and it definitely allows you to live like no one else! Keep following the baby steps and you will come to live on this wonderful, debt-free side of the street!!

  6. Annie says:

    I’ve read the book and listened tonDave on the radio (in the car)! So, I’m good but Dave is GREAT!
    Always enjoy reading your posts.

  7. Tiffany says:

    I was in the same boat several times when I was married. After divorce I inherited most of the debt because I made a considerable amount more. I immediately made a budget as I knew I would be living in the same house with the same bills as when I was married but needed to cover everything on my own. Dave Ramsey did not work for me. It was something about the steps and having to do things in a certain order that didn’t fit my lifestyle. Even though you have a handle on thing I encourage you to go check out http://www.thebudgetmom.com she also has Instagram and YouTube. I think you have to find the right combo. I pull some from Dave and most from Miko. By May I will no longer have any credit card debt, my student loans will be paid off, my Isaiah’s university bill should be close to paid off, I have $1,000 emergency fund. I also now have sinking funds. Christmas, birthdays, and certain holidays will be cash funded by the time they get here. I am also on track to save for a new car in cash. Without Mikos budget binder I would not be in the shape that I am. There is something about how she puts pen to paper and shows where the money is going. I do not do actual paper envelopes but I use an app called simple budget and savings tracker both free on the App Store. You definitely have to learn how to be disciplined but when you see where your money is going it makes it easier. My next goal after a new car and 3 months of expenses savings will be investing. I love hearing success stories.

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