The Secret Stash

Halfway through my first year teaching, we got married. As if being a new teacher wasn’t hard enough, my 2nd year about the same time we had our first baby.  I had made a commitment early on to be an at home mom, so even though it was much sooner than we expected, I suspended my teaching career at the end of my 2nd year.

My mom was a professional homemaker, so the idea of thrift and economy wasn’t new to me. I penny-pinched and DIY’d myself to homemaker bliss and also brought in small amounts of income on the side:  a little babysitting here, some music lessons there, a garage sale a few times a year, some custom sewing and craft sales….you get the idea.  It was never a great deal of money at once.  I put it in an envelope in my lingerie drawer and let it accumulate.**

If I got birthday money or had leftover in a budget category some month, it all went in there.  I didn’t tell anyone about it.  To be honest, I rarely thought about it myself.  It’s what the farm wives of old used to call their “egg money” or “cookie jar money.”

One day my husband came home as low spirited as a man could get.  His job had been suddenly terminated.  He made a mistake and was terminated for cause so we were not eligable for unemployment.  We had a small emergency fund, so we weren’t eligible for food stamps or medicaid either.  I called every agency I could think of, and we fell through the  cracks for all of them.*  By the time we qualified for help, we would be homeless.

My husband sat on the sofa with his face in his hands thinking about his dismal job options when there was a termination for cause on his employment record.  He had 8 mouths to feed and our small savings would last us 5 months IF we just paid for power, gasoline, mortgage and $200 a month for food and all other household needs.  We immediately canceled everything extra including music lessons.  Cobra insurance would have wiped us out completely in just a couple of months, so we had to let our health insurance go too. It wasn’t safe or recommended, but we were desperate.

Then I remembered my secret stash.  I had been hoping to use it for a family vacation or a home update project.  Instead, I grabbed the fat, worn envelope out of it’s lacy nest and brought it to my despondent husband.  His eyes opened wide at this unexpected gift. We counted it together and it was enough to buy us an extra month of job hunting time.

It was a blessing at the time, but we have mixed opinions about the wisdom of a secret stash.  My husband believes all income should be reported to the family and properly budgeted for, even if it is to go in the emergency fund.  While I can see his side of things, I loved being able to surprise him with more than he hoped for, and having a little “mad money” that I could decide for alone.  He agrees mad money is a great thing, but wants to budget for it.

What do you think?  Do you have a secret stash?

*I have since learned about 20+ Harvester food drop locations in driving distance from my home. Most of them do not require enrollment or proof of need, which would have been a blessing to me at the time.

**There’s also the law that even small amounts of cash income are supposed to be reported to the government, excluding gifts and garage sales where items are sold at a loss. I didn’t know it at the time, but thankfully the largest bulk of my stash was from garage sales and birthday gifts.

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5 thoughts on “The Secret Stash

  1. Shelley says:

    I think a secret stash is important! When you give everything to the family, it can feel like nothing is yours! When times are tuff, it is a reward for being extra frugal!

  2. Emily says:

    I don’t have any big stash, but once in a while if there’s $5 extra from the groceries, I tuck it in the back of my wallet. It always comes in handy down the road – even if it is a small amount. I don’t think there was anything wrong with what you did, and it saved your bacon! That’s what moms do; we provide for our families.

  3. Rejena says:

    My husband and I both have a stash–it’s not secret. because we both know about it. Ours never get very large, though–certainly not enough to cover a month’s expenses! We typically use our stash more frequently–either on a splurge item that we both agree on, to pay extra on bills, or more frequently, as garage sale money, which is used to purchase clothing or other household items. As long as it’s not a malicious, selfish secret stash of funds, I’m OK with it. If I ever thought my husband was hiding money from me, I wouldn’t like it. But, we are open and honest about it. Also, if he disagreed with me having a stash, I would probably not do it–or at least come to an agreement on having a stash of up to a certain amount–say, $50.

  4. JH says:

    I like the idea of a secret stash – but I see things from a different and unfortunate angle. When things in my life took a dismal and dangerous (to myself and my child) turn, my secret stash allowed me to stay afloat for a bit when I got out. In fact, knowing I had that fall back helped me to go at a time that I might not have otherwise left. I don’t want to sound dramatic, but in some ways it saved my life.
    I’d much prefer to use it the way Angela did, but either way, I’m all for it. 🙂

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