October 25, 2015
No one is ever comfortable talking about money. Yet, for most of us who are trying to figure out how to make the amount of money we have go further, it’s all we can think about. And I don’t know about you, but if more people were open about how they manage to pay for this life, which keeps getting more expensive with each day I’m on this earth, then maybe we wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable trying to make realistic budgets that result in sometimes saying, “I’m sorry, I simply can’t afford that.” Honestly, I feel like when I don’t give that truthful response to my children, or the dozens of other individuals in my life that are inviting me to spend extra money we truly don’t have, that phrase is going through my mind anyway. However, when I don’t speak that truth out loud, I create an illusion for me, and an illusion for others, that money is not a problem, I’ll make it happen. And I usually do, by a credit card, tapping into savings, or stretching out a bill payment, and end up feeling sick with my choices. This vicious cycle has existed in my life for as long as I have been a producer of income, bills and expenses. When all I have to do to end the cycle is say no thank you, or I can’t afford it.
A few weeks ago, for example, I decided to start fresh, and was ready to make some financial changes: making a meal plan and sticking to it, not buying more than on my list from the grocery store, and spending less on miscellaneous nonsense that I won’t even remember a week from now. Makes sense to me to start this on payday, so Friday morning I began my practice of saying no. All three kids didn’t have school on Friday, and that usually means at some point there will be begging for a special treat or outing of some kind, but we already had the outing arranged; the pumpkin patch. A ridiculous way to throw away money at $10+ per pumpkin, but of course a family tradition I would not give up. They picked their three pumpkins and $30 later we were done. Then off to dance, where I remembered upon dropping them off, they have a long night and I forgot to prepare them a meal in advance, so they needed money for dinner. I gave them $10 and told them to make it work for the both of them. No more than thirty minutes later, my husband said goodbye as he prepared to visit his dad in Orange County for his birthday, and since his ATM card cracked in half, he needed cash. We decided on $100 to cover gas in the big car and a little money to buy his dad dinner. Day one: $140. The next day, I couldn’t resist the Fresh and Easy going out of business sale, which turns out wasn’t that great of a sale. I decided in advance not to buy anything I wouldn’t buy anyway, to avoid any unnecessary purchases and spending under the premise of a sale. In the end I got $150 worth of groceries for $123. But I only scratched the surface of our weekly grocery needs and will need to make an additional trip to another grocery store at some point. Our dance studio was having a fundraiser at Panda Express this same day, where we got two separate meals totaling $33. Hours later, the older two having been invited to a haunted house with their cousin, forced me back to the bank to withdraw an additional $40 to cover their tickets. In my defense, I told them this was not a freebie and they needed to work it off. While the big kids were having their haunted fun, I felt it necessary to do something special for the little one who decided she wanted to see the new Goosebumps movie in the theater (we almost never go to the movie theater). Well, as luck would have it, the only evening show was in 3-D, and I spent $25 for two movie tickets. Thankfully, we were full from our third trip to Panda Express that day, but my mom bought us that meal (Yay!!) Total for day two: $221. Day three’s spending is yet to be determined – my middle daughter is looking for homecoming shoes and accessories, and later tonight we are having a family birthday dinner at a local restaurant. My guesstimate for these two things? Probably $160. So in three days I have spent $521 that I didn’t “plan” on spending. And allow me to reiterate that I am only halfway done with day three, which means it might go up, most certainly will not go down, and I still have four days left of unexpected expenses to be sick over this week.
What’s my point? I don’t want sympathy, I don’t really even want empathy, I want reality. I want myself and the people around me to accept and embrace the truth of our finances and stop living beyond our means, because guess what, when I say no, it makes it easier for you to say no, and when you say no, it makes it easier for me to say no as well. I’m not whining about what I don’t have or complaining that I need more, I have a lot, and by the standards in the time that I was raised, we are rich. But when the cost of living is such that it is in this time, in this place, who am I kidding, I am not rich. Everything is painful – the meals out, the family traditions, the monthly birthdays and birthday parties, eating healthy, eating on the run, going to Costco, going to the movies, buying pointe shoes, buying work boots, and the list could go on and on. If I’m alone in this, so be it, enjoy your denial and your debt, or if you have more than one needs to live on, don’t expect us all to be able to participate unless you’re willing to help pay because I’m sorry, I can’t afford it.
but, I’m doin okay.
Can you relate?