I've had it. I'm tired of being broke. By broke, I mean the act of holding one's breath when looking at the bank account balance; the chill of fear when you stare in shock at the negative value in red. "Someone's stealing our money!" is the first thought. But then that kick in the stomach comes when you stare at the statement and realize that the only crime perpetrated is your inability to think before you purchase.
Now, we're not shopaholics. We don't have cable, we try and keep our purchases down and attempt to avoid impulse buying but still we're riding close to the edge. It's not just because we're a one income family. Most dual-income families I know skirt just as close to the edge. The only difference is that they have more income for discretionary spending so they can buy even more stuff they don't need. Generally one income goes just to pay for all the extra stuff they really can't afford.
The New Year has come and I realize that I can't go on this way anymore fearing what each month is going to bring. Doom hovers around every corner. We're constantly holding our breath and wiping the sweat off our brows as we sigh into the next month, hoping that this one won't be as bad as the last. Lately, we're saying this every month.
I think back to my childhood and see how patterns have repeated. Both my parents worked but it was my mother who paid the bills. My father's salary essentially supported his active social life (politely read- gambling and hanging out with his pals). My mother's financial system was based on the "rob Peter, to pay Paul" method. She was no spendthrift but she was also no planner. If she didn't have the money she often wouldn't buy it but there were those times she'd put it on the credit card and cross her fingers. She always paid her bills on time but things were pretty tight. She kept all the anxiety to herself and I was unaware of how close we were to the precipice.
And here I am repeating the same pattern. There are times when I should just shake my head, cross my arms firmly and say "No" to some purchase but I don't because I don't want anyone to feel bad. I cross my fingers and hope that it won't leave too big a dent in the end. Generally it doesn't and we're able to find the money somewhere to pay it off but I'd like to give up the mental anguish that comes when it's time to pay the bills. So I've taken on the gargantuan task of changing the financial mindset of my family and let me tell you this is not going to be easy.
Just as I am writing this entry a cold draft is wafting through the house. My first thought is that something is wrong with the boiler and now we were going to have to pay even more of the money that we don't have to fix it but then I discover the culprit. My eight year old opened the window in his room because... (his rational not mine). I wanted to scream. We just had a conversation yesterday about money, global warming and the future of the planet. Aah!!
We also have two pre-teen girls who are being marketed to heavily from every source imaginable. They're continually confusing their wants with their needs. They're at the age where they are deeply cognizant of the power of the consumer market. Unfortunately they don't want to slay the beast like I do but want to party with it.
I know I have my work cut out for me but in the end I look forward to a good night's sleep, knowing that we're not going to awaken one morning to find that we've rolled into the precipice with no hope of rescue. Plus, worrying about money sure takes a lot of time from my creative pursuits. I think I might be the first person to make a clear connection between financial planning and creativity.
Okay, the first step is to create a budget.
Anyone out there going through dozens of what-if nightmare scenarios about their finances too? Let's commiserate together.