If you’ve ever been to this blog, you know that money is a pretty central theme. When I first started writing here, we were in the thick of a crushing debt issue and we’ve slowly chipped our way out from under the mountain over the last five years.
Yes, five years. It’s been a long and arduous process filled with bill collectors, real-estate deals, white knuckles and more than a few sleepless nights. Most of the time, my emotions vacillated between guilt about getting there and terror that every step forward we’d be pushed back soon enough. It’s no wonder I’ve been so tired for five years.
Well, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The superstitious part of me is terrified to write that because my particular brand of crazy says that if I say it out loud, I jinx it and that means it won’t come true. Since The Husband has already lost a job this year, I can’t think of what else bad could happen short of one of us dying and quite frankly, from a financial perspective, that wouldn’t be a step back. (Gallows humour people, it’s my thing.)
So, there. I’ve said it. We just might be on the precipice of life going well. And you know what? It is the scariest thing of all.
I’ve gotten kind of used to tight boot straps. I’ve settled in to being broke. I am intimately involved with cash-only-buy-what-you-need-and-nothing-else life. I’m in the habit of never shopping and immediately throwing away any catalog that comes through the door. My jokes revolve around being cheap and miserly and shopping at thrift shops. We fake-plan vacations we’ll never take. We redecorate a house we’ll never own. We joke about driving our eight year old car to our kids’ college graduation, then we joke that they won’t be going to college because there is no money. I make tough choices. I cancel plans. I never go out and I haven’t gotten a Christmas or birthday present in over six years. I haven’t bought one for anybody except my kids in at least that long as well. I am the girl who has no money. For five years, that’s been my personality.
And now that’s all about to change.
In a few months we will make our last debt-consolidation payment that is roughly equal to the mortgage on a small house. (At least anywhere outside the Northeast and California where small houses cost over a half-million dollars.) Our debt payment is as much as the mortgage on our first house in Baltimore and that mortgage was high for the time. So, essentially for the last five years, we have paid at least one rent (remember we owned another house at the beginning of this debacle) and the equivalent of another house payment. And soon, we’ll have that money back in our monthly rotation and we will have very few expenses as a result of learning to live on very little.
This means we can start saving and spending.
And that is scary as hell.
The Girl with No Money had a simple life. Yes, sometimes it required sacrifices that weren’t any fun, but mostly it was easy, as the decisions were made before the paychecks even came in. When every dollar of the budget is set, there is no room for mistakes. I couldn’t screw up unless I defaulted on things and that was never an option.
Now? Well, now I can get us right back to where we started if I’m not careful. I have to learn to be someone with money. I’ve never been that person in my whole life. I grew up broke and for my entire adult life I’ve always managed to keep myself broke.
Now? Well, now I have to stop screwing crap up and learn to be someone who saves and spends with intelligence.
I’ve already immersed myself in all the Jean Chatzky books that are sold, but until now I didn’t pay attention to much other than how to dig yourself out of debt. I guess now I need to reread all those books with my eye on making good decisions to thrive, not just survive, financially.
These are all good things, right? So why do I feel so sick all the time?
The Husband gave me the metaphor of us pushing a rock up a hill and now we’re finally at the top and it’s time to roll down the other side. He’s kooky, but it kind of made sense. Rolling down a hill, while exhilarating, can also be bumpy and make you feel out of control. Being out of control is what got us here to begin with. So it’s no wonder I’m scared. I need to roll with more direction and less recklessness. I need to navigate the sticks and divots of the hill and roll at a controlled pace.
I need to be a rock with a mind-making smart choices, but also enjoying the ride. And that seems nearly impossible right now because I’ve never known it before. Here’s to hope for new beginnings.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.