Monday, December 30, 2013

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness But Neither Does a Foreclosure Notice

I am not poor.  I have a roof over my head (as long as I can stay on top of the sky-high mortgage for my cosy, three bed, one bath ranch), I have warm clothes, I have food, I have my basic needs covered.  My furnace is running, which is a good thing since it is nine degrees outside.  I contributed to charities this year and bought birthday and Christmas gifts. I even have cable and WiFi, which is how I am able to write this, today.  Of course, if I had no WiFi, or laptop, I could always go to my local library to use their computers.  It would be inconvenient, but obviously, doable.  

This is what I want to talk about today; the inconvenience of being in a less than ideal money situation.  

My family and I live paycheck to paycheck.  We put away a few dollars every week for a rainy day, but our little savings would not do much to save us from financial ruin.  
It's something, enough to spring for a part for the ever-failing dryer, or to pay an unexpected expense; provided it was a relatively small one.  It won't cover my husband missing a few days of work if he caught the flu, though.  My husband is in a union and his salary is very good, but I would love to talk to the geniuses who decided not to negotiate for sick or vacation pay or even holiday pay (hello?  Christmas and New Year's?).  

In an ideal world, we would figure out the cost of those days off (five major unpaid holidays, two weeks of vacation and another cushion of five days for illness) and we would come up with an amount in the neighborhood of $5000.  Saving for that would mean putting aside $100 per week.  Putting aside another twenty per week for unexpected costs puts our minimum ideal savings plan at $120 per week.  Some weeks we have it, some weeks we don't, for reasons I illustrated earlier.

The problem with this is that often times on the lean weeks we need to borrow from the fat weeks to get through.  What winds up happening is that we never really save anything.  We usually get a decent tax refund and a shrewd financial planner would probably tell us to put that money aside.  That would be great, if at some point we didn't need a new washer/dryer/exhaust system for the car/roof/windows... you get the picture.  

The vicious cycle that we live in is that we can never hold onto a chunk of money for very long.  It's not that we blow it on fancy clothes or purses or shoes or vacations (ha!), it's that it gets pissed away on stuff that has waited too long to ignore.

This is where the inconvenience part really comes into play.  If we had more money, we might be able to look for sales on things, so that we can buy them for less instead of buying them RIGHT! NOW! for whatever cost, because it went bad three days ago and we can't live without it for much longer.  It would mean replacing our roof before it starts leaking and the damage drives up the cost.  It might mean never having to pay late fees.  It also might mean that our credit would be better since we wouldn't be late paying bills.  Our mortgage company couldn't charge us all the fees involved with paying late.  An extra sixty here and thirty there, really adds up.  If our credit was better, we could also negotiate a better rate, instead of the 6.75% we are paying now.  

Even with all of this, I haven't even gotten to the worst part:  the stress that comes from worry.  If all I ever had to worry about was money, I guess I would be okay.  I'm okay anyway and of course, there is more to my worry than the balance in my checking account.  Having had my middle child go through open heart surgery twice in his young life, I can assure you that when it comes right down to it, when your loved ones are safe and healthy, money seems like a mere nuisance.

You could ask me why I don't work.  I mean, I did work full time for about three years after my kids were in school full time.  The reasons for my not working now are as simple as no one I want to work for wants to hire me and as complex as my availability.  The bottom line is that I want to be home when my kids walk through the door from school.  Working around that is challenging.  You might scoff and grumble that it's my own fault.  I am in a mess of my own making.  

You would be right.  

I take full responsibility for not earning an income.  I also know that when I take my kids to the movies or bowling or out for a cheap bite, I probably can't afford it.  I do it anyway.  When you don't have any family around, weekends present a challenge.  Movies fill the time that a big family dinner would in my husband's or my past.  Times change.  It's the same reason I don't let the cable lapse.  

Which brings me to the reason for this post. 

Here I am, with my kids on winter break and they shut off the cable and WiFi.
I have a choice:  Put what little cash I have left in the bank so that I can pay the bill and have it turned back on, or have a tiny bit of money and wait it out until Friday, when DH gets paid.  

Since I have enough food and crock pot recipes to get us through the week, I chose to turn the cable (and phone and WiFi) back on.  The prospect of being without, with single digit temps outside, for the last week of Christmas vacation was bleak, to say the least.  This way, at least we can use our computer, watch some movies and if friends call to invite us somewhere, they will get through, and not receive a vague message about our phone not "accepting calls" (code for:  These deadbeats haven't paid us!).

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am not writing this to complain, at least, that is not my primary motivation.  I am mostly writing this so that I can see it written out so I can make it better.  If I can figure out how to make money less of an issue in the coming year, maybe I can move on to bigger and better things.  

I know that there are parts of the problem that are out of my control.  It's about taking what IS in my control and fixing it for the better.  There is no better time than a new page on the calendar to start.

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