Over the weekend I had to inform my oldest daughter how we had to tighten our belts for a couple weeks as money came out of the account for the atypical bills in our household. I should break here and preface this post with the fact that I realize I’m not particularly good with the household finances. I’m better than I was but nowhere near close what I should be. Part of the situation, though, is the fact that I’d blown through any savings we had in a fruitless attempt to keep our home.
When the rent for our current home increased – even though it’s not that big an increase – I still have to look at what we’re paying and where the money’s going. Cell phones are a necessity for myself and Abbi as I need to be able to talk with her and help if she needs it. I live on that phone . . . but I talked with Abbi about the fact we had to decrease the data plan. The fact was, Abbi wasn’t using that much data at all. It was me. I changed my habits to fall in line with hers – using wireless whenever safely possible and then decreased our bill.
I have AT&T cable. I love their system, but I have too many channels. I got the big package for free and now it’s not. So I’m going to decrease the number of channels so it’s manageable.
The uncomfortable part over the weekend was looking at Abbi as I was realizing that rent, tuition, phone bills, cable . . . after all that we were tighter than normal. Down to the wire. When Abbi asked about transferring some of the Social Security money into the account I had to look at her like she hadn’t understood anything I’d just told her. I pointed to a rather miniscule dollar figure on my bank account and said “that’s what’s left of the social security for this month. We ate, paid some of the rent . . . went to New York for your college visit . . . all that costs, kiddo, and most my paycheck goes to rent, tuition, and other bills.”
Abbi is getting a lesson in what it’s like to really have to tighten things. We’re not wealthy, but we eat. We have a roof. We have our phones. Life isn’t a struggle, not like it was in the past. It’s kind of a hard thing to know you are able to survive and not struggle – that it’s easier – without my wife/Abbi’s Mom around. I loved Andrea more than anyone, but I had this horrible problem: I couldn’t tell her “no.” She wanted a new wedding ring, something with a big diamond. I tried to say “no” but we ended up with one. The next many months were horrible struggles as a result. I know, I know, a ring is important to most women. But I loved her . . . and didn’t understand how, when things were really hard and I was struggling, too, that wasn’t enough. I get that’s a very “guy” thing to think, but it’s still how I looked at the world.
I also understand that savings is something I should be growing but have not been able to accomplish. I know . . . 10% of your paycheck should go in. I know . . . you should have at least three months or preferably a year’s salary in savings just as a safety net. I know . . . my kids are all going to go to college and cost me an arm and a leg one by one. It’s all weighed on my mind very heavily.
I know all these things but cannot simply make them appear. I wish I could. But staying in California, paying for rent, tuition, clothes . . . all the things that they need to be stable cost money. I’m not showering them with myriad of gifts. The days where we see a new toy train and have to buy it because it’s shiny, new, and we always did are over. They know that. But just to survive in a state that has governmental deficits higher than the GDP of many small nations and a cost of living that makes people in other states faint is a reality that makes savings and life much harder.
I have to admit a bit of pride, though. We are surviving, not struggling. Abbi got herself a job to pay for some of her college – something she got all on her own.
It’s good to know that you can teach a solid lesson, even if you are struggling with that lesson yourself.