A Question of Finances

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.

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3 thoughts on “A Question of Finances”

  1. maybe cable should be cut altogether? A college education is also important, but NYC trip necessary? It seems the lecture should not be to the daughter, but to yourself. Before you fire back, I am a single parent myself. I have too gone without, and unlike you, do not have a support system of family to help support you. Athough I do sympathize, your story is not unique.

    1. Cynthia –
      I think you miss the message of my post. I never pretend that I’m in the worst possible shape or that I’m worse off than most. In my daily job I’ve interviewed tons who are worse off than I am and I look at each day and see the blessings I have.
      This post was never meant to say “woe is me!” It was meant to say I’m thrilled my kids now see that we can’t pay for everything. No, we’re not eating fried baloney sandwiches but some days we stretch our cupboard until the next check. Before I lost my wife of 18 years she pushed and prodded to spoil my children. I had an unhealthy habit of saying “yes” to most things she asked. It’s a hard situation to come to terms with the fact you realize you’re better off when you have lost your spouse. Maybe you faced the same thing. Maybe it was worse for you. I don’t know, quite frankly, I don’t care.
      This is a chronicle of my life after losing my partner and friend. It’s not meant to say I’m right all the time. It’s meant to come to terms with having to juggle being Dad, Mom, all of that and take on the roles I didn’t face because I had a partner doing it with me. Our household finances weren’t always my duty. Now they are. I wrote specifically because I made mistakes.
      But don’t criticize my taking my daughter to visit the college she wants to attend – knowing the grants, scholarships and loans we might get – and wanting to make sure it’s the right place for her. Sure, I used this as a way to reward her, too. I did the trip on the cheap, spent only two days there, and did some business networking as well. My daughter picks up her siblings every day. She watches her sister and two brothers until i get home and helps me inordinately more than most teenagers. If I decide using the last of my tax refund to pay for a trip to New York is a worthwhile thing . . . that’s my choice. But I’m not sending my daughter to college without ever having visited the campus myself.
      I’m not complaining, Cynthia. I’m simply displaying my life, broken and changed as it is. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not asking for money from anyone. I’m trying to let people know what it’s like facing such a major change . . . a change that’s mine. Not anyone else’s.
      I’m sorry you don’t have a family support system. I have support from my parents – who halfway across the country. They take care of the kids in the summer so I can work, which kills me to let them go, and that’s extraordinary help from them. During the week, 10 months out of the year, I have friends and others I can ask for help, but there’s no constant support…and it’s OK because I’ve made arrangements for most things.
      It’s me, the kids, and I don’t mind it. As I tell them, every . . . single . . . day . . . we’re stronger together than when we’re apart. That’s the message I’m trying to send. If you read any other posts on this blog you’d get that message.

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