1 in 3 Americans are ONE paycheck away from being homeless.
Usually I write for the old me. The mom sitting there getting used to multiple children, getting used to being at home all day, wondering what the hell is happening with her life. Today, I’m writing to me right now. What I need to hear, and I’m hopeful it will also help you too, in some way.
There’s being actually poor, and living to paycheck to paycheck (which if you live from paycheck to paycheck you’re better off than a lot of poor people). And there’s the point where I and my husband are currently at: being so used to living from paycheck to paycheck, that even when there’s enough money to not live from paycheck to paycheck, we don’t even realize we have the room to save and build wealth. That might not make sense if you’ve never had to live paycheck to paycheck. (I’d say lets play a game where you take a shot each time you read the word paycheck, but we would all be too drunk by the time I’m done that we wouldn’t retain a single thing I have to say…HA!)
I grew up, not realizing there was any other way to live. I was raised by a single mother, no child support or much outside help aside from very close family. Bank accounts were a frivolous idea. And savings accounts seemed to be something only for the rich. When it came to money there were only two rules I learned, 1. you had it, or you didn’t. 2. when you had it you spent it, until it was all gone and you were at square one again. Sometimes that money “needed” to be spent, the next beater car that we were lucky if it got us through a whole year, “catching up” utilities or rent, stocking up on food. Things that with more careful planning and honesty with ourselves, wouldn’t need to be spent in one big shot. Sometimes, the money went to silly things that weren’t necessary. And this idea with money and how it affected my life- an emotional over spender was born. I also emotionally over eat, and while the thought process is the same, that’s a topic for another day.
We were never taught much about budgeting in high school. Briefly touched on in economics, but not the idea of being real and honest with yourself and breaking habits that no doubt, are generations deep. It was weird learning about saving hundreds of dollars every month, or being able to cut out a percentage of your income each pay period, and then going home and seeing shut-off notices in the mail. I felt very disconnected as I looked around the class room and seeing the popularity divide also become somewhat of an economic divide, (I’d always had a hunch, but that subject proved it) the popular kids nodding and knowing what was going on and how to put that money away and the rest of us kind of looking clueless, “Wait, everyone should have a savings account?”
Then I was thrust out in the real world. I found myself in a tiny apartment with my boyfriend, one of us working full time and the other just under full time. Finally there was money to pay the bills and eat, and my boyfriend was better at saving up than I was, though not much better. We still lived paycheck to paycheck. By the time we were in our mid 20’s, we were in a limbo we didn’t even know about- we felt financially secure with a couple thousand in the bank, yet had close to $50,000 combined in student loans. We were expecting our first child, while becoming my little sister’s guardians. Just like that, we realized how quickly you can be in an, ‘okay’ financial situation to being in an, ‘oh shit’ financial situation. Before we even knew what happened, we were in debt and living from paycheck to a couple days before paycheck. And the cycle from childhood continued on its merry way. Tax season was a time to catch up, and spend spend spend (because deep down we both felt like it’ll be gone before we know it anyway, so we may as well enjoy it), and then living of meager means through the rest of the year, any time we found ourselves in better than average financial times, we told ourselves we were being careful as we slowly spent it over the course of months (living slightly above our means) and don’t even get me started on the love-hate, on again off again relationship we have with the fucking credit cards.
This past year especially, I’ve been slowly wrapping my head around this idea with our money. Even though I’m a stay at home mom, on paper, we have more than enough money at the end of each paycheck. However, that money is always gone from those paychecks before we even know it. We’ve been living in this really odd place, where every other weekend (he’s paid every other week) we live like kings. We go out to eat, I make up excuses for over spending on groceries (we gotta eat, right?!), we spend $20 at this store, $20 at that store, $20 at ten other stores (slight exaggeration) and tell ourselves we’re being ‘good’. But, by Monday how much of those expenses can we list off of the top of our heads? How many of the things we bought can we list off with out looking at our receipts? I’m embarrassed to say not much. We spend money on the things we want, in the moment, with out stopping to think about what we really want, in our future.
So, what’s my point in this? It’s time to start making a change. We tried this for exactly one paycheck last year, and while it did work, the lies we told ourselves made it not work. Things like, “it’s a pain to go into the bank to get the cash. I feel silly asking for specific bills. Self check out at Sam’s Club doesn’t take cash, what if I lose my wallet?” But, honestly, we’re getting sick of this, so we need to be held accountable and give this a fair shot.
Pay day is today, and we’re going cash for everything except the bills. This is what we’re doing this pay period:
$500- Cash To go toward:
$120- Spending ($60 for each of us)
$50- Eating out
$50 – Gas
$20 – Tasha’s birthday present
After this and the bills, we should have around $300 left to put towards savings. Murphy’s law happens, but, if we stick to our guns and get real already, we will be able to keep that money in our savings account. Once we get a handle on this and build up the confidence of saving (and build our emergency fund) we will be working towards a slight variation of the debt snowball, that’s right, I’m talking Dave Ramsey. For us though, the first step is healing our relationship with money. If we keep looking at money the same way we were taught to, I don’t think any plan will ever work for us. Because, even when we got out of debt (which we have minus the student loans and mortgage before… a few times) the debt will just start up all over again, because we simply don’t know how to use it, or to treat it. Do you use a cash system? Are you using the Dave Ramsey system? Do you have a messed up relationship with money? Let’s talk about that in the comments and start to work on healing as a community!
Until next time friends!