Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Remedial Economics

There is nothing more gratifying than getting your biweekly direct deposit from Corporate America, paying all your bills on time, and still having enough money to live on for two weeks. I know how gratifying this experience is because I have done it - once or twice.

More often than not, payday in the Sassyfats household looks more like this: check the bank balance every five minutes until the direct deposit hits, do a happy dance for 3.7 seconds, go online to pay everyone who sent you a turn-off notice this pay cycle, then slap yourself on the forehead when you realize you're out of money and the cupboards are still bare. (Did you know that chid'rens demand to be fed several times a day? Each and every day? True story.)

Against my better judgement, I will go on record to say that we make a decent living. On paper, our financial situation is quite lovely. We have reached a point where we make more than we owe (on paper), and our living expenses are fairly stable (on paper). Ergo, I attribute 90% of our financial woes to user error. Which really makes no sense, because Miracle Man and I were each pretty good financial managers - before we entered our marital union. We each paid our bills on time and there was always enough left over for little luxuries here and there. But when we joined forces, our approach to financial management rapidly turned into this:

Checkbook Balancing Time at the Sassyfats Home
Granted, life did throw us a few curve balls we did not see coming.  Like how friggin' expensive it is to bear and then raise chid'rens. And how friggin' expensive it is to go through a life-threatening medical crisis that leaves you permanently disabled - not only do you lose your income, but you also get slapped with multi-thousand dollar medical bills on a routine basis. Those things are enough to put any family behind. But when you're already behind, those things are enough to drive you into the ground.

We are no strangers to receiving turn-off notices, car repo notices, and even the dreaded home foreclosure notices. We have bounced so many checks over the years that we have been banned from writing them in most retail establishments. When one of our cars starts making a funny noise, we both get a tight clenching in our guts because we know anything more than an oil change is going to mean we will have to decide which bill won't get paid that pay cycle. 

After 14 years of wedded bliss, fiscal tomfoolery, and life-changing events, Miracle Man and I have learned a lot of hard lessons, and have gotten pretty good about making tough choices. Thanks to time healing wounds, generous relatives plucking us out of the drain we seem to enjoy swirling around, and newly acquired skills to negotiate with creditors, we are *this close* to living completely within our means. We have streamlined our spending by Draconian measures, and we have learned to budget and plan what gets paid on each pay cycle. It's almost like we're grown-ups or something. However, we still have no effing money most of the effing time. On paper we're doing great. In every day life, we're still squeezed so hard it hurts.

Fried chicken is for rich people.
Our basic living expenses have increased way faster than our income since the economy tanked, and we still have a few monthly bills that we have to pay a little extra on as we catch all the way up. One good thing about the recession - it made being broke trendy. Who cares if we were ahead of the trend, now at least we know we're in good company. If you talk to anyone about money long enough you're bound to hear at least one horror story. But deep down I know full well that overspending during our boom times are the biggest contributor to our broke times. And it's downright amazing how long it can take to claw your way out of that damn hole.

Stupid well, with its slippery walls and
demonic child spirits and whatnot

Looking back, I can clearly see where we made our biggest mistakes. I want to go back in time, confront the younger us, and be all like, "Drop the credit cards and step awayyyyyy from the merchandise!!!!" I might even slap us around a little bit, just for funzies.

Anybody know a good Plutonium dealer?

Now my challenge is to make wise decisions now so that 48-year-old me is not stuck trying to figure out how 38-year-old me could have been so stupid. I mean, how many dumbass badges does one person really need?

Wish me luck, my friends. 


  1. Sounds like us not that long ago. I did very well myself and when I met my husband things went to the spiral spin.

    The only advise I can give you is Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and if you can't do the the book and the workbook to the total money make over. Or, let me finish my class and I will send you the books and you and Mike can do it on your own. But I'm really glad that we did the class. It has really changed our lives and made us look differently at our money and how we talk about it.

    We graduate from our class Next Wednesday and we will have paid off $2,000.00 in medical bills. Go us!!!! We plan to be debt free in 3 years.

  2. That's so awesome!! We'd love to take the books off your hands when you're done with them. We really need to take the classes, but time and money remain elusive.


Go on, spill yer guts!