Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cut to the Bone

Over the last few years, Miracle Man and I have gotten really good at cutting out unnecessary expenses. Our days of frivolity are far behind us, and we are living the frugal life. We've given up a good 90 percent of the little luxuries we used to take for granted, like going out to eat. In actual restaurants. Where people greet you at the door, show you where to sit, and serve you food. On real plates, y'all. Sure, we still hit places like Subway once or twice a week (when we're feeling wealthy), but long gone are the days when we would go to an actual restaurant several times a week. Miracle Man has gotten to be quite the little chef, and I take leftovers to work so that I don't have to spend extra money buying lunch. Which is smart, because "extra" money is not a creature I have seen in quite some time.

Looking at our old practices versus our newer lifestyle, we should be rolling in the dough. But you know what? WE STILL AIN'T GOT NO DAMN MONEY!!! NEVER EVER NEVER!!! Sure, we have a halfway decent income. Problem is, inflation has far outpaced our income growth. Basic living expenses are eating us alive. Not to mention the fact that it's expensive as hell to be broke. In case you're not a fiscal (rhymes with "duck")-up like Miracle Man and I, allow me to tell a story. 

Once upon a time, when the economy was good and we had not yet been bitch-slapped by life circumstances, Miracle Man and I had a phenomenal credit rating. Oh my Lawd, it was beautiful. Every time someone looked up our FICA score, the heavens would open and angels would sing. Then we'd get whatever the heck it was we wanted, very few questions asked. It was the late 90s and we were in our mid 20s. Hope sprang eternal and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We were young, confident, and dumb enough to believe our relative comfort would last forever.  

Then reality caught up with us. After buying a house that we could just barely afford, we found ourselves staring down the barrel of parenthood. Don't get me wrong, we were thrilled to death with El's pending arrival. We just weren't prepared for how expensive it would be to have a kid. As the years went by we started to adjust to our new expenses. Then we had another kid, Miracle Man got sick, and the economy tanked - all in the same year.  
Replace the Kitteh with the Universe
and yeah, it was kinda like that.
We had enough generous people around us to get us through the long lapse between the end of Miracle Man's career and the beginning of his disability payments. But once you get behind, I mean really, really behind, it's damn near impossible to catch up. Late fees, bank fees, penalties, etc, add up at an alarming rate. Once you get caught up in the cycle of trying to catch up, a significant portion of your income goes to pay some wealthy vampire banker a heap of fees. Then you're short for the next pay cycle, which means you end up paying even more fees. And don't even bother trying to get a loan unless you want to pay the abusive interest rates offered by the payday loan industry. Those loans are structured so that you will need to take out another one as soon as you pay off the prior one just so you can make it to the next paycheck. Those sneaky bastards.  

Sassyfats, you idiot!! Everyone knows that payday loans are a tool of the devil!
Even Ernie knows better!
I know. I used to think that people who paid their bills late and bounced checks and took out high-interest loans were just plain stupid. Now I know better. It's not stupidity. It's desperation. And while the economic system is set up to reward "good" people who pay their bills on time, vampires bankers make their real money off of those of us who stepped in fiscal doo-doo. Why on earth would they make it easy to get beyond that hump when the hump is so profitable? 

But don't cry for me just yet. Or call me names. Whichever way you're inclined to go, just hold off for a second. My fiscal outlook is not hopeless. I have a few bills that will be paid off within the next couple of months, and I'm figuring out ways to pinch pennies until they scream. Miracle Man and I have learned a lot of hard lessons in recent years, and I know we'll make it to the other side of the desert eventually. Better still, we'll know what to do with the greenery when we get there.  
Stuff! That! Pig!!

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