Time to budget
The Dude is doing really well! Still lots of wound healing, but he is on a much less intensive wound care therapy now. He is starting to look for work and definitely returning to health.
Today is my 7 month Doctor-versary!
One of the frustrating things while working on my doctorate was the feeling of being one of the few students who had older kids. The norm is to go to traditional grad school programs soon (0-5 years) after undergrad. So there are a lot of people who get married and start families during graduate school, or have little kids when they start. When they finish they have the majority of their children’s childhoods ahead of them. My kids were in elementary and middle school when I started and so I constantly had the underlying thought that they would spend their childhoods with a student mom.
It was isolating to be a graduate student with older children and to be a mom still in graduate school. It is one of the reasons I started this blog. And now I will discuss a similar phenomenon.
I am taking on a two-pronged life change: minimizing and paying off debt. There are hundreds of Youtube videos and blogs and social media groups dedicated to these two subjects. I love to read articles and connect with support online, so I gravitate towards these resources. And I see story after story of 20- and 30-somethings who are living these lifestyles. Single folks, childless couples, and young families.
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels
Again, this feels isolating to this Gen Xer whose kids are in their late teens and early 20s. So I am going to do what I did last time: I am going to blog about it. Maybe it will help me feel less alone. Over the next few weeks, I am going to dive into how we go to where we are (broke, in debt, and surrounded by clutter), what needs to change, and how we are going to change it.
Today I will chat about where we are and how we got here-the debt version. I will talk about the clutter side in a different post.
Here is my big, deep breath confession:
I have never used a budget.
The Dude has made some over the years, but I have never actually looked at it closely and tried to understand what it means and where restrictions need to occur. We would quickly get lost in a pile of receipts and give up.
I am spending a lot of time dwelling in this reality. Not going into a shame spiral, just really marveling over this point. In a few weeks, the Dude and I will have been together for 27 years. And in all that time, there has never been a full life course plan, or even a yearly plan. This is true in seriously all aspects of our lives, but we will focus on the budget part right now.
My strategy has always been to spend money when we have it and don’t when we don’t. Strategy is a lofty word here. More like: the thing that happens. Given how little money we have had over the years, it is truly shocking.
I have been really trying to think about why this is the case in order to understand the behavior and change it. My first answer is: I really don’t know why! A little bit deeper thinking is needed.
The Dude has often worked in restaurants with tips contributing to a large percentage of our income. That made it hard to predict and work with our money. The lows would go so low that I have suffered quite a bit of anxiety surrounding money. One of my coping mechanisms (not a good one) has been to avoid looking directly at it. I will ask The Dude if funds are available and/or hope for the best. I have a vague general idea of how much we have and don’t have, but that is not enough.
But really, why?
Going back further: why do I do this? My parents never discussed money or finances with me. We were a very large family so we didn’t have anything flashy but we never wanted for food, clothes, or Christmas. I saw my mom do the grocery shopping, but I never saw them pay or discuss bills.
When I was a teen, my dad took an early retirement due to health issues. After that, we were poor. We still never talked about it, except for one time when my dad showed me a pay stub to try to get me to stop asking for expensive things. If I read it correctly, their retirement income was 10% of their working income. Not a 10% cut, but 10% of the former. I think this shift in income, especially in the absence of any real conversation about it, helped create an unhealthy relationship with money.
This gives a little framework for the what and the why. As of a couple of weeks ago, I am officially sick of it and ready to change. Things are starting to happen. I will discuss specifics in the next few posts. But no that my inner Howard Beale is fed up! And has gone to my inner window, thrown it open and shouted, “I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!”
I have a lot of unused energy that had been directed towards my dissertation. Now I am beginning to channel it towards debt, saving, and organization. Watch out!
Read about some of the struggles we have had with budgeting here.
Read here to see how I am using bank accounts instead of cash envelopes as a way to budget.