Thursday, November 5, 2015

Life On The Edge: Culture Shock!

I'm turning today's blog over to the lovely Kenzie Michaels, who has ridden the financial roller coaster of Life.  Take it away Kenzie:)

Thanks Molly!

What happens when a product of the 1960s marries a child of the 1980s?


I began my married life with an income half the size of what I grew up with.  In all fairness, I'd lived on my own for an entire year, living paycheck to paycheck, and an emergency surgical procedure had nearly bankrupted me.  I really should have declared bankruptcy, but was too ashamed to admit I couldn't pay my hospital bill, even working two jobs.

I brought to my marriage $1500 in medical debt and probably close to $2000 in credit card debt, between a Discover Card, American Express, and a gas card.  I was making the minimum payments, but after complications from pregnancy forced me to cut my hours down the 10 per week, and my brand new spouse barely making just above minimum wage, money was extremely tight.

When you take two different ideas of money budgeting and try to combine them, you get disaster.  My father had handled all the bills, whereas my spouse's mother had been in charge of the checkbook.  My husband insisted I handle it all, and I'll admit; after a year of seeing only single digits left over from my paycheck, that triple digit looked pretty nice:)  I made a valuable mistake:  I went shopping for things before paying the bills, which was a huge no-no.

This caused conflict, as you can imagine, and when I tried to correct my mistake, it was too late.  I had taken pride in saying during college that I intended to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen; however, during that first year of marriage I learned to become very acquainted with my oven and recipe books.

I resented every minute of it.  Why couldn't we go out to eat?  Why was McDonald's for lunch no longer an option?  When we were dating, eating out was a given.  But suddenly that ring was on my finger and going out was limited only to payday.  What the hell had I gotten myself into?  This was not the marriage I'd envisioned.

In my defense, I will say this:  Knowing when we decided to get married he'd just received his tax refund of $1600, I could not justify spending half of that on an engagement ring.  I insisted we shop around and settled for the $200 ring instead of the gorgeous $800 one I'd fallen in love with.  So when it comes to spending money on myself, as far as jewelry and clothes, I don't like to spend a lot of money.  But household items and food?  Different story.  I had the classic case of 'Champagne Tastes on a Beer Budget' mentality.

And we couldn't afford it.

The spouse and I have been married nearly 25 years.  What have I learned from those first few disastrous ones?
-Obviously, pay the bills first.  That's a given.

-Invest in a large freezer.  That way you can stock up on meat and have a place to store it.

-Shop the sales paper.  Buy meat in bulk and repackage it at home with freezer paper.

-Get your staples (canned veggies, flour, sugar, salt, etc) at Aldi's or Save-A-Lot.  Yeah, I was unimpressed with these stores at first, but I had gone in with the wrong mindset.  Like your brand names?  Then don't shop there.

-Plan your weekly (or monthly) menu before you shop.  We went from a weekly paycheck to twice a month, once my spouse had to retire and go on disability. I know exactly how many days I need to plan for that money, and always ask the kids if they have anything special they'd like during that time period.

-Get creative.  Facebook and Pinterest are full of recipe ideas if you're stumped as to how to fix an inexpensive meal.  Another favorite of mine:  Next time you eat out in a fancy restaurant, try to  see if you can recreate it from what you have in your pantry.  Or try Food Network dot com.

Obviously, I use generic brands a great deal, but I'm picky about a few items. There are a few generic items which don't taste the same as the name brands.  My spouse will tell you I'm nuts, but being a picky eater in general, I don't eat food that's unappetizing.

When our first child was born, we crunched the numbers and realized that if I returned to work, daycare would take my entire paycheck, plus $20 of his.  So staying home was an option.  I realize not everyone has this luxury, and I've been blessed to be home with my kids and concentrate on my first love, writing.

Yes, it took me a while to get published, and even longer for a steady income to arrive.  I'll admit, my earnings at the moment support my weekly karaoke habit, but I've also been able to pay for some of my own expenses, instead of having to budget them into the household budget.

Am I better off financially?  Not really. I'd hoped that by now we'd have a savings account, a nice home, two cars, and not have to budget so carefully, but that hasn't happened.

What has changes has been my attitude toward my situation.  I learned to budget; learned to live within my means; and to compromise on certain purchases.

I'm still hopeful, though.  I look forward to the day when I don't have to watch every penny carefully,  because our health insurance payment will hit the account, or that the electric bill will be forty dollars higher.

Or maybe I'll win the powerball.  I've won it twice before....but that was the only number which matched.  Still, that $12 will either pay for my lunch at Steak-n-Shake or I can have one rum and coke at karaoke every week this month!


I'd say they were in order:)

If you're interested in reading steamy contemporary romance, or steamy sci-fi romance, check out Kenzie's books at Amazon.

Make sure to start thinking about retirement early, because you won't retire by accident. Use tools like the free retirement calculator from  Personal Capital  to manage your money and plan for retirement better.

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