As the end of 2011 loomed large and the Christmas shopping bills loomed even larger, my husband and I had to come to the painful conclusion that we needed a...a...a budget. I know, I know...how can 40-somethings like us not have already HAD a budget? Well, that's part of the reason why we NEEDED said budget...we hadn't had one and it had finally come to head.
Early in our marriage, we were poor but too young and stupid to know that charging dinner at Maria's on our credit cards (along with college textbooks, occasional car payments, and gas) was probably going to bite us in the a$$ sooner or later. But that's how we rolled in our 20s--that notion that we'd pay it off "someday" kept us going.
Through children and our 30s, we seemed to always manage. Not that we were rich, not at all, but we seemed to get by ok. The 2000s seemed especially kind to us as Tony and I were able to manage again and again.
And then, somehow, we started to NOT manage. Call it the perfect storm (and it kind of was)--in September, Tony had a single car accident when he spun out in the rain and hit a retaining wall. Fortunately, he was ok. Unfortunately, we found out that somehow one of us (probably me) had dropped the Comprehensive off the car that was wrecked. Now we had to save for another car--we already had one car payment, so we really needed to start saving. And our credit cards were dangerously high. And by the way, we had a $500 pipe leak in our house.
Budget time. Watching the old purse strings. And fear that we might not be able to manage this time.
Now, I realize that we are facing anything that millions in the country are not facing. Hell, we are lucky to have our jobs and a roof over our heads that is not about to be foreclosed upon. But it's a hard reality to think that you have this American dream thing down only to get bitch-slapped by the fact that the dream has not quite been obtained and you are not really any better off now than you were in your 20s. It's a hard reality to have to re-adjust your vacation plans because you can't afford your dream one.
That said, I have learned to count my blessings instead of my change. I have 3 wonderful kids; I don't need to take them out to a fancy restaurant to prove it. I don't need to go to the Bahamas. I have a roof over my head. I have my health (I hope). It's not about the money.
But maybe the money would help...