It’s about to get real in here!
I struggled for a minute on a title for this blog and chose to go with the most blunt statement that came to mind. It’s true. Debt sucks! When others don’t understand because the words “We’re broke” or “We can’t afford it” seem to be over-used, it sucks even more.
Pushy sales people at mall kiosks don’t get it … or they seriously don’t give a crap about potential consumers’ financial situations or what they would have to give up for a month (or three) if they spent $99 on a curling iron because “it’s ceramic and won’t damage your hair” and “it comes with a lifetime guarantee” and you get “free hair styling there for six months”.
Hanging out with friends outside the home is rough because, well, consider how much a single beer (or soda) costs at bars! Want a mixed drink? Even worse!
Family dinners out at nice-ish restaurants? A rarity compared to before. This one doesn’t bother me so much anymore because I have a whole other issue with this. The portion sizes at such restaurants are ridiculous! I can make three meals of an order of seafood fettuccine from O.G. but if we’re not going straight home after eating, leftovers become an issue. We’d have to stick a cooler with ice in the boot before leaving home.
Perhaps the hardest part is having family in different states across the country and not being able to travel to see them. Understandably, airfare is expensive for anyone. The bigger heartache comes when some may continue to press for a visit saying we can drive it in a day, but they don’t understand that the extra gas money simply is not in the budget unless we want our utilities cut off or our children to forego birthday gifts. Here’s what they don’t know because we haven’t told them…
We have been in a debt management program for two years, and we haven’t used a credit card for at least three years. We will be credit card debt free in less than three years now, and I cannot WAIT to find out what that feels like! Until then, all extras are out of the question.
This (above illustration) is the whole picture people don’t see when they get one credit card after another. Sometimes it’s out of necessity, and that’s even sadder. Most of the time, it’s simply to live beyond our means. That’s how it started with us. When you first get married, you want to continue to have the same lifestyle you experienced while living in your parents’ homes. Who wants to go from comfort to struggle?! Well you should! Better yet, you should be taught well while still living at home. (Not pointing fingers here, but maybe the policy of not talking about money because that’s private is not such a grand idea.)
So when we say we can’t afford it right now, we really mean it. We’re not avoiding anyone. We would love nothing more than to take a vacation in California! It tears me up that I can’t just pick up and drive back to St. Louis to see family and friends whenever I want. I also have family in Florida, the farthest away and most expensive to travel to from Colorado.
When our daughter couldn’t go on a New York trip with her choir last spring because we didn’t have the money, it crushed me! But worse than that is the fact that she couldn’t go straight to UNC (best in state for all things theater) after high school because things are too tight. When Facebook was flooded with posts and pictures of her friends going off to college, it all but killed me.
On the other hand, I am bursting with pride seeing her go off to work at a full-time job now to earn and save money for college. Parents don’t want to see their children struggle to get by, but they should. Not living-on-the-streets struggle, but work-hard-for-what-you-want struggle.
Don’t worry too much, though. We aren’t in danger of losing our house or having cars repo’d. In fact, one car will be paid off early next year. (Tiny sigh of relief.) We make enough to pay for everything we currently have. We just can’t add to or replace anything right now (as much as I would LOVE to replace our torn leather couches that are falling apart). Things can wait.
Birthdays and Christmas have changed a lot, too. I now appreciate more than ever hand-crafted gifts. They truly are more valuable than mass manufactured items. The time and thought alone that goes into them … there are no words! You can’t put a price on that.
It’s certainly a different lifestyle than before, and it is hard to see our friends and some family continuing on with the same lifestyle we were living before when relying on credit to do so. Gone are the days of instant gratification for us. Now, that goal of being able to do the same with cash on hand has actually become a little exciting!
Credit cards are evil. There are other ways to build your credit. Few are disciplined enough to use a credit card “wisely”. Yes, it can be done. Often, it is not. Debt sucks!