Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Financial Planners Don't Mention

Alright, people. Are you ready for an honest moment? I have a question for you, Dave Ramsey. Yes, I said it. I'm not on the radio, but if I had the energy, I'd call him up. Cuz here's the thing: 

What does one tell oneself when they've scrimped and saved and put a lot of effort into not spending, only to have financial set-backs that make my savings look like a rubber band gun taking on a freakin' bazooka? 

My low might be extra low because I'm coming off feeling inspired. I spent a whole date night talking to Brian about how maybe it was POSSIBLE for us to be debt free sooner than later, because my blogging friend did it over here. On a teacher's salary. With kids. I'll say now, we're not in the starting place they were when they began paying off their house in five-ish years, because we're still working on snow-balling our student loans. BUT, I could see it! For the first time, I was a believer. 

A week later our cars' had similar lights come on, telling us they were overheating. We spent $250 to fix Brian's before we found out the transmission's going out, a.k.a. you may as well replace the car because it's not worth the cost of repairs. We can go without a second car in the summer, but once school starts that's not an option. There's still my car, which needs tires too. None of this would be the end of the world because we allocate most of tax returns for car repairs every year...better than having a car payment, right? It seems less obvious now, with our fund depleted and SEVEN months to go. 

But it's not just our cars. The former cat, who will remain nameless but whose name rhymes with MANNA --- ruined our family room's carpet by sneakily using it as her litter box. I still don't know HOW a female cat aims under a low sofa...but since we didn't know what was going on, the mess wasn't cleaned up and seeped down, down, through carpet, carpet pad and into porous concrete. Yes, the concrete. No matter how we cleaned, we couldn't save the carpet and found ourselves out $700. 

So we were planning to do another No Spend month this month (although I wasn't planning to blog about it like I did here) and we still will, but I have to say, the wind's knocked out of my sales. Our proceeds from the month were supposed to go towards things on this list, but alas, it will go into the bottomless pit. Hence the rubber band gun analogy.

But here's the thing.

While we're digging out of said bottomless pit, we could be having perfect summer days like yesterday. The kids and I were home without a vehicle because Brian drove a borrowed one to work. The kids hung out in pjs half the morning. They ate sandwiches out on their fort (top of the swing set.) And I ate at the patio table. We have a tiny library a few blocks away, so we walked there, signed up for the summer reading program and moseyed home, practicing looking both ways before crossing. When I walked up my porch steps, I saw the peeling paint. I saw the ugly screen door I wanted to replace with a fancy full-view door so the heat can't BLOW in. And honestly, since nothing's off-limits tonight, I went and used the main bath with the buckling floor and cracking plaster. And I felt content. "We can do life here. Beautiful life." 

I will keep believing and keep trying because this is real. You can be smart and wise and savvy and still find yourself strapped. It's a powerless place to be because you can't even look at your stupid past and think, "Well, if I just hadn't run up that credit card..." But I'm the only one telling myself I've fallen short of the mark. And I can tell myself something different, if I want. Like, "It's alright to be happy RIGHT NEXT to these imperfections. I don't have to throw an internal fit when I see the plaster getting worse. I don't have to feel like there's a timer ticking me down to a deadline. I can drink water and make food and chat and read and breathe and love in the middle of some mess." Maybe that's how people stay with it. 

Courage friends, if you're facing a maddening situation too. Thanks for letting me write about "it all" and for the times when you let me know I'm not alone. You mean the world to me! 


  1. Thanks for your honesty. I guess I have two bits of wisdom I try to live by:
    * Be grateful for the small blessings and pray for bigger ones!
    * Or maybe just practice gratitude-which also helps.

  2. Just change a few details and we're right there with ya! I've felt SOO frustrated about this!! Still learning how to trust God when money is concerned....never have learned that lesson. :( But love the reminder your blog brings about living a beautiful ANYWAY! Love you!

  3. God always helps us make it through each month, but I'm still paying off the house we sold 3 years ago - at $900 per month. I choose to send my kids to private Christian school and my company usually helps with tuition. They don't, so I'm paying $900 per month more than I would if I sent him to the school they choose. I have spent about $50 on clothes in the past 5 years. One pair of slacks got a hole the next to last week of school. I'll have to replace them. Otherwise, they last a long time! We still have the same couch and recliners we got before my 21-year old daughter was born. They are in pretty good condition. My computer gives me warnings that it is about to crash, but God is the amazing IT guy, and it still works! My son will drive soon, but we can't afford to add him to our insurance (He got a lifeguarding job that he started the day before yesterday so he will be able pay that himself if he has to drive. Yesterday the pool was closed because of tornado warnings.) I was about to catch up on some other bills when that son had to have knee surgery because he tore his meniscus. I tell myself that if I had extra money, I would use it for good. I cannot imagine what I would do if I had $1,000 surplus every month - if I ever finish paying for that house and when my son finishes high school I should have! There is light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm hoping there aren't too many burned-out bulbs that need changing between here and there! In the meantime, I'll continue moving my debt to low-interest deals when they come and keep plugging away.

  4. I'm a Dave Ramsey follower, even lead Financial Peace University every fall. It can be hard to get that debt snowball rolling, but don't give up because once it turns over a few times, things will fall into place and you'll get traction. Hang in there, and keep practicing contentment and gratitude.

  5. Another great post--thanks so much for being transparent. It's HARD (really, really hard) to keep on keeping on with the whole financial responsibility thing when there are real and immediate needs (buckling floor, plaster, screen door for you--I have my own set of eyesores!) not just wants like, "Gee, I wish I could get a whole newly remodeled kitchen just cause I'm sick of the old one." It's not like we want anything extravagant for pity's sake! But anyway, just wanted to say I'm right there with you--my never ending home improvement list both inspires and haunts me. But you're right--I need to take control more often and do life right alongside the imperfections. Even if I do THAT imperfectly, too. :)