Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Being Financially Smart Sometimes Requires a Backbone

I remember waking up one day when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and while I expect my parents saw it coming, I was shocked that that day we were poor.  The day before nothing was said about money but instantly, I was hearing "We can't afford it."

I will say my dad was never one to budget.  He also was self employed and since he sold tombstones, they were pricey.  He never took into account the wholesale cost of the stone, the time it would take him, or the cost of labor to hire someone when he set it in the cemetery.  For the next 10 years, my parents were in a lot of debt.  Add in that Dad was hit by a drunk driver on Dad's way to work, and all medical expenses came out of our pocket for years.  I had to drop out of college until the legal process was over because it looked like our family had more money than we did because so much was being spent on surgeons, doctor visits, and medication.

I can remember the comments we would get about our financial situation.  First off, unless someone was willing to help, it shouldn't have been any of their business.  I made an off handed comment one time that we weren't having a turkey for Christmas dinner.  I was asked, "What?  Can't you afford it?"  I didn't realize at that age I didn't need to answer a question that intrusive, but I admitted that, no, we couldn't afford to splurge on a turkey for Christmas.  (And if someone asks you something point blank, you can always ask back, "Why do you want to know?"  I wish I would have.)

My mother had to get a job after years of staying at home.  I can remember her sister saying to get the first thing she could find because we needed the money.  Thankfully Mom didn't take that advice.  The "first thing" would have been a minimum wage job with no benefits.  Mom kept looking until she found a job with the state and it had a nice retirement plan as well as insurance.  If Mom would have taken the first thing she would have found, she would have had to pay for dialysis out of pocket in later years and had under $700 a month to live on.  (One week of dialysis is more than $700!)

People can be well meaning, but miss the whole point of saving money, trying to be frugal, and good financial sense.

I can remember my mother and I only had potatoes to eat all one winter.  (This is why I learned extreme couponing back in the early 1990s before it was cool.) I wanted something other than potatoes to eat!  Yet, had you known our circumstance, what would you have thought of us eating at Arby's?  I know there were times people judged us.

Yet, Arby's had 99 cent kids meals one night a week.  It was one of the few times we had meat.  Someone had given us some gift certificates for Christmas and we stretched them as long as possible.   I am sure some thought the "potato shakers" (they were a thing) was an extravagance in my shopping cart.  Yet after triple coupons, each box cost 15 cents and was good for two meals.  When potatoes were about all we ate, isn't 7 1/2 cents a meal worth 'spicing' things up a little?

Only YOU know your financial situation.  Only YOU know what makes financial sense for you, and your priorities may not be the same as someone else's priority for you.  (Within reason, I'm not talking about someone who wants to play video games all day and let their family have to eat ketchup sandwiches for every meal.)

No, sometimes the groceries I got for almost nothing didn't make sense.  (I can remember baby food being a money maker item, cornflakes being free, etc.)  I'm sure there were people who thought my buying baby food was a waste, but it helped keep us in milk and bread, and I donated the baby food.  In that situation, another person's priority for me would be not using coupons, not getting the baby food, not getting the overage applied to something else.  But my priority as to afford as many groceries as possible on $4.00 a week.

Bottom line is, just like most things in life, you have to do what is best for you.  You have to make your own decisions, and if others don't like that, then it's not your responsibility.  I can remember in the past that I decided to forgo certain things because I was so focused on paying off debt.  I caught a lot of flack for cutting out as much as I did, and I finally started telling people, "Oh, if you want to pay for that, I'll be happy to have it, but it's just not in my budget right now."  Believe it or not, soon after, people stopped giving their opinion on my finances.  (It worked, I paid off my student loan early!)

No comments:

Post a Comment