Alright dear ones. I told you I would give you all the gory details of THE GREAT BUDGETING SAGA OF 2015. I started by poking around the blog to read a few of the other budgeting posts I have written and realized this disaster is not limited to 2015. There was The Great Budgeting Saga of 2014 and Taking Back the Budget in 2015. Reading these made me sad. And angry with myself.
In 2014, we were GOOD. Things were figured out. Life was paid for. We were veterans of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and were debt free except for our mortgage. Then we put one large purchase on our credit card and things snowballed. We then decided to go ALL THE PLACES and DO ALL THE THINGS and charge EVERYTHING THAT COULD EVER BE CHARGED.
In 2015, we tried to take control of the damage. In January, we sat down with our yearly calendar and said yes to ONLY the things we really wanted to do and a tough no to all the other things. We talked about every purchase. We stayed in instead of going out.
But here’s where it gets tricky.
We aren’t necessarily in debt because we have no income. Yes, we made poor choices with our credit card, but our income stream is okay. Our outgoing expenses are bumped up by the fact that we have both kids in private school. For last year’s school season, we were just fine. But then one of my larger contracts ended and my second largest got cut down by a significant percentage. I knew that with a budget conversation would bring the suggestion to change the kids’ schooling arrangements and I just couldn’t stomach the thought. So I ignored it. And I never really let on to my husband how bad it was getting.
I know. We could not have the kids in private school. I hear what you are already planning to say. But for anyone who has ever made the tough choice about how to educate their kids or what is the best fit for them, you know this is not an easy solution.
We had a hard year with our first grader last year and we 100% know the only reason we got through it unscathed (ALL of us) was because of the amazing teacher he had and the incredible Montessori environment he was in. So many of his quirks and his struggles and his challenges may have been missed or mishandled had he not been where he was. We are not wealthy people. We cut corners and make sacrifices and go without in other areas so we can make this work for our family. It was never and WILL NEVER BE an easy choice.
We got through the summer and into the new school year okay. But then tuition started up again in September and I started to lose control of the budget again. I was solely in control of the budget for a few reasons. I had managed it FOREVER and did just fine. I hated change. And I HATED the idea of my husband knowing the precarious situation we were in. Some of you will probably say that I should have just told him. And I know this. But have you ever had to have this conversation?
It wasn’t even necessarily that I had racked up charges on our credit cards buying expensive shoes or that I had a secret online gambling problem. These were just our everyday expenses that we couldn’t cover. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. And if I’m being honest with myself, wasn’t even ready to start saying no to everything, because I knew that’s what was coming.
But the day was here. A check I had been expecting was late in the mail and I had to contact our son’s school and ask them to hold his tuition check for a few days. I had been walking around for weeks and weeks with an extremely painful pit in my stomach. I had anxiety. I couldn’t sleep. And then this? This was threatening to send me flying off the cliff. And I had nobody to share it with.
For two days, I tried to tell my husband when he got home from work. I opened my mouth like a fish gasping for air but nothing would come out. He mentioned a few times that he was having a tough time at work and I justified not telling him by saying I would make his day harder with the knowledge that our finances were in shambles.
I was not brave.
The next day, I was driving to the gym and started having what felt like a minor anxiety attack. I was sweating, I felt nauseous, I felt hungry, I felt angry, I felt like crying. So I called my husband at work because I couldn’t bear having to watch his face fall while I told him. Like the big chicken I am, I unloaded it all on him while he was supposed to be taking care of one million other things. I cried in that big, racking, heaving, sobbing way until I could barely breathe, but I got it all out.
And you guys? While I had made his day infinitely harder, he graciously lifted that load right off my shoulders and put it onto his own. This had been my fear all along, that I would make us both miserable instead of trying to bear it all on my own. But he was so forgiving and strong when I was weak that I felt as if the burden on BOTH of us was lightened. The fight was still massively uphill and the hole was still so deep it was halfway to China, but sharing the anxiety made it feel less somehow.
What felt like the hardest part was over. But now the major work had to begin. Stay tuned.
This is a tough story to tell, but as finances are one of the things that people tend to struggle with the most, I have to assume it will resonate with some of you.
Have you hit bottom like we did? What was the catalyst to send you in the right direction? Do you have something in your budget that you will make sacrifices for, like private school for us?
I seriously can NOT recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover enough. We have used his simple budgeting principles to dig us out before and we will use them again. It’s not easy, it’s hard work. There is no quick fix, but it works. If you are struggling like we are but don’t have the tools to turn to, I 100% suggest this book.
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