Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Poverty Does Not a Nicer Person Make

I do know that "poverty" is relative.

I also know that by any measure other than my own, my life hardly qualifies as "living in poverty."

Nonetheless, this month, the demands of property taxes, six extra people (an adult daughter with boyfriend and their four kids) in my home, my youngest daughter's high school graduation, my granddaughter's college tuition, my grandson's summer camp and that same youngest daughter's clothing and equipment costs for her summer job (building trails in our state park system) mean that May is not only tight but it is likely I will go into more debt covering all those costs. The baby emergency fund was used in April and has not yet been replenished.

That's not good. But what is worse is how I'm handling it emotionally.

I am stressed and I am onery.

I suppose another person might handle it better when they don't have funds, even minor funds for minor pleasures. But I find it affecting so many other areas of my life. It takes away some of the joy I have with my kids and grandkids. If they want ice-cream, it's not their fault that I don't have the ready cash. When my 9 year old granddaughter brings home the summer day-camp brochure and asks if she can attend a couple of sessions, it is not her fault that I don't want to hear about it.

When my best friend calls and suggests brunch, I decline. She reminds me that I have declined for the past three weeks. Ultimately she pays, and we have a good time, but now I owe her.

I wake up in the middle of the night, obsessing about a pending debt. I dread opening my mail at home for fear it will be some bill I've forgotten.

When I am paying off debt and I can see it go down, the deprivations don't bother me nearly as much. But when I'm just treading water, and I'm getting hit with all kinds of expenses that I did not anticipate or for which I did not set appropriate amounts aside, there's no feeling of satisfaction. It just bums me out.

And when I'm bummed out, it colors every other thing. For example, I still have my trip to Japan in October planned. The tickets have been purchased and it's too late to back out now. The truth is, my finances should straighten out around August or sooner, and I have budgeted for this trip, but I don't know that I will have caught up on the increased debts by then. It's hard to get excited about something that far off (which will have expenses of its own) when I'm struggling here and now.

Yet in the end, it's not the anxiety or situational depression (which, in spite of the tone of this post, isn't all that deep) that bothers me--it is the frustration and attendant crankiness. It's not like I'm buying plasma TV's or eating out at gourmet restaurants. There's no one to blame except my younger, non-saving self, no one I can point a finger at. It's just life, in all of its unpredictiblity.

Still, it's also true that misery loves company. Have I made you miserable yet?


Anonymous said...

You haven't made me miserable but I just would like to know why:

"six extra people (an adult daughter with boyfriend and their four kids) in my home, my youngest daughter's high school graduation, my granddaughter's college tuition, my grandson's summer camp and that same youngest daughter's clothing and equipment costs for her summer job (building trails in our state park system)"

are YOU responsible for all of the above? When is it 'YOU' time? You are NOT responsible for your adult daughter, her boyfriend and 4 kids.

Can your granddaughter get a college loan? My kids did. I paid NOTHING towards my kids college. They got jobs, loans and graduated to enter careers that pays 4X what I could have ever earned in just one of my lifetimes. Where is it written that you have to do all of these things? Where is it written that every kid has to have a party when they graduate? What about just going out to a dinner or something? Or a home cooked party?? or even a BYO food to the party party?
With all the yard sales coming up, because people are going to be selling EVERYTHING soon, you can get equipment and clothes and whatever.

In other words, Grace, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can get through all of the above with your wallet intact.

My kids had jobs since they were 14 years old: babysitting, yard work, dog sitting, eventually they were cleaning up tables at the local pizzeria. Didn't harm them. I was a divorced mom and was barely holding on myself. If my kids didn't help me, I couldn't make it. I sat them down and asked them to help me.

Take a deep breath, don't think ahead and just handle each task one at a time. Everything isn't happening all in one day is it???

You'll get there. We all do. You'll make it. Hold on.

Bouncing Back said...

Hey Grace- I thought your adult daughter and her family were going to be "gone" by now? I'm sure that whole situation is stressing you out. Have they been able to contribute more to the household (i.e.-food, utilities (even though your daughter may thing otherwise), household chores).

And as cinzea said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, hang in there.

Sharon said...

I agree with Cinzea, please, starting looking out for yourself. Your adult daughter should be able to get herself together, as well as her boyfriend, and try to make it on their own. I would be WAY more cranky than you if I were in that situation....I'm pulling for you!

Sistah Ant said...

nope i'm not miserable yet and i hope you don't stay miserable for long. i figure that at least you know how to get from point a to point b. some people, when faced with tough situations, don't have the knowledge to know how to change their circumstances. you, on the other hand, know what you're doing. so, though it sucks now it won't always suck. (i know you know this already.)

and you're grown. you're entitled to feel ornery, it's cool. be ornery. i can understand not wanting to take it out on the kids, though (except maybe your daughter, who ought to at least understand the pressure you may be feeling).

Living Almost Large said...

Might I suggest rescheduling your trip to Japan in October? I don't think you'll be able to afford it. If the dollar drops more you'll die with the costs of everything. Depending on the amount of time there you'll run through money like water.

In the next post you are taking on more debt. Bad idea. Save the trip till next year 2009 maybe March or 2009 October.

Grace. said...

Thank you, Ladies. I appreciate the responses. My daughter and family have been with me for a month. I'm hoping they will be gone by the end of May. They are now covering their own food expenses, but it is still costly to me to have them here. The decision to pay for my grandaughter's college is one I made and intend to live with. She is going to a community college and meeting a lot of her own expenses. At some point, she will have to have loans but I feel an obligation to keep that from happening for another couple of years. As for the trip to Japan, if I had to make the decision right now, I would not go. But I'm going with my best friend, who used her frequent flyer miles for our non-refundable tickets and can get us lodging at various locations with relatives. Neither she nor they can reschedule. The dollar is holding up better against the yen than it is against the euro. And, I am hoping that I will be in better financial shape by October. Excuses and rationalizations, I know.

Living Almost Large said...

Trust me it won't be cheap. Expect to pay through the eye teeth for food. And since your friend is giving you free lodging and airline tickets you will be spending a lot. Please take gifts to every household and family member you meet. Something from where you are from.

And expect to also pay entrance fees to places. And the tickets to ride on trains are ridiculously expensive. Also expect to pay about $20-30/meal. And if you are staying at people's homes the gifts you bring should be very nice.

Bouncing Back said...

Glad to hear the extra family will be on their own soon. Money may be tight, but you NEED the vacation. You really do.

It is great to hear from your other posts too that your sister is willing and able to help you.

I don't have any tips on Japanese guest etiquette (sp), but I guess if gifts are the norm, you can start stock piling now!


Anonymous said...

If you're going to Japan, you may consider getting a Capital One Money Market Account. Then, when you withdraw money from the post office ATMS (they're everywhere) here in Japan, you won't get hit with exchange fees/ATM fees, etc. Same with the Capital One credit card. They're the only USA bank that doesn't charge an arm and a leg.

Grace. said...

Interesting about Capital One. I do have a Capital One credit card though it currently resides in a chunk of ice at the back of my freezer! Thanks for the info.