I've been stressed about money. Incredibly stressed. Stressed, frustrated, and sad (especially when it comes to having to tell the kids we can't do xyz because we don't have the money for it) I realized the other day that this is possibly the most stressed I've ever been about money, which made no sense to me. Our money situation has been much more dire than it is now. There was a point in time that we were bringing in half as much money, and had twice as much debt. That was a stressful time, to be sure, but I still don't remember feeling it, really FEELING it, quite as acutely as I do now.
So what's different this time?
For one thing, while many in the country are in our same boat, most in our own immediate circle are not. I'm watching as everyone around me plans trips, goes to museums, goes to the movies, goes out to eat. It is difficult to see day after day, when none of those things are in our immediate future. I'm not proud of feeling bothered by this... I know that what others do is none of my business. But the feeling is there, no matter how distasteful it may be.
More than that though, is the fact that perhaps for the first time since we've been married, we are truly living within our means, and are therefore intimately aware of every penny that comes in and goes out. We are living it and feeling it and not burying our heads in the sand. With the exception of my unexpected ER trip in early February, we have not used a credit card for any purpose since the beginning of the year.
We have never been a family that's been terribly into "stuff." We don't buy the fancy cars, expensive clothes, nice furniture. But we have in the past been known to reach for those credit cards... to go out to eat, because we "deserve it". To take a vacation, because it's been such a long time. To buy something for the house or the kids or each other, just because we wanted to. We always found a way to justify it, to turn it into a "need." Did we have the money to pay that bill at the end of the month? Who knew? Who cared? We were living like true Americans. Buy now, worry about it later.
Well, "later" is now. Now we pay for past mistakes. Now we live the way we should have been living all along. Now if we don't have the money, we don't spend it. Simple. And it IS frustrating at times, and it IS stressful. But I've realized that even more than being frustrating and stressful, it is freeing! This is the way it is supposed to be. I like knowing that when we buy something, we're using hard earned cash and making it a thoughtful, planned purchase. I like knowing when I pay the bills every month that we are being responsible, and that we are blessed to have the extras - internet, satellite TV, cell phones, etc - that are so so easy to take for granted. I like knowing that we're living simply, and I like knowing that we're still finding new ways to do so.
I like knowing that if we keep doing what we're doing that we will eventually be debt free, and out from under the burden that so many people consider to be an inevitable part of life.