My Financial Blunder and Anxiety
Face it head on and you will feel better.
Money. The least favourite word of every person in their twenties. Not one of my friends have not had financial issues at some point in their twenties. It is such a tough time! You may be a college or university graduate, but today that does not necessarily get you a good job and many of us are left working the awful part-time jobs we had during school. Now we have thousands of dollars of student debt and no way to pay it off on top of trying to get out into the world on our own. With the price of everything skyrocketing, it's almost impossible to save enough money for first and last month's rent or a down payment on a mortgage, let alone to live on your own.
In life, I have been very fortunate. I had a part-time job since the end of the ninth grade and I lived at home for my four years of university, where my parents did not ask for rent. My divorced parents had an agreement to pay the tuition of my brother and I, so the three of us split it three ways (I did not qualify for student loans). With my part-time job, I was able to pay my third and cover books each year. I graduated debt free. I also graduated with a full-time job and an excellent salary for a 22-year-old fresh from school. These things allowed me to move out and away from my family just before convocation. My boyfriend and I got a place and jobs on the other side of the country.
This well-paying job of mine did me many favours in life. While out west, I did not live paycheck to paycheck. I had disposable income and some savings. It was amazing! But, after two years of being home-sick, I decided to take an open position back in my hometown. Because this role was a step-down, the company would not cover my moving expenses. There went my savings. My then boyfriend did not assist in paying for the move, though he came with me. The other issue with this was that my salary was for a much larger location than the one I had moved to and because the salary gap was so significant, I ended up outside the salary bracket for someone in that position, so even with the increase in minimum wage, I would never see an increase in my pay.
The year after we moved back home, my boyfriend asked me to marry him. I was thrilled! My life was running so smoothly. I was so happy! Less than a year later, we bought a house (all under my name) together. We both had a steady income that superseded our expenses, so our bills were covered and we were slowly making upgrades in the house together. Five months later, I realized that I was unhappy in our relationship and I asked him to leave. Yep. I kicked my fiance out. As bad as I felt for the pain that I caused him, I was happy in my freedom. The space, distance, and alone time I got when I became single did me a world of good. You would be surprised by the things that you learn about yourself when you are on your own for the first time. I loved it! But I did not love the bills.
When I broke my engagement, the house became my sole responsibility. I had no one to help pay the bills while I covered the mortgage, no one to help cover the cost of any necessary repairs, I no longer got a multi-policy discount on my insurance, and no one could help pick up the cost of groceries and other expenses. For someone who was used to having disposable income, this did not faze me immediately, which meant that I maintained my less than frugal ways of living. It did not take long for me to deplete the little cushion of comfort I had created for myself and I was just scraping by. Then Christmas came, and I love to spoil my loved ones.
All of my friends and family have a partner. They all live with someone, they all share expenses with their partner. While I have a partner, he does not live with me, which means we are not sharing the expenses. But people in my life know that I make a significant amount of money, so managing everything on my own is something that I expect they think I would have no problem with. I was the first friend to buy a car, the first to move out and away on my own. I was the first to get a “real job,” to live with their significant other, to get engaged, to buy a house. They called me the mom and tell me all the time what a great parent I will make. I have always been responsible. So, tell me. How could I feel anything but shame when I realized that I was struggling, and dare I say: failing?
If you read my other articles, you know that I have problems with anxiety and depression. Something therapy taught me is that because of my past experiences, I think that if others do not see me as perfect, then they will see me as having no value, that I am no good to them and they will want nothing to do with me. To me, my only option was to not lead on that I was having these problems, so I hid it. I went to movies and shows with my friends. We went shopping and we went out to dinner. And that just made everything so much worse for me.
Now, I am in thousands of dollars of debt. There is no one to blame but myself, and I know this. I ate out way too much, I took too long to claim receipts through my benefits, I missed paying some bills so had some added interest, I shopped too much, got new tattoos, went to countless shows and movies, spent a lot of money on alcohol. Yikes. It all added up quickly.
When I finally sat down and looked at the disaster I made for myself, I immediately thought, “okay, I am going to come into money. No problem!” I knew that I had some claims to make through my benefits, so I submitted those receipts straight away. It was going to be about one thousand dollars back in my pocket. Perfect! And it was time for income tax, and I knew I should get some of that back. Like the last year, I was expecting a couple of hundred dollars. And that was a great start! So, I did not panic and waited for the systems to do their work.
Well. I did my taxes. My return was just 50 dollars, and after paying almost 30 dollars to have my taxes done, my return was really just 20. This upset me a lot, but I still had money coming through my benefits, so I still did not panic, until I got a letter from the benefits company. They changed their policy in the last year. They would no longer honour my old receipts for prescriptions, and they would only cover the cost of appointments with psychologists, so the 500 dollars I was expecting back for appointments with my psychotherapist was not coming. That was when I panicked.
If you did not guess it, I am great at panicking. There was a lot of tears, anger, frustration and disappointment. How could I have messed everything up so badly? As soon as my partner realized something was wrong, he called me immediately on FaceTime. I could barely look at him while I told him the gist of what was happening. He sympathized for me, which was really nice of him, and told me that I would work things out and I would be fine. He is right, of course. He is always right and he will tell you so.
We ended our call and I sat down with a daily/weekly/monthly planner and my bank account. Shit got real. I went over a few months of history and compiled a list of all bills that are automatically withdrawn from my account and their amounts and the days they are withdrawn. Then, I made a list of every bill I pay manually, and the amount of money I need to pay towards my debt. I figured out which bills come from which pay and how much I could afford to throw at my debt each month while still having money for groceries. I allotted myself 100 dollars every pay for groceries, not needing more than 50 per week, being a single woman.
This immediately calmed me down. By diving in, I realized that I still had a lot of debt, but that I could manage it, that I could knock it down over time and that I would be alright. I sold a couple of things and made 80 dollars, so I had that going for me as well. Things were looking up! But then it was my mom's birthday. And I wanted to get my family something for Easter. And then I ran out of bathroom cleaner, and dish soap and paper towel and toilet paper and fabric softener and deodorant and conditioner. The next thing I knew, I had spent 85 dollars on just those things, about 35 on Easter things, and another 20 for the flowers I got my mom to go alongside her birthday gift. That ate through the 200 dollar budget per month for my groceries. In two days. My grandmother gave me 25 dollars for my birthday, so I walked around the grocery store with my phone calculator making sure that everything I picked up would not go over the 25 dollar mark. That was a new experience for me. It was also when I realized that I was in trouble.
My mom had asked me to stop in at her place on my way home. She had an extra piece of birthday cake for me, and something she forgot to include with my birthday present (ironically, a bracelet that says “Hakuna Matata”). I was standing there talking to her and all of a sudden she jokes that I need to get some clothes that actually fit me. I have been losing weight, so things are pretty baggy on me. I just laughed awkwardly and said, “Who has money for that?” She gave me a weird look and I broke down. I started crying and telling her about my money problems. It was awful and I was so embarrassed. My mom has always been so proud of me and the things I have accomplished. She is the last person I would ever want to disappoint. She told me to stay there for a minute and walked away. A minute later she was back with 100 dollars in cash. I cried harder. I thanked her profusely and went home. Less than an hour later, she showed up at my door with five bags of groceries and laundry detergent. I waited until she left and cried harder. I am crying thinking about it now.
Later on, she told me that when she and my father first moved into the house she lives in now, my grandparents bought them a new refrigerator. They would not have been able to afford one without help. She then told me that my grandmother also used to drop off a lot of things to help out. Things like toilet paper, diapers, and laundry detergent. My mother is an amazing person. She is someone that I am proud to call my mother and I aspire to be like her as I make my way through life. To hear that she had these struggles made me feel a lot better, but I still felt bad that I needed her help. She has already given me so much, I felt that I should not and could not ask for more.
It's been less than a week since she gave me that money and dropped off the groceries. My anxiety over the whole situation has definitely calmed down. I have not spent any of that money and I do not intend to. It is hidden in case of emergencies. Every part of me just wants to give her that money back, but I am refraining. To a lot of people, it's extra cash, free cash. To me, it shows me that my mother still cares for me and wants to help me. It is telling me that I have help and support when I need it, which is not something that I have felt very often in my life. She keeps telling me that it is okay to ask for help. This, coming from someone that I never want to disappoint, is really changing my mindset. Therapy has taught me that I am terrified of disappointing my mom, but this whole situation is telling me that she is not disappointed in me. It's really changing how I feel about so many things and it is finally giving me faith in myself. Something that I have never had before.
What this all boils down to... budget your money as best as you can and do not ignore any financial problems you have. Also, as I said in another post, do not be afraid to ask for help. There are people who will love and support you, no matter the circumstance. That is what family is for.
Love you, Mom.