***I wrote this post last night and scheduled it to post next Friday, but for some reason the schedule feature didn't work, so it's already posted. Oh well, I guess. You get to enjoy it earlier!***
Since we were married, I've been the self-proclaimed budgeter. I've been in charge of over seeing and balancing our budget. It's been pretty darn easy, if I do say so myself. My secret? I haven't really done it! Ooops! I should explain that a little more though.
When we were first married, we were both working and had *some* disposable income. We didn't make outlandish purchases or go overboard with our spending by any means. But we never sat down to make an official budget either. I take that back. I did make one before we got married to prove to my then fiance that we could make it work financially. I think I still have that spreadsheet somewhere, but I likely wouldn't be able to find it again. Back to the present. My husband has said multiple times over the years that he would like us to plan our budget a little better and that he'd like to *GASP* start saving and possibly *GULP* start investing. I would tell him I had it under control and then inwardly cringe while making a subtle topic change. I never followed through with creating another budget.
My reasons for not including him in the money are, quite frankly, embarrassing. Here come some true confessions! I had some old debt that I was still paying that he didn't fully know about. And after our son was born, we had a pile of medical bills. We were uninsured and, for some reason, didn't qualify for Medicaid. I wasn't cleared by the doctor to go back to work until 12 weeks post-partum and I didn't want to go back to work. The thought of leaving my baby kept me awake at night and gave me severe anxiety and depression. I just couldn't handle the thought of trusting someone besides my husband or my mother with my child. But my husband was going to school full-time and working full-time. We couldn't arrange our schedules so that when I worked he was home and vice-versa. My mom also works full-time during the day. In order to keep the job I had, I had to be available to work mornings and weekends. And in order to do that, we would have to find a babysitter. I did my due diligence and looked into childcare for our son, but it just made sense to stay home. I was previously working about 20 hours a week making about $8.00 per hour.
So 20 x $8 = $160/week - $30 for taxes = $130/week. The babysitters I looked into were going to charge around $75-100 a week for a 3 month old. So $130 - $100 left us with an extra $30 a week, if we were lucky. I was also nursing our son and pumping was NOT working, so we would have had to switch to formula. We did participate in WIC and I received food benefits for nursing that could have been switched to formula. But then we wouldn't have received the food benefits and would have had to start paying more for groceries. It just didn't make financial sense for me to go back to work. I either needed to find a higher paying job or we needed to cut costs. We'd both said that we wanted me to be able to stay home and care for our child(ren), so we decided to see if we could manage on one income. It was working during my maternity leave, so I made the decision not to go back. I started looking into doing childcare in my home. I interviewed with a few people over the last year, but it hasn't worked out for one reason or another. So I've been cutting costs as much as I can. I've also been doing surveys and product reviews to bring in some occasional cash (maybe an extra $400-500 per year). Of course, all of these decisions were made before I started getting calls from creditors asking about their money.
Anyway, I tell you all of that as a bit of background for our financial situation. I avoided telling my husband about our looming medical bills and my past credit debt because he would freak out. He would probably insist that I find a job and even now, almost 20 months later, I still get very anxious and upset about leaving my baby with a sitter for more than a couple hours. But I've recently made some HUGE financial changes.
On March 1st I was served with a court summons for the bill from our pediatrician. I spent a couple of days agonizing over what I was going to do. This wasn't what I expected it to come to. I don't know what I really expected it to come to, but this wasn't it! I thought about moving in with my parents so that we could start making a serious dent in our bills, but it was still just too much. Everyone wanted at least $100 a month from us. My OBGYN even wanted $300 a month. We couldn't afford all the monthly payments and, most definitely, couldn't afford to be sued for these bills. One night I was scanning my junk mail for any important messages that were wrongly directed and saw an email from "the bankruptcy experts." It immediately caught my eye. It wasn't something I'd considered or even thought of. It's not like I'm a bad person and intentionally made sure we couldn't pay these bills. The bulk of my debt comes because we were uninsured when I got pregnant and couldn't afford the outrageous bills. I had also incurred some debt from when I was traveling for work. I had to pay for it up front and the company would reimburse me. They did reimburse me, but I was also trying to go to school, so I used that money for school and living expenses instead of for paying off the travel expenses. Stupid mistake, I know. What's crazy is that some of the stuff I was still paying for is debt I incurred in 2003 and 2004! I'm still paying on it 6 or 7 years later! That's pure insanity!!!! I WANTED to and INTENDED on paying these bills, but the math just wasn't working. I considered, researched, and did some major praying about filing for bankruptcy. And I finally came to the conclusion that this is what I needed to do for me and for our financial situation.
My credit was a wreck - the bad far outweighed the good. I didn't even bother looking at my credit report or score. I knew it wouldn't be pretty. I also knew that some day we would want to have a house of our own, we'd eventually need to get a bigger car, etc, etc. These things wouldn't be possible if my credit score was 0! But if I could start over and start rebuilding my credit, we would have a very good chance of being able to have these things with decent interest rates and monthly payments. So, I took the plunge and found myself a very decent and respectful lawyer to take my bankruptcy case. I officially filed less than a week ago and it's been a wonderful decision so far. I don't have creditors calling 3 or 4 times a day! I don't get a nervous twitch every time my phone rings. In fact, I can actually turn the volume up and not fear that a creditor is going to call and my husband will answer and end up talking to them. It's such a relief. It wasn't an easy decision and hasn't been an easy process. I had to make a list of every creditor and I had to actually get a copy of my credit report. It was hard, but not as hard as avoiding debt collectors or lawsuits! The process isn't over, but I'm on my way to getting a fresh start. And it feels wonderful!
In fact, it feels so wonderful that I actually sat down the other night and made up a spreadsheet for our budget! How awesome is that. What's even more awesome is that without all the debt payments we'd have to make, our budget actually balances and we have enough left over to start saving. It's a small amount, but it's something. It felt so good to be able look at the numbers and see that we weren't going to go broke!
I know financial issues can cause a rift between partners and is one of the leading causes for divorce, so I just want to urge you all to get your finances in order. It's something you need to do whether you're married or not. Learn to live within a budget Do what you need to do to make your budget work so you're not living off credit and incurring more debt in the process. Live within your means! This is something that I've been taught over and over, and now I have a chance to make it work.
So my plan, to keep me accountable, is to update about how the budeting is going. It will just be a once a month post (either at the beginning or end of the month) to see where I'm at and make sure I'm actually using the super awesome spread sheet I created. We wouldn't want it to go to waste, right?