Have you lived through a time when the money just isn’t there? Perhaps you find yourself there right now. Maybe right now you are in a place where you have no money at all.
You could be nearing the end of yet another month and have no idea how you’re going to make it all work. Mostly, you know that it won’t work. So, you just hope for the best and know that you’ll be worrying about it when you have to and not one moment sooner.
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If any of this resonates with you, let me encourage you to keep reading. If the money just isn’t there, read on.
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Let me clarify something with you right off the bat. If you are looking for money saving tips that may help during a financial valley in your life, I have so many posts under the frugal tab along the top here on my site that can help with that. In fact, my whole book, How to Be Frugal, is an unpacking of my brain regarding the lessons, tips, tricks, and tools I learned over 20 years of living frugally.
If this information is what you are looking for, this is not the post where you will find that kind of information.
In this post I will offer you something completely different. In this post I can offer you one thing:
Understanding and empathy.
For several years of our married life, which is now more than 20 years, my husband and I earned a very good living, and we enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle because of it. While we have always lived frugally, even extremely frugally according to the standards that most people have, our lifestyle, our security, and our future was more than comfortable.
During these times we said no to many luxuries and niceties, but it was completely by choice because we were focused on getting out of debt and being good stewards of the money we had while also supporting a super-sized family that was continually growing.
We had good paying jobs and a steady income stream that was more than sufficient.
Until we didn’t.
Without warning the rug was pulled out from underneath us and in the blink of an eye, the money was just not there.
Have you been there? Are you there?
During this time in my life I felt:
- self conscious
- like a failure
- beaten down
- worn out
- as though everyone else was living in the real world while I was living somewhere completely different.
Or at times, I didn’t really even feel like I was living at all. I felt as though I was just surviving. I was only breathing.
If you have been here before, or if you are there now, let me tell you, I understand.
I, too, have felt that overwhelming despair, that ache in the pit of your stomach, and that sense of panic and dread that is like a noose around your neck, keeping you from ever feeling like you can catch your breath.
During this time in my life well meaning people said things to me that they had no idea were literally ripping my insides out. Not in any way on purpose, but things were said that were just a part of their daily life that was light years away from my reality….and no one knew of the reality I actually lived in. I didn’t want anyone to know, really. I think it was all just part of a self-protection mechanism.
Every day, all day long, I couldn’t get out from underneath the weight of my reality, and it was all-consuming. I was constantly reminded, day in and day out, that I was on the outside looking in regarding absolutely everything.
These things and so many more were part of the reality I faced every day:
- There was a time when I was working on a project with a group of women for several hours, much longer than anticipated. It was decided that it was time to grab something to eat since it was well past lunch time, which again was completely unplanned. I mumbled some sort of excuse about having to run home to check on the kids so I’d meet them back in an hour to finish. In reality, I just pulled my car around the corner and sat in it without turning it on despite the fact that it was January in Michigan. Of course, this is what I did since I had no money to buy lunch and couldn’t even afford the gas to run the heat in my car. I hoped no one would notice my blue lips and chattering teeth when I got back.
- Of course, there were endless wedding and baby shower invitations that I simply declined because there was no way that I could afford a gift while pretending that I didn’t know that proper etiquette says that you send a gift anyway.
- I was no longer able to meet with a group of girls I had been meeting with once a month for years since we always met in a restaurant. I didn’t want to answer questions about why I didn’t even order a simple drink month after month…so I just stopped going.
- During this time I tried to avoid looking at my bank account online, but when I was forced to, I always arrived on the home page of my account looking through squinting eyes because I was so afraid to see where the balance really was in case something unexpected was withdrawn. It was always amazing to me how one page held months of transactions at a time since there was no money coming and going. Thankfully we had planned well and didn’t have many payments at this time, but since there was literally no money coming in, weeks would go by with no activity in our bank account.
- Normally our property taxes, which were due two times a year, were carefully budgeted for so when the time came for them to be paid, the money was all there. As the deadline loomed closer and closer, I kept hoping and praying that the money would come from somewhere. When it didn’t, I sold a ton of stuff in order to make the payment.
There are countless other stories that I could share to illustrate the extreme despair that I felt during this time, but my desire is to offer you an understanding ear.
If I could, I would offer you a seat on my couch and tell you that you aren’t alone, even though it feels like you are.
If you were here I’d tell you that it’s ok to let the tears fall sometime.
I would tell you that sometimes that pit in your stomach simply won’t go away.
I would tell you that I know what it’s like to be given the once over when the person at the pharmacy processes your Medicaid card.
I would tell you that I know what it’s like to be completely misjudged and misconstrued by the woman in line behind you, who looks an awful lot like your former self, when she sees you whip out your WIC card to pay for the groceries on the belt in front of you.
I would tell you that I know what it’s like to want to explain your story to the person who tells you that your food benefits have run out for the month when you thought you had a little left…but yet you know they wouldn’t really hear you anyway.
I would tell you that most people you meet aren’t really interested in hearing about the situations in your life that brought you to the welfare line…they would just rather assume that they know who you are and why you’re there. Most people would rather just assume that you are where you are because you are lazy, lacking, or just interested in getting something for free.
The interesting thing is that while others see you as getting things for “free,” they have no idea of the price you are actually paying for your “free” benefits.
You are paying for your free benefits with your very soul.
While I wouldn’t trade the lessons that I learned during times of hardship, I would tell you that these times of hardship were not fun times to live through. I would have given anything to not be in that place when the money wasn’t there, but this was just not to be.
I won’t even tell you that things will get better because I know that you already have plenty of people in your life who tell you that, because in all reality, things will get better… someway, somehow.
My purpose is just to sit here with you, grab your hand, and let the tears fall along with yours.
If you are living through a time when the money just isn’t there, that’s what I hope I’ve done for you.