Scared and overwhemed

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anonymous user
Registered: 12-31-1969
Scared and overwhemed
22
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 1:28pm

Hi there, I haven’t been here for a while. I’m here today because I’m scared. I’m scared about the future and about my debt that seems not to have reached a stagnating point.

Last May/June I was “happy” because 1) We had managed to not to add new debt to our debt and 2) we had also managed to pay down $10,000 from the original $90,500 in May 2011. I was also happy because I was just to pay off my debt with my sister in law (which has stained our relationship) and because for the first time in about three years, our bank account was not longer in red (we have a overdraft of $1500 and was almost always on the -$1400’s)

June and July have always been difficult months for me. I have my husband and older son’s birthdays and there are also the family vacations. Family vacations are non-negotiable for my husband (and children), and I somewhat agree with them. We don’t go too far and we don’t spend too much either.

This year though, my husband’s gift was a trip to New York to meet friends he hasn’t seen in more than eight years. His brother paid for the ticket and the hotel, so he only had to pay for concert tickets, transportation and meals. I found the whole thing somewhat unnecessary, but in a way, he deserves it. Obviously, if he deserves it, I also “deserve” to visit my mother and sisters as I haven’t seen them in eight years either and they don’t know my youngest son.  But well, I also earn less money and in many ways, this debt is my fault (at least 80% of it). So I agreed...

Our vacation was short and didn’t use too much. We rented a small cabin in a farm close to our home and had a great time with the kids. I truly enjoyed the small quaint town, the local market and the sea.

But then the car broke (at the end of our vacation), and we had to spend almost $2,000 on repairs, etc. We are back to $80,500 in debt (so in three months we haven’t move from the -$10,000 we accomplished last May), and on the top, our account is again in red and may be like that until mid-November.

When I run the numbers on our debt –reduction calculator, it gives me that even with snowball an paying small debts first (I have found this method to be emotionally much more sustainable, even when these mini-debts may not be the highest interest ones), I will finish paying all of them in January 2016. This is only if I can continue paying the same amount every single month, which I found unlikely, as I already know my job will last till March 2014 or may be cut earlier. With no snowball, it gives me August 2017 as the final payment date, and all the other final dates also move (in the first scenario, I may pay the first small debt by December this year).

I have already shared my concerns here earlier. Beyond things that are out of my control such as environmental changes that are already causing food cost to increase, an may cause other things such as water and other resources scarcity, I am much more scared about the economy. It is clear for me that what is happening in Europe is not “temporary” and that the impact this will have all over the world will be huge as all economies are now inter-dependent. I don’t even know where to start. I have made changes in my routine and at home, to spend less: the cost of power has increased anyway, even when our consumption has gone down more than 10% (it is because they are charging more for Kwt).  I started a vegetable garden but until now, I haven’t recovered the investment made on buying seeds, bags of soil and tools. Yes, I have a few free tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and some herbs, but it’s not enough to feed a family or to reduce the monthly grocery expense (I haven’t seen any difference at all, as almost all the other items had gone super high in price).

I have tried to cut here and there, but there are some places where I find a wall. I guess the wall will just collapse in the event we can’t pay our debt or sustain ourselves. But for now the wall has been very stubborn: I can easily live without TV as well as without a car. I have tried (successfully) to go shopping without a car and found that even when it may be a bit uncomfortable, it actually helps me to spend less and exercise more. I can also go to work by bus. I don’t watch TV since December last year. I get my news and videos from Internet and read much more...but this does not apply to the rest of my family. My older son is glued to his computer. There is no point on taking his computer away: he is stronger than I and this has caused too much pain in the family already. I already have a hard time convincing him that he doesn’t need heating in the middle of the summer, neither the lights on. I turn them off each time I go to his bedroom, but I can live there! My husband says the TV is a need. No matter how I try to convince him that he barely watches it and that it may be a good option for my youngest son: no TV, find another way to spend your time! My husband tries to convince me with “it’s only $35/month”, but for me that’s a fortune that I could use to reduce our debt faster...

Same with the car: I have made the math many times: the car costs us $168 more per month or $2018 more per year than if we used only public transportation (and this is considering renting a car for about 12 days/year in the occasions we may need it, it is also considering expenses for only basic car maintenance). Yes, the car is convenient for long trips, when shopping for big items and even grocery shopping. It is also good for “emergencies”, but I just keep thinking in how my family (an myself) managed to live without a car for years, and how so many families around the world manage to do the same. With bus tickets, we may even get a tax credit, as they can be purchased as monthly passes and we can demonstrate they are used to go to work.

The same has happened in other minor areas where we could save more money... my husband is a good person, but he is stuck in that cultural paradigm that thinks “I work hard, so I deserve all this”. It is such an immature, selfish and unrealistic way to think...we don’t “deserve” anything if we are drown in debt, as none of this is actually ours and we will lose it in a minute if any of us loses the job, or a really bad downturn hits us...and yes, we work hard, but not necessarily harder than so many people in other parts of the world and they seem not to be “deserving” the same things...

So I’m stuck: if it were for me, I could live in a smaller place, I have even considered to move to a mobile park (the thing is, if I wait till the downturn hits us it may be too late as we’ll be competing with thousands of other families trying to downsize). I can live without TV and without car. I drink water and don’t need too much else. But my family doesn’t follow.

I am terribly scared because the wave will hit us badly if we don’t make adjustments right now. I have talked about this with my husband, I have tried many things: from sharing the numbers with him to withdraw for a while and see if he picks up the reality by himself. Nothing works. He has bought things like power consumption reduction and reducing TV or food waste, but that’s all.

It is really overwhelming trying to carry all this by myself. I sometimes think that all will change if we are actually hit by a harder reality, but that’s not obviously a “hope”, just a strange relief...and I’m not proud of feeling that way.

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 7:38pm
S, one quick thought on a small detail.

Going to Italy tomorrow may not be wise, but I really don't see why you can't budget a small amount that you and your DH are both allowed to "blow." One small monthly thing, like dinner with friends that you mentioned your DH does.

Not everything is necessarily tit-for-tat, but there should be a general, overall feeling of mutual appreciation and fairness. It may not be at the same time, or the same thing, but a sense of knowing that each contributes, and sacrifices in their own way.

If you really, really want to go see your family, then start saving for it. Yes, it will slow down debt repayment, but what is the point of being debt free if this current journey is making you so miserable?

Lastly, yes, a family is a team. But a team with members that have different strengths and weaknesses.

Resentment has a fairly broad meaning, and it doesn't always involve anger. I put out my strong message, S, because I hate to see you struggle the way you do.

Oh, and by the way, your DH should have had a clue that you couldn't afford your lifestyle after you moved. Yes, you did your part to incur the debt, but I hope you DH isn't blaming you.

Bleh...stop me now! I spend much of my life with addicts and alcoholics in recovery talking about these kinds of things. I can go on and on and on....

You are powerless over people, places and things.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.


Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 8:51pm

I'm glad that you are able to talk about this stuff.  It's good for you to talk this stuff through.

I assume posting on this board - opening yourself up like this - is really, really hard.  It would be for anyone.

I do want to clearly say, I can totally empathize with your situation.  I was in a simiar situation myself once.  So I'm not saying anything lightly.

You replied that  you can't simply stop doing things and expect that will make anything better.  In fact, it will likely (based on experience) make things worse.  I fully agree with you.  Learning to let go of what you can't control is a process.  It's a process for both you and your family.  It's not easily done.  And the LAST thing you want to do is find yourself worse off financially (and therefore physically and emotionally) because you rushed the process.  

In fact, I had a martial counselor once tell me to do just that - simply one day stop taking on all the family responsibility.  And my reply to him was the same as your's to me; the kids won't eat, the dishes won't get done, etc . . . He told me I was wrong, and I thought, "what the heck.  I'll give it a try".  And not surprisingly the result was exactly what you and I could have predicted.  I can clearly remember being on a famiy vacation that we couldn't really afford, that I personally didn't even want to take, that was stressful . . . and when the entire family got off the plane and walked to the baggage claim, I sat down exhausted and near tears.  My family (three teens and my H) all blopped down next to me.  When our luggage came out and started making the rounds on the conveyor belt, I was determined to remain seated and let someone else in the family retrieve them.  I am NOT kidding when I tell you that we ALL sat there on the bench until the airline personal got our bags and set them aside because another flight had come in and needed to use the conveyor.  We must have sat there for at least three hours, before I finally sucked it up, stood up and got the bags myself.  

Even though I knew I wasn't the only one that SHOULD be responsible, I finally, truly realized I was the ONLY one willing to take on any responsibility at all.  And I finally could clearly see that it was dysfunctional as HELL!

That was the day I decided things needed to change.  My family needed to learn to be responsible, and apparently as the only responsible person in it, I needed to teach them how.

And I've done it to a large degree.  

I didn't do it by lecturing them on budgets and utility savings.  I did it by finally talking about my feelings openly.

And I started with my H (afterall the kids are mere products of how we present adulthood to them).  My H wasn't being a good parent because he was modeling a parent role that wasn't plugged into the family's well being; like their finanaces, etc . . . And whether I liked to admit it or not, I was helping him be that way by allowing him to take advantage of me.

So for me, it started by explaining, really explaining, how overwhelmed I was.  How insecure I felt.  How certain things he did and didn't do affected me, and how this was no longer acceptable to me.

I mean if you are taking about budget numbers, there is room for your H to disagree, to disengage.  But if you are talking about your feelings, there is no room for him to run away from the topic (without being a complete jerk).  He can't really disagree with your feelings - because they are afterall your feelings, not his, not someone elses.  Kwim?

If I were you, I would start by talking about the guilt you feel about the debt.  When you said 80% of it was YOUR fault, my first thought was (as anyone's would be who heard you say that), 1) you must have had a gambling problem you hid from your family that depleted your retirement accounts and savings, or 2) you came into the marriage with high consumer debts, or 3) you wracked up major legal fees from some criminal activity, etc . . . But then my second thought after I came to understand how willing you are to take on ALL the responsibilty for every family member was, you were trying your best to provide for your family without any responsible help or input from your husband, and understandably you made some mistakes along the way (mainly likely trying to accomodate your H's financial expectations without the funds in place to do so).  

That doesn't make 80% of the debt your fault.  Not by a long shot.

I'm not trying to bash your H at all.   I'm not.  Hell, I would love to visit my friends in NY simply because I deserve to, and without any consequences (or any reality check to see if I could really afford it) I would enjoy myself emmensely.  So would you, if you gave yourself permission to step from reality.

I think it's time for you to start expecting more from the people around you.  You can do it.  

Start with small steps and build on them.

But start doing something differently immediately.  Choose something. 

Say to your H, "Look we are in this much debt.  I'm not comfortable with this.  I've been walking around since day one feeling like this debt is at least 80% of my sole responsibility.  But I'm rethinking that.  We're not in debt only because of me, so I don't want to bear this responsibility on my own anymore.  We've made bad choices as a family.  Can we talk about how you FEEL about this debt?  Can we talk about what percentage of the responsibility YOU feel you own?"

 

 

 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 9:38pm

Hi Serenity,

Thanks for the explanation!  It makes a lot of sense now.  :smileyhappy:

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 9:58pm

The environment is part of me and my children’s future, not something I visit “out there” so I try to take it as seriously I can and my commitment to change things is non-negotiable.

I understand your concern about the environment.  What I was trying to suggest are:

1.  In the LONG-TERM it saves money.  Sometimes, however, we have to prioritize.  When I was eating beans and rice five times a week to pay off debt, I did not insist on organic beans and rice.  Not driving to work, turning off lights, etc. are all environmentally friendly and have immediate postivie impact on your budget.  Starting a community garden takes longer to see a return.  Since you are already so overwhelmed, my thoughts are it may not be the best thing to tackle such projects RIGHT NOW.  It doesn't mean you cannot take on those projects later, perhaps when you have a better handle on your debt.

2.  As I recall in a previous post, in a similar tone, you mentioned that your family was not entirely on board with your commitment of living green. 

http://forums.ivillage.com/t5/Debt-Discussions/One-year-of-debt-roller-coaster-do-we-need-a-car-and-what-to-do/m-p/119290435/message-uid/119290435#U119290435

And now it seems like your family is not on board with you debt reduction.  Which is why I said, "Pick your battle" in an earlier post.  It is hard to operate as a family when you are trying to change too many things and each one is non-negotiable.  Kind of like trying to lose weight and quit smoking.  Both of these are wonderful goals, but very hard to take on at the same time. 

Please know that I am not at all trying to make light of your concern of the environment.  It is just that every person has a finite amount to time and energy and from what your wrote, you are trying to take on too much (to the point of becoming ill). Hence the suggestion of dealing with one issue at a time.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 11:07pm

Hi Bumblingalong...THANK YOU for your post. It really opened my eyes. When you described that scene at the airport, I was watching myself. I do exactly that: I allow them to take advantage and be immature, and then I complain.

Since I was very little, I was given a responsibility. I started working at age 14 and never ever stopped, except for a few months after my children births. It makes me feeling strong and “able” and takes anxiety away as, when you are too responsible, you are also “in control”. So it is, in a way, a defensive reaction. My grandma used to say: “when you want something to be done right, do it yourself”, and I followed obediently all my life.

I have to learn to let go, to allow others to do what they need to do, and accept mistakes. It seems as a huge mountain to me right now, but I can see it has to be done.

It is “funny” how things happen: today I felt so burdened down, so overwhelmed that I posted here to vent, but also because writing makes me think. And reading other people’s opinions is a good way to see ourselves in the mirror, even when the mirror shows something ugly.

Well, after posting and reading all your answers, my DH came today from work and told me that their co-workers are planning a trip to NYC. The company will pay for the official trip to Philadelphia, but after the conference, they want to go to NYC for two days and get some tours...I couldn’t believe it! I thought for a second: “he is kidding”, “he somewhat read my posting here today, figured out it was me and now he is kidding with me about this to see my reaction”. Well, no. He wasn’t kidding.

For the first time in my life I said “no”. I felt horrible, as I was the mom and he, the child. I feel I have no right to control the finances, and I told him just that: I am overwhelmed and tired, so please sit with me and see the numbers by yourself. And there is no way he can pay for two nights of hotels and meals and tours just because of the social pressure his colleagues are putting on him. I feel still strange and don’t know how he would handle it.

Thank you again for sharing something so private. I think what makes this forum special is the freedom one feels of opening up and speaking about something we can’t tell our friends or family members, as they are too involved. Thanks again.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2008
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 12:36am

"Since I was very little, I was given a responsibility. I started working at age 14 and never ever stopped, except for a few months after my children births. It makes me feeling strong and “able” and takes anxiety away as, when you are too responsible, you are also “in control”."

Don't your children deserve to learn this life lesson as well?

Tho, I would agree that control is an illusion. And it may be the reason you are so concerned about the economic future, you know you have no control over it. There are things you can do - emergency fund, paying down debt, keeping food stocks, etc. And then you have to just accept that you've done all you can. I wonder if your lack of cooperation with your DH is contributing to this fear? that he isn't preparing himself to be there for you? (or something along those lines)

Please do not move to a trailer park, if there were financial difficulties in your area that would NOT be the neighbourhood you would want to live in.

I also don't want to sound mean, but you sound selfish. Wanting to volunteer bc it makes you feel respected is just a way to indulge yourself. Fine if you can afford it, but if you have $80K in debt then use that time to make money! You could be making money doing something that is in line with your values but you don't have the luxury of volunteer time. If you won't give that up than how committed are you to this challenge of paying down debt? I have volunteered before and I have been a volunteer coordinator and if you volunteered for my organization I would still be telling you the same thing.

Good luck whatever you decide,

Dee

 

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 12:02pm
Well said, Bumbling. :smileyhappy:

It reminds me of when my SO was starting to get a bit overwhelmed when work picked up and he was starting to resent me and my DD not picking up the slack with the yard work.

The thing is, I have never, not once in 6 years, asked him to mow the yard.

He just couldn't stand waiting for me to do it myself. All the while I had no idea he was bothered by this, until he finally burst and blurted out, no so nicely, that and a few other things that were bothering him.

That is why I talk so much about doing things out of being of service to our family and without resentment.

Again, great example, Bumbling.
Serenity
Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 12:16pm

I am overwhelmed and tired, so please sit with me and see the numbers by yourself.

Perfect!  Let us know how it goes.

For what it is worth, change takes time.  I can somewhat related to your DH, thinking that "with how much money we make, I should be able to afford this" and put a blind eye to the real numbers.  "I will already be in PA, so how can I pass up another 2 days in NY?"  I am totally guilting of that kind of thinking myself. 

We all have our own kind of "bottom" when it comes to debt.  Clearly your DH's is different than yours.  My SO refuses to even go into debt.  The only debt he has had, ever in his life, is a mortage and a car payment.  And even with a car payment, he pays it off as quickly as possible. 

And my bottom?  Ugh, well...fortunately it keeps getting higher as the years go on and honestly, when it comes to my DD12, I may always have a small amount of debt that takes me a few months to catch up on. 

Keep us posted and hang in there...hugs...

 

 

 

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 12:24pm

Hi Dee,

Thanks for your comments. Yes, the fear is bc my DH is not aligned with me and he doesn’t allow any type of “conflict” around the house, so giving responsibility to the children is an issue: when they don’t do anything, a conflict arises. I was given responsibility as a child and had to live through tough times, but my mom was a single mom, so nobody would argue with her. It’s not the same in my situation.

I disagree with your comments on being selfish bc I rather volunteer than taking a second job. Volunteer is my only “fun” time. I am a weirdo and don’t enjoy parties or watching TV. I enjoy a good book, music and…volunteer! I make friends and do things that are important for others and for myself. Not feel that I am “good”, but because those things have to be done. Unfortunately, the things I volunteer for are not paid. I work as an emergency social worker (so I’m called when a disaster strikes, big or small) and I volunteer as a crisis line for refugees. This is also an example for my kids. I already work long hours for a non-profit organization. Working a second job would mean using the few hours left (even if I give up volunteering) to earn a meager extra $$$ and end up frustrated and tired. The only thing I would been teaching my kids with that is responsibility. But I’m already committed and responsible reducing the debt and no allowing more expenses to add to it. So I don’t feel bad for that decision.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Wed, 08-22-2012 - 1:26pm

This is a very thought provoking thread. 

I just wanted to point out the light at the end of the tunnel. How old is your oldest?16? Mine is 15 and my youngest is 12. This may be something to discuss with your husband but what about giving them expectations? And not low ones either. I have told my kids  that when they graduate high school they must get an education or get a job and pay me rent. The eductation they must take on loan for themselves. I am going to help them a bit but have not told them that  yet. I have asked them to start thinking about life after high school, what they need to take to qualify for ceratin courses and what they want to "do" after. They cannot continue to play on their computers forever.  This you can control, plant that seed in them. You cannot support them forever and its ok to tell them that. The other son will leave eventually too. This is a good thing for everyone.

I like what Serenity said about concentrating on what you can control. This is big part of my life. It is tough to sort things out as to how this applies to everyone. I decided one day if I don't teach the kids how to made lunch....they are never going to make lunch. They can do it, and it is good for them. Do it together for a few days as  a project and then set them on their own. That way I don't feel overwhelmed and I do feel a bit more in control. 

However when it comes to spending money that is tough. Really hard to control what someone spends. All you can do is communicate and get your DH to set his own limits. It sounds like he has trouble doing that. Keep working on it. He will see the light. Explain what can't get paid if he goes on another trip. Its not as simple as this but it is a start.

I think on this journey, and some people have a long journey like yourself have to expect bumps. You can't pay off debt for 6 years and not expect big expenses to come up like repairs on a vehicle. You can't prepare for everything but do you have a vehicle maintenance fund? You are not worse off than when you started so chin up!