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.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 10-09-1999
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 2:13pm

so sorry you are scared & overwhelmed right now.  It is such difficult times & constantly worrying can be very draining on your health & marriage.  You must keep trying to stick to your budget/spending plan.  You are better off today than when you started your debt payment journey & so you must just keep chipping away in that direction.  2016/2017 seems so far off but you must try to focus on small current goals that you can reach & celebrate reaching them...we all must start somewhere or we would just continue to climb/fall further into debt.  This part of your life will be behind you one day & you will have survived & learned to never go into debt again.  You are conscious of your spending & that is one step to WINNING this debt battle.  I know you can do it, you proved it by paying off $10,000....please keep at it!!

Best of luck

cindylee

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 2:20pm

Take a deep breath!

Just a few suggestions:

1.  If your oldest is strong enough to wrestle you with the computer, he is old enough to find work to contribnute to his incidental spending. 

2.  Have you sit the entire family down and present them with the numbers?

3.  For the time being, please try to separate with aggressively paying down debt with living an (environmentally) sustainable life.  I am all for local foods and reduced carbon footprint, etc.  (I don't drive to work, get 75% food from organic farmers less than 100 miles away, and recycle/compost most things)  However, when you are completely stressed out, the last thing you need is trying to run to three different places to drop off your trash, or to contemplate whether it is better to buy ordinary onions grown locally or organic onions grown three states away.  What I am trying to say is you got enough worries on your plate; concentrate on tackling your debt and get your finance in gear first and, just for the time being, stop worrying about the earth and other people.

I remember we had this discussion about environmentally friendly practices that are also budget friendly, such as switching off lights, turning up AC, etc.  There are aslo environmentally friendly practices that do not save you money (not in the short-term anyway), such as buying organic produce (especially those that do not belong to the "dirty fifteen").

What I would do is make your decisions, such as whether to keep your car or not, STRICTLY on financial basis and not take into consideration its environmental impact.  Also, since there is not much you can do about if and when a "downturn" is going to happen, or how the EU crisis is going to spread to the US and the rest of the word, make your decisions based on the facts you know today and not on imagination.  For example, not everyone will be affected in a downturn.  Some people actually make money when the economy tanks.  Also, not everyone is going to flock to a trailer park.  While many people are underwater with their homes, some have very modest mortgage payments (often less than rent) or no mortgage.  Some have absolutely no money and will most likely end up on the streets.

What I would suggest is re-do your budget based on economics alone, get your entire family together and come to some sort of agreement.  And pick your battle.

Also, sometimes you can only cut expenses so much before there is nothing left to cut.  Have you considered some ways, again, if just temporarily, to bring in additional income?

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 2:42pm

Hi Silvia,

Well, we all know we don't need to rehash the last thread, so I will be brief.

It is wonderful you are so willing to live a simple life.  I totally get it.  And I understand the prognosis for the economy as a whole, and the resources of planet earth.  However, my concern is your struggle with living in today. 

When we worry about the future, we are missing out on today.  I think most of us have already heard this saying "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

You can't change other people.  Period.  You can't change your DH anymore than he can change you.  Yes, communication is important, and we have to learn how to respect other peoples views and beliefs, but that does not mean change to conform. 

FYI:  I am going to be a bit blunt here.  I do not intend to offend.

Bottom line here, IMO, has nothing to do with money, but rather a lack of accepting the fact your DH does not fully believe as you do.  If you choose not to drive, that is fine, but don't make your family feel bad because of it.  They didn't ask you to cut back, you chose that yourself.  This is something many females fall into "look at all I do for the family; no one appreciates what I do; if I don't do it, no one will."  Well, so what if the dishes don't get washed, the yard doesn't get mowed or we die with credit card debt.  In the big picture, does any of that really matter?   I mean really, truly think about it. 

Did that weekend with your kids mean any less because you are in debt?  Do you love your DH any less because you are in debt?  Is your health really worth worrying about the worldwide economy?  Does your DH love you more because you walk or ride you bike to get groceries while he drives to do the same thing? 

It is fine that you are willing to personally cut back.  But don't do it with resentment.  Do it because you want to and it is one way to live by example for your family.  Resentment is eating you up and keeping you from enjoying today. 

I have no clue how long it will take to pay off my CC debt.  Yes, it is too overwhelming for me right now.  Tentative plans are great, but we have to able to be okay when that changes.  It is okay to be briefly discouraged, but it a little vent here and it should pass quickly.  If it doesn't, then there are bigger issues at hand. 

So much for being brief.  :smileyembarrassed:

Hang in there and relax.  Do something just for YOU.  Not for hubby or the kids.  Doesn't have to cost a fortune, but something that is a treat without the family.  Hugs...

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 3:06pm

This is something many females fall into "look at all I do for the family; no one appreciates what I do; if I don't do it, no one will."  Well, so what if the dishes don't get washed, the yard doesn't get mowed or we die with credit card debt.  In the big picture, does any of that really matter?   I mean really, truly think about it.

I have to disagree with you here.  Sometimes someone has to be the responsible adult and take charge.  I think the OP considers her family as one economic "unit" (which I agree).  They all contributed to the debts and therefore each person should in some way contribute to getting out of debt.  It isa  very reasonable thing for her to ask her son to turn off the lights when nobody is in the room or to put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.

And it matters in the grand scheme of things.  If we all die with lots of debt, the cost of credit will become higher for everyone.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 3:16pm

I think the biggest stumbing block you're facing right now has little (or nothing) to do with your budget, cash flow or utility usage.  Your biggest problem is that you are stuck in the middle of a very complexed family dynamic and don't have the tools to make any effective changes at all.

What I mean is that you have to get to the bottom of what you truly want and how to take the steps to get it.  

You say you could give up on family vacations, BUT then you say you understand why they are so important and so you go along with them.

You say your eldest doesn't need a computer, BUT you have no real way to pry it from his clasps.

This sounds extremely frustrating.  I really do get that.  You have all these things that you can see NEED to happen.  You feel the weight of the RESPONSIBILITY to make them happen. But you have absolutely no control over MAKING them happen.  That is a very overwhelming spot to be in.

And this is where you need to be absolutely clear with yourself about what YOU CAN control, and what YOU CAN'T control.

You CAN'T control your H's choices, therefore, you need to let go of the responsibility of having to control his choices, because clinging to that can lead you nowhere other than frustration.

Honestly, my experience is that making this switch (embracing what YOU CAN control and more importantly what YOU CAN'T control) is both the hardest and easiest thing to do in the world.  It's hard to see at first because it's been so much  part of your life.  But once you work really, really hard at it . . . practice every single day to separate what you can and can't control . . . eventually it's like a switch that flips.  It's like the light just comes on and everything is so much easier to do when you see it clearly.

Suddenly your efforts can go toward the things you have the real ability to effect, and real changes can start to happen.

And it can change the dynamic around you.  Right now I suspect your H's attitude of "I work hard, I deserve this" is possible because he understands that he doesn't carry the responsibility of his attitude, because you've been so willing to step into that role yourself.  It's just so easy to be selfish when you don't see yourself as the one responsible for your selfish actions.

You say 80% of the financial problems are due to YOU.  That a lot of debt on your shoulders alone. What's that about?  It's hard for me to understand how an individual can accumulate that much debt for a family.   Is it possible that you are taking on too much of this responsibilty too?  If it is really true that YOU are solely responsible for the majority of the debt, then have you sat down with your H and really discussed the burden (emotionally, physically) this causes you?  

I just think this is way beyond money right now.

The black and white money stuff is really easy compared to some of the emotional groundwork that sometimes needs to be done before a budget can be an effective tool.  

I think you need to sit down with your H and have a true heart to heart.  It's not the money.  It's the emotional drain on you.  The physical affects of stress.  It's the whallowing in the guilt of being the person who caused 80% of the problem.  It's about feeling like an outsider in your own family.  It's waking up feeling unsettled, unsafe, unloved everyday . . . 

 

 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-15-2012
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 3:40pm

Well said Bumbling Along!  I couldn't agree more. 

Sadly, there are too many of us who got into debt because we felt we "deserved it".  The mentality of I work hard, so I deserve it it what gets so many of us in trouble.  I have come to learn that I (or my family) doesn't "deserve it" until we can pay in cash. 

That said.  Intead of paying down extra on your debt, perhaps you should put it into what I cal Freedom Funds (some here call it sinking funds).  Your budget should inlcude ALL your YEARLY expenses (not just regular month to month ones) so that things like car repairs and vacations are paid for in cash, not credit. You might pay off your debt slower but you will feel so much better knowing that the family vacation or car repair is not causing you more emotional stress.  It is very empowering to have the cash to pay for those types of things.

I get you feel powerless to control certain aspects of your financial situation.  THat is a hard place to be.  Once you can shift that feeling or attitude you will see things so differently.  REALLY take control where you can take control.  I can only speak for myself but if I was in the same situation, tv or no tv would not be up for discussion.  I personally, would just cancel the cable.  I realize that is NOT the solution for everyone and each family dymanic is dfferent but perhaps you can find what you are able to take charge of and just do it. 

Hugs and I hope you find what will work for you.

Sandra   

 

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 5:04pm
Hi Demontespan, maybe this will make more sense.

I am simply trying to put spiritual before material. When I am okay with me, I can then be okay with others. Right now S is not okay and uncomfortable in her own skin. Therefore uncomfortable with others around her.

Attempting to get S out of the details and to the root of what is causing her discomfort.

When we straighten out spiritually, all of these details (like Bumbling said so well) fall into place. And I use the term spirituality loosely for the purpose of this board. It means different things to different people.

Using my statement and your example, yes, it is perfectly fine for S to ask her DS to turn off the lights. Nothing wrong with that at all. Where my statement comes from is the fact the S goes around turning off the lights behind him and now has a resentment. Instead, she could implement some kind of consequence for not turning off the lights, or maybe a reward if the electricity usage goes down. Then S can go about her day, not worry about the lights because she has a system in place that allows her not to concern herself with it.

I hope that sheds a little bit of light on the point I was trying to make.

I work with a lot of women who carry resentments because they feel like they have to be the responsible one. Either do it because it is for your family, or don't. But doing it with a resentment just leads to troubles.

Hence, S's post.

Yes, I am here with a goal to pay off my credit card debt and to learn to live within my means. It didn't happen over night, and it will take time to pay it off.

I am not picking sides on whether S or her DH are right or wrong. Simply offering another, more broad perspective beyond the math.

Of course I don't want to leave this world with unsecured debt. But, if I die tomorrow, no one is going to be talking about my CC debt at my funeral.

Serenity
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 5:51pm
Silviatic -
It sounds like your family does not share your goals of living simpler and with less debt - and do you know what - IT IS OK!!
You can do what you do, and they will follow as much as they can. You got into this over decades, and will get out OVER DECADES!
As long as you are making some progress, it is progress, even small progress.
I have been at this for over 5 years now. My home is small and cramped and it is not fun to live in a small home, I can't imagine a mobile home. My treasures are burried as there is no space.
But I do what I can do. I set an example for my husband and children.
As women research shows we are in charge of over 75% of our family's displosable income, from food, to clothing, to many other choices. So even if it is only you on the debt reduction train, you can make an impact.
Just be happy you are not going the other way.
Oh, and next time your husband needs a trip, why not say that you don't? Why not be the example and take the high road and take the kids to some free museums or outings instead? We had a woman on here a few years ago that used to plan her entire summer around free things in the community to do with the kids and she was ACTIVE!
My husband likes television, and I love him enough for him to be able to have that - and guess what - I worked two jobs for over 5 years now in order to pay the debts and allow him to have satellite television, his cabin, boat, and snowmobiles. I adore my time with HIM, he is my reward in life as are my children, I love it when they are happy. So I will work two jobs, cook from scratch, shop with coupons and do all I can to help our family hum along happily.

Be PROUD - you are a mother, wife and have a career. It will all come around if you have a plan and an emergency plan.

-Marie
#Marie
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 6:20pm

To Serenity: Thanks for your words. You are right in many things. It is more an issue of values and how things have gone/are done in my family than about money. I think it is always about that.

However, let me clarify: more than resentful, I feel overwhelmed, tired and frustrated. I see very clear where I want to go, and would love to have everybody on board. You are right: we don’t have control on how other people value or do, but I always thought a family was more than just the sum of a bunch of “individuals”. I may sound “selfish” because I want to be debt free quickly and don’t “respect” the “rights” others have to have their own goals (enjoy life as they wish). The thing is, I also want to enjoy life, but I want to be mature and responsible for once, an want to convey that to my children and share those values with the person who is my best friend and I chose to live with (my DH)

I am tired because we are not in the same page: I have tried consequences and prizes, but they seem not to work.  It’s like asking him to clean his bedroom or bathroom: I end up doing it myself because after 10 times asking, you just get tired. And I still have to pay for this house and its maintenance if anything gets broken or damaged due to lack of care.

To Bumblingalong: you are completely right. I feel frustrated. I have sat the whole family, I have talked to my husband and showed the numbers (he just doesn’t want to be involved, denial is best, and probably because I take care of the bills. He says he would do it if I don’t, but when I have tried to let it go, he doesn’t really engages, so the bills don’t get paid and money starts to disappear, it has happened before).

Can I relax and let things not to be done? Well, I have tried...three years ago I think my body tried for me: I developed something and had to be hospitalized and got surgery. They were the five best days in my life: no bills to pay, no work to do, nothing. I just lied there after the surgery and read and slept. But when I got back home, I had to face reality: the children were eating McDonalds every single day. Clothes and dishes were dirty, the dishwasher was broken (still till today!)...this happens every time I try to take a “break”. It is so difficult to deal with that I choose not to take a break. (because the work I’ll have to do will be double afterwards)

And about who’s responsible for the huge debt, I have almost put that on the past. However, it still haunts me like these days. I can’t help but thinking how on earth I could have accumulated that much debt. I don’t have nice clothes or furniture and we have not travelled outside the country since we immigrated here eight years ago. We take short vacations close to home, using our car and renting small cabins (cheaper and more convenient than a hotel). We don’t camp due to health-related reasons, but if we could, that would be my choice. However, I used money to study things without a clear plan, and I bought many books (I have a book addiction still trying to get rid of). I don’t go out and I brown-bag my lunches. I don’t even own a car. All the debt is the accumulation of: 1) bad planning, 2) studies and books, 3) buying too many toys and gadgets to my children (feeling guilty because we moved here and they don’t know their grandpas nor their extended family), 4) allowing his “I deserve it” to my husband because at the time, I bought his reasoning (an in a way, I continue buying it...marriage dynamics are complex), 5) buying the wrong house: even when we live in a townhouse, we could have studied the situation and choose to live in a small condo for a while, or buy an old rancher instead, or a mobile/manufactured house, but we didn’t know how things worked here and just followed the wrong person’s advise. Finally, there is the high interest and making bad choices when deciding what to use to pay for things and how to pay...I can’t still believe we have accumulated so much debt in only seven years here (we came with no debt)...

To Demontespan: actually, I have found that “helping the environment” is cheaper in the long term. I don’t have to pay for a gym if I walk or bike, and I end up saving money if I walk to the grocery store with my cart, as I plan ahead and buy less.  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 rather give up in other aspects of my life like not studying anymore even when I love it.

To Sandra: I created a Freedom account and also consider car maintenance in my budget. However, this was completely unexpected (the car was checked before we went for that short trip) and cost way over what what’s on the freedom account. It takes a lot of time to accumulate $2000 when you are paying off debt and so many other things come on the way. But I will try reducing the CCs payments a bit and putting some cash away (beyond the freedom account) as I’m also concerned about our ability to access the money when we need it. I may actually cash some RRSP’s (they are the equivalent in Canada to the US  401K), as there’s no point on “saving for retirement” if we will retire with debt and the RRSPs are earning nothing compared with the CCs interest.

Thanks to all for taking the time to read and comment. I feel terribly down today.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-21-2011
Tue, 08-21-2012 - 6:42pm

Hi Marketingvirgo,

Thanks for your words. I also love my husband. And my children. I wouldn’t work two jobs to pay his “deserves” though, because I already have two (or more) “jobs”: I work full-time and come to cook from scratch and take care of the vegetable garden. I clean and repair all around the house because my DH is not a handyman: he enjoys reading and music. I volunteer outside because I feel respected there and my contributions are valued, so I wouldn’t exchange my volunteering for a second job.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my husband and would do almost anything for him. That’s why I didn’t complain about his trip to meet friends in NYC or about his small luxuries like eating out every Friday with company’s colleagues. But there is a time when I start thinking: “why is ok for him and not ok for me?” I would also enjoy a coffee or a meal with a colleague, or a trip to Italy or Spain, where my best friends live.

I have also realized that I was mistaken in my way of loving my children: I felt terribly guilty for them not having their extended family, so I went ahead and bought them piles of toys. I enrolled them to extracurricular activities that I couldn’t pay, and we dined out a lot when we were new. I am just too bad at business (not anymore), but I opened a family daycare to stay at home with them, and I barely charged anything to the parents of the other children as I considered them “friends” of my own. So we went to museums, parks, pools and aquariums and I paid for all of them because I just loved and enjoyed having them around my kids.

Now I realize I subsidized those children’s parents (I don’t regret it, but I wish I was wiser) and subsidized the whole daycare adventure.

I am probably in that spot where you realize all the mess you have done (all the bad choices, no matter if they were done for love or for stupidity), and feel overwhelmed because I would love to share this with those around me who were old enough to see and stop me.

I just can’t see a family as a sum of individuals. I know that as a very US (and Canadian) concept, but I see family as a team, and a couple as the leaders of that team. If I adopt the same “freedom” others attribute to my husband or to my children, then I would have the right to travel to Italy tomorrow, or dine with my co-worker next Friday, after all, I work very hard and have been working for 32 years now...:smileyhappy:

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