We are going through a really rough time financially. Over the last few years my partner has buried us in debt. He has managed this through a lack of work, borrowing money to pay off debts, spending more than he earns and not telling me where we were at.
In many ways I have contributed to this. Instead of doing something about his behaviour earlier, I just kept trying to earn more to cover costs and keep paying the bills. I would flit between stages of worrying about how we were going to get out of the situation and trying to save every cent and then go through stages of getting angry that I was fighting so hard to pay bills and not getting anything for myself. In my angry stages I would often decide to have an expensive day out or buy something bigger for myself. This in turn would send me into a stage of guilt and I would be back trying to save every cent again.
Recently the last few years have all come to a head. I put my foot down and decided I’ve had enough. I told him that I am sick of working extended hours and struggling to pay bills while he sits at the café drinking a cappuccino. I work, work, work and sacrifice and get nothing for my endeavours. Instead, we are worse off now than when we started.
After being kicked out, my partner decided that he was going to change. We spent a week a part and he made endless promises. Many that I had heard before. I decided that I needed to see these actions to believe them. I have let him come back but things are very strained. I won’t really know where our relationship is going until I can see some of these changes occur. I am still waiting. The changes are coming slowly.
In the meantime, I have told my friends and family about my situation. It took a lot of courage to admit that I was struggling as badly as I was. There is an enormous sense of guilt and failure. My mum has helped us out endlessly over the last few years. I don’t know what I would have done without her. However as much as I appreciate all that she has done for us, I feel ashamed. I hate that I am such a burden on her.
Telling people that you are not doing so well is heart wrenching. I watch my friends and family buy houses, go on overseas holidays and throw lavish parties. I get so jealous and feel like such a failure.
I have tried desperately to make changes. I have sought financial advice, set budgets, lowered the costs of insurance policies, reduced the days my son is in childcare, deferred my university course, changed our diets, cut back (or out) all of my little indulgences (buying clothes, coffees out, buying quality skin or hair care products, magazine subscriptions, gym membership, dinners with friends, etc.). I have even just got a new job which I start in a few weeks to try to bring more stability to our budget. My new job is permanent part-time. It will actually pay less than what I was earning working from home but is more reliable income.
See the problem with our budget to date is that I have supported someone who wasn’t contributing. Every time I got ahead, my partner pulled us back. We don’t communicate about things or work together so we end up wasting money. My family has watched and get angry. They want me to leave my partner (and make that pretty obvious) although they say they will support me whatever I do. It’s just not that easy to leave. We have 2 small boys who adore their dad. There are also so many emotions involved. After all, we did get together because of love.
What I am finding really hard at the moment is the feeling of being judged. Every time I pay for something for myself I feel like a million eyes looking at the bill and debating the necessity of the purchase. There doesn’t need to physically be anyone around. They are there in my mind every time I open my purse.
One indulgence I haven’t cut out is alcohol (although I have cut down dramatically). I still splurge on a bottle of wine to share with my partner on a Friday or Saturday night. I know it isn’t the answer, but it does help me to relax a little. At the moment I will grab anything that helps me relax as I am a giant stress ball.
Yet each time I hit the counter with my bottle of wine and bring out the purse I can hear the arguments. “Is this really necessary?” “You said you couldn’t afford cold and flu tablets but you can buy this?” “Don’t you think you should save your money?”
My feelings were further exasperated by a phone conversation I just had with my sister. My partner’s birthday is coming up next week. I wanted to buy him a camping chair which my sister sells in her store. The chair costs $95. She spent 15 minutes lecturing me on why I shouldn’t spend so much money on a gift when I’m always “crying poor”. I do understand her arguments. I have them with myself too.
The problem is that all this judging just makes things even worse. I am beginning to completely lack confidence in my self. I question how much of our current situation is my fault. I wonder if I will ever get out of this, or worse, do I deserve to?
When you tell people about your situation you do so because you want re-assurance. However it is a double-edged sword. For the comfort of opening up and admitting a problem you are then faced with being judged. I go through enough agony in my mind spending money without having to then justify each purchase to others.
What is permissible to buy when you are on a tight budget anyway? Can you buy products that aren’t home brand? Is alcohol ok? How much is ok for a gift? Is it ok to buy birthday gifts for family? Are birthday parties for the kids ok? What about the kids swimming lessons or sporting pursuits?
Believe it or not I can save money. Before I met my partner I didn’t have any debt. I was young and splurged most of my money on nights at the pub but I rarely overspent. I only remember having to borrow money once from my mum to pay rent. I didn’t earn a lot but if I really wanted something, I was able to save for it and meet my goals. My problem is much more complex than simple saving techniques. It is about self-esteem, love and relationships.