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Unhealthy Relationship With Money

Today I have a guest blogger with a great article that she wrote.  Please let me know in comments below if you have also had an experience similar and/or your thoughts and comments.  I always love hearing back from my readers on what I have here on the blog!

 

My Unhealthy Relationship With Money.

I’m not really sure how or when it started.

I grew up in a typically middle-class family.  Both of my parents worked and up until my younger sister went off to college, I’m pretty sure my Mom still made it home to greet us at the end of the school day.  We lived modestly. We had a nice house, went on vacation once a year, my sister and I shared our own car and we didn’t pay our own car insurance or gas. I had a variety of part-time jobs throughout high school.  I got a decent job after college, but lived at home because that’s what I could afford.

Eventually, I married my boyfriend and with the help of his parents we put a down payment on a condo—the first time either of us was living truly on our own.  Neither of us ever learned proper money management skills. He was an immigrant whose family came over from Russia with nothing. His parents hustled and worked for every dollar they made until they finally settled into a successful business.  In fact, when I think about it, my husband was placed in an unhealthy relationship with money back then, because once his parents had success, they gave him everything he wanted. And he liked to spend.

But this is about me, not him.

We started our life together, and money was tight.  I was working full-time, commuting three hours round trip and he was travelling for his job.  He worked on commission and was paid sporadically, so we lived off credit cards and occasionally borrowed money from our parents to make ends meet.  We suddenly realized we had amounted $20,000 in debt and we needed to do something. At the time, it wasn’t so easy. I remember driving two hours away to get a loan to pay everything off and at that time we said “never again”.

Never say never.

Fast-forward a couple of years.  We decided we wanted to start a family.  Being the proud European male chauvinist my husband is, that meant it was time for me to stop working and raise our family.  I was weirdly okay with it. I think it’s because I like being at home. I’m a homebody. It’s not about working. I just like to be home.  I like to set my own schedule. I stopped working. That meant we were officially a “one income” family. So, we were on a budget. I looked for ways to save money on everything, and envied those who could just walk in to a store and purchase the amazing sweater they saw in the window.  I decided to look for what is now affectionately called a “side-hustle”. I taught art in after school programs two days a week while my sister watched my kids and I took little graphic design jobs here and there, just to make some extra cash.

Then kid #2 came along and I continued my side-hustle pursuits.  I like the extra spending money, however, my husband didn’t like the distraction.  I think that’s where my foray in to “what-he-doesn’t-know-won’t hurt-him” came in to play.  I continued to do my side-jobs and hid it from my husband. I enjoyed having that extra $50 in my pocket.  It wasn’t much, it wasn’t paying bills, but it was just mine.

Eventually my husband took over his family business and we started seeing financial success.  However, for those of you who own your own business, you know you have good months and then not-so-good months, and therefore I continued to be mindful of spending.  

Things started to change after we went through two family tragedies within a few years of each other and my husband not only became the patriarch of the family but also took on an attitude of “we-better-start-living-because-life-is-too-short.”  His business continued to grow and expand and we were doing great financially. However, never say never. We didn’t learn our lesson very well the first time and we managed to rack up the credit card again. We paid it off quickly and said “done!”  I even cut mine up, recognizing then I had a problem. I got a part-time job again, once my kids were in school full-time and worked for about five years. I quit because they were giving me less and less hours and it didn’t seem worth it. It was time to figure something else out.

I think now would be a good time to explain that at some point after the second credit card screw up I became increasingly fearful of letting my husband know when the credit card balance was increasing.  You see I paid the bills, so he had no idea. Everything always got paid, but occasionally I would rob Peter to pay Paul. I continued to side-hustle and sold items online to pay the credit card off; one my husband didn’t know about.  And maybe that’s where all the problems started. Maybe I should never have been entrusted with the household finances. I always hated going to him and asking him for more money, not because I was spending on stupid, unnecessary stuff, but because I never wanted to have to rationalize my choices.  I wanted to feel independent.

Several years ago I decided I wanted to jump on the blogging band wagon and start my own website for my artwork and see what happened.  I was trying to make money and start a business. My husband insisted, much to my push back—in case of emergencies—I should have a credit card.  That opened a gateway I am still reeling from and why I am writing this today.

I opened up my own credit card so I could pay for my website and thought I was going to have instant blogging success, so no worries, I would pay it off right away.  I started out being forthright with my husband, but things started getting out of hand. I would tell him the balance, he would give me half to send and then forget when I told him the new balance after a few months went by.  At that point we were usually close to back to where it was the previous months. In his mind it was paid off 4 months ago, so he would get pissed. It became a vicious cycle. Then, after seeing enticing ads on Pinterest, as my card was maxing out, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to transfer some of the balances to an interest free credit card, but still I didn’t learn.  I saw the freed up credit as an opportunity, you know “just this one time.”

To compound everything, remember that whole Peter Paul thing I mentioned earlier?  Well, I had access to our slush fund that I dipped in to occasionally to cover my tracks, with the intention of paying it back.  But as charges mounted I just kept sending it off and not paying it back. At this point, my kids had access to the credit cards and this was becoming a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.

Yet for some reason I couldn’t fess up.  I felt compelled to resolve this on my own.

About a year ago is when it all started to fall apart.  I neglected to circumvent one of the credit card bills before my husband saw it.

I had put a plan in place to pay it off.  I even got another little side-hustle and all the money was going towards that.  But, naturally he freaked out, decided he was putting me on a tighter budget each month and told me it was my responsibility to pay it off.  I tried to use this as the “teachable” moment. I cut up all my credit cards.

But not everybody else’s.

I continued to look for side hustles and every time got paid, even if only $10 I sent it off to the credit card.  That’s what you’re supposed to do right?

So great!  The story has a happy, healthy ending!

On the contrary.  While I spent the last year curbing my spending, putting myself on the same budget I was years before when my kids were small, sending anything I could to every credit card I had, I was only solving this problem at a snails pace.  

Oh, but still good right?

That slush fund that had eventually been depleted, but for the reasons it was intended, was suddenly replenished, and I just couldn’t resist.

So where am I today?  I got snagged with my hand in the cookie jar once again.  He’s taken it all away. Put me on an allowance and I feel like I’ve hit rock bottom.  I feel like an addict. But addicted to what? Not shopping. Maybe spending? Addicted to just wanting to feel in control?  Maybe I’m addicted to trying to make everyone happy. I’m addicted to giving my kids anything they want and just like an addict I’ve lied, cheated and essentially stole (from myself) to do it.

So why am I writing this all down?   Clarity. It’s the first step in my 12-step program.  I need to identify and admit I have a problem. Why do I keep up this pattern?  Is it fear? Is it lack of control? Is it fear that I have a lack of control?

We have a nice life and we are far from going bankrupt.  I’m not a dishonest person. I feel like there are two sides of me.  It’s not that I don’t know who the other is, it’s just I don’t understand who the other is.

I believe in forgiveness.  I made a mistake. I’ve lost the trust of my husband and I am not sure I can get that back.   But I need to move forward. I’ve got to pay off the debt. That’s going to be tough on my new allowance.

If anyone is hiring, I’m great at proofreading, graphic design, social media, creating blog graphics, photography, typing; I have a great friendly personality and I am chatty on the phone.

I’m not sure if this post is a journey or just a single destination.  I just needed the therapy session and to share.

Thanks for reading.

Share your story, advice, and thoughts.  I could really use a friend.

Jessica

Jessica is a graphic designer and fine art photographer.  You can read her blog and view her work at www.jessicamanelis.com.



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