Let’s do this.
I’ve had a glass of wine, and by “a glass of wine,” I mean “three glasses of wine.” Except I don’t mean “glasses,” I mean “plastic cups that I bought from Ikea for something like $.80 apiece because once I had kids the idea of nice things flew straight out the window.”
My life, from one point of view, is a mess. We have three kids, a puppy, a mother-in-law that lives in my master bedroom, too much screen time, too much debt, complete chaos, too much debt, and too much debt. Did I mention the debt? I cannot fucking get rid of the debt, and somehow, as debt seems to do, it ballooned over the past week. Summer reservations, MIL plane tickets back to America, soccer registration for two kids, gymnastics registration times a billion, and it was Vivian’s birthday today. The credit card aches from overuse.
From another point of view: my husband and I have been completely knocking it out of the park in the past two years. Let’s see…two years ago, to the day (thanks, Viv, for having a birthday today so I have easy recall!), he had just settled into his first full time job after completely re-doing his education, my job was underpaid and over-student-loaned, I had a super-close-to-being-diagnosed massive brain tumor and a super duper brand new baby. Since then, I have managed to add about $50K in – do they call it side hustle? – side hustle money per year, he has gotten raises that have moved his salary from $30K to $55K, and my full time job has seen the same sorts of increases. We are literally making three, or maybe four, times as much money as we were on that fateful “oh shit you have a brain tumor and three very young daughters, better start planning ahead” day two years ago.
Four years ago, when my kids would get invited to birthday parties, I would go, because it was important, and I would carefully budget the money required to buy a birthday present, but literally cry over the somehow unexpected cost of a gift bag. A gift bag – whose sole purpose is to be thrown away after sitting on a table for 30 minutes at a birthday party – that somehow costs at least a couple of dollars that aren’t in the budget. Four years ago, I was crying about gift bags. We have come so far.
And yet, we aren’t FI. We aren’t close. I have some trouble with the concept in general. But we are: embarrassingly frugal, trying to make choices that prioritize the things that matter over those that don’t, in a stupid amount of debt given our income, pressured by keeping up with whoever those fucking Joneses are, planning a summer lake house trip and a trip to Disneyworld in a year that threaten to bankrupt us, taking care of family members who cannot in any way take care of themselves, able to give our kids pretty much all the things (and by things I don’t mean “things,” I mean experiences) that I think are important, unable to re-do our bathroom even though the floor threatens to rot through, addicted to free airline tickets, and with some newly amazing and yet somehow underperforming solar panels.
So I guess this is our story. The story of a woman who researches everything to within an inch of its life, who has spent a lifetime doing things like re-parking cars if it means saving $.05 on somebody else’s unexpired parking meter, who can’t imagine spending money for cable television or cookbooks, but yet who can’t seem to say no when the dance team says “if Sonya wants to stay on the team, she needs another pair of $14 tights.”
I think we are moving in the right direction. I intended to write a blog post about how super great it is to sit down with a glass of wine to do freelance work that has been nothing short of a Godsend. Well, maybe that will be for another time…for now, this is me. This is us. We spend more than we should, we know better, and we are working on it. Fighting, every minute, to make it work, to make the choices that allow the perfect combination of sacrifice and indulgence. Fighting for our financial independence.