What’s up guys?! So how are we liking the blogging consistency? After a few death threats and minor limb damage, I figured I better give the people what they are asking for. I would also like to retain the use of my legs and so I am keen on avoiding any further bodily harm. So here I am! I would like to say that I have planned out a specific schedule and that you guys can expect a blog every Friday but let’s get real here people. I can’t spell schedule without drifting off before the second ‘e.’ So, suffice it to say, the once a month blog days are over and there will be more regular content. And there’s my rambling bit for today….
Will and I were reflecting on our upcoming 9th wedding anniversary (still waiting on clarification on where the previous 8 years have gone). I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about year one of our “war of terror” but today I want to talk about the “year of the penniless.” When I tell ya’ll we were broke, I mean we. were. broke. The term “pan handling” circled my mind more times than I care to admit. At the time, my husband was still able to eat at the chow hall (military jargon for cafeteria) and he would forfeit his meal to bring me his plate and he would survive on these random packs of tuna and crackers. I’m laughing now as I type this but at the time, it was such a miserable experience. I remember just sleeping for as long as possible so that I could reduce the amount of food I needed to eat. He was making virtually no money and contrary to popular belief, you do not get a pay increase for bringing in a spouse. We were lucky in that we got to live in a decent house on the base so we didn’t have to live in complete poverty; on the downside, housing took the entire BAH (base allotment for housing). I think at the time it was something like 1100 and those homes were NOT worth 1100…. but they took it ALL and if the BAH increased, then suddenly, so did your rent. We also had to pay our own utilities out of his regular pay and in those old, drafty houses we could not keep our gas bill below 300. And in Delaware, it’s cold as hell from October to sometimes April so those months were basically as shitty as shitty could get. In short, we were broke, cold and hungry. That first year, we took everything we owned and moved it into the spare bedroom, turned the heat off, splurged on a 30$ space heater and barricaded ourselves in that room day in and day out. Ironically, when we weren’t fighting, we were so happy in that little space. We couldn’t afford cable so endless showings of Bad Santa and steamy love making was our existence. Don’t forget the tuna packets. Oh, the glamour!
For the first nine months of our marriage, I could not find a job to save my life. I looked under rocks for jobs and if you’ve ever been in a military town, then you know they are tiny and sparse. I tried to transfer jobs and they told me that at best, they could offer me 10 hours…. A MONTH. Needless to say, marriage was not going the fairytale way that I envisioned. I was hungry, I was cold and slightly resentful. We were learning how to budget as a team and Will had these 1920 ideas of how money should be handled in a marriage. It was complete chaos. The breaking point for me was the day I had finally scored an interview but I had to drive through the toll. Well, little ol’ me did not have a dollar to get through the toll. Fast forward to Will coming home to find me rolling around on the floor in tears lamenting about poverty and the unfairness of life. So there we were, in the throes of young love perched atop Rent-a-Center furniture that was probably soiled with various people’s bodily fluids. If we had let it, those days could have driven us apart and ended our marriage. Money issues are the number one cause of divorce and honestly at 21 years old the odds were not in our favor. Our broke days didn’t end that first year. They continued for several more years…. Definitely not to that extreme, but we were still living paycheck to paycheck and before long we had to factor in diapers and wipes too.
I know there are other young couples out there looking for hope in a bleak moment so I created a list of tips to help you survive the “broke stage.” I hope it helps!
- Remember your differences: This one is so important. William fared much better than I did during those days. It’s no secret that I was raised as a spoiled brat and I was never short a dollar. Will was used to a little less than I and so he was a lot less dramatic about it than I was. I mean, I was 11 years old eating lobster tails for my birthday in Manhattan. So, when I didn’t have any more of mommy’s money, it was a SHOCK. So be aware of your spouse’s differences. One of you may be able to cope better than the other. Don’t expect your spouse to handle it the same way as you do.
- Communicate: This is important in all aspects of marriage, but especially when it comes to finances. Keep an open dialogue and do NOT be afraid to talk about money matters. And ladies, DO NOT, let your man handle all the finances. Marriage is a PARTNERSHIP and so you should both be involved in money decisions. Even if you keep your money separate (we choose to keep ours joint), you should still be able to talk about it open and honestly.
- Save: This is IMPERATIVE for financial success. Even if you can only save a morsel, save it! We did not do that and as a result, had to dig ourselves out of credit card debt and had no savings to fall back on. Which brings me to…
- Keep Your Credit Clean: We had zero credit and so we were eligible for every card under the sun and yes we applied for them. When things got bad, and they did, we used them. We were smart enough not to charge them into oblivion, but we charged enough that we could barely manage to pay the minimum payments. It took a few years to regain control of our credit and it is something we will never take for granted EVER again. Keep those balances low and always check your score.
- Don’t Play the Blame Game: This is hard as hell, I won’t lie. But blaming each other just turns into hurtful words and unnecessary hostility. At the end of the day, you can’t think of things singularly. There is no more “this is your fault.” Everything you do is a team effort and you have to work together. Make a budget and stick to it. Excel is your friend.
- Remember to take in the small things: Being aware of your financial status is good, yes, but try not to fixate on it. Don’t get so wrapped up in your financial concerns that you forget to appreciate the small things. So what you can’t go out to a fancy dinner or on a vacation. Have a staycation. Do small things for your spouse. Appreciate your time together.
- Remember that this is temporary: You will not be in this place forever. Don’t let it break you. Stay positive and remember that the glow up WILL happen.
- Make a Plan: Plan for your future together. Set small goals and when you reach them, set bigger ones. Make vision boards. Talk about where you want to be and plan on how to get there!
- And Lastly…. LOVE! Love each other. Don’t forget about why you got married in the first place. Remember the love you have. Appreciate each other. Realize that these will be some of your fondest memories. Be honest with each other and focus on each other’s happiness. As cheesy as it sounds, love is the key.
I really hope this gives some of you hope. It was rough and we went through some majorly tough times. Five years ago, I would never think I could afford designer bags and weekend getaways just because. It’s a wonderful, well deserved feeling. What’s crazy is that you’d think the people around you will be happy for you when you “make it,” but a lot of times they aren’t. They’ll claim you changed. But you know what? I’ll never forget those days we ate ramen sitting on lawn chairs watching repeat movies on an old tube t.v. I’ll never forget Will having to walk to work because we couldn’t afford to put gas in the car. I’ll never forget those cold days locked away in that spare room eating tuna on crackers. Those days made us who we are today. They helped us build a foundation that is solid and fundamentally unbreakable. I am thankful for those days and every single time I pick up a new handbag, I smile and remember the good ol’ days.
Until next time, keep smiling.