So it’s come to this.

The reality of our financial situation finally hit me this week, sending me into the tumultuous waters of major financial fear. I felt pretty silly, however, once I uncovered the roots of my fears. We’re not extravagant spenders (not by North American standards at least) but at the same time, we’ve never actually lived by a budget (did I just admit that publicly?). We tend to kind of “wing it” with our finances and, well… we like to have our little luxuries. Loosing a source of income means that we can’t do that anymore for awhile. We have to make some serious adjustments to our spending. Herein lies the root of my fear. It’s not that Im afraid of loosing our house, though I can certainly go there. What if I discover that I can’t make the necessary sacrifices? What if I keep compulsively buying ice cream two times a week even though we can’t afford it? What if I get tired of Suave shampoo (which, by the way is .99 cents a bottle. .99 cents!) and go on a spending spree at Bath & Body Works unable to resist their “buy one get one free” coupons any longer? What if we slide further and further into debt and eventually do loose our home? It’s not so bad to think about being homeless if the entire economy tanks and I can blame it on the the Reagan/Bush legacy. Not so acceptable, however, if we wind up homeless because of the failings of my own moral fiber. Like misery, sacrifice loves company. While I can truly feel giddy at the prospect of my romanticized idea of our entire economy failing and returning to the simpler days of yore, it’s not as much fun to make those sacrifices when your neighbors are still spending with seeming impunity.

A friend of mine went with us to Costco this week and and I wondered as we left the store if she approved of my choices. Was she was thinking “this is what Jenny calls sacrifice?!”. I mostly bought the staples – milk, eggs, bread, produce – but maybe I should have just bought an enormous bag of dried beans and rice. I feel a hot flash of shame when I think about the fancy nuts I bought to take the place of my nightly ice cream habit, reasoning that they will last much longer and be healthier, too. Will my sweet tooth be our ruin?

There was a time when I prided myself on my ability to deny myself pleasures. I was the apple of my frugal father’s eye. I took this “frugality” to extremes. When I was finally able to replace things like shoes and underwear without agonizing about the expense, I considered it growth. My ability to spend money on myself began to blossom. Soon I had a gym membership, a few tubes of really nice lip gloss and a lot of nice art supplies. Now it’s hard to tell what’s growth and what’s extravagance. Should I buy that bottle of probiotics? When I think about cutting back, it’s the restrictive fear of never having enough that I really don’t want to go back to. I received a little reminder in the mail today (from a very dear friend who shall remain nameless) that the universe is indeed a place of abundance, not scarcity. That’s the kind of energy I want to tap into.

It also helps to remember that for today at least I have a choice. If I wanted to, I’m pretty sure that I could get a job that would more than pay for childcare and relieve our financial strain. I’m not willing to do that today. For today I choose to stay at home with our girls and eat fancy nuts.

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~ by jenzai on October 25, 2008.

8 Responses to “So it’s come to this.”

  1. So the theme of the story telling event thing I went to Wednesday night was Just Can’t Get Enough. Which theme, in fact, I found a little uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t experience being unable to get enough, but that — in fact — that is not the kind of energy I want to tap into. And when I wish to feel rich with the universe’s abundance, a good place to start is always with our friendship.

    One of the tensions that sometimes arises in our marriage is that I have tendencies that overpass frugality and come out as downright tightfistedness that Raven just doesn’t. And I’ve started wondering about frugality as a value. Like, would I want it as an epitaph? She always colored on both sides of the paper? On the other hand, I sorta love “She chose to stay home with her girls and eat fancy nuts.” (ooh, almost in six words!)

    Love to you.

  2. Fancy Nuts! That should totally be the name of our women-artists teamblog. ;o)

    Hélas, I can identify all-too-well with all-too-much of this, especially the lip balm. I have a big lip balm problem. Also handmade soap, which is especially ironic given how hard it is for me, when depressed, to haul myself into the shower. (Unfortunately Suave strips the SHIT out of my hair, so I can’t use it. Or don’t.)

    These are ridiculously yet genuinely difficult grapplings, precisely because of all our delightful family-of-origin baggage, I suspect. Mandarin and I have discussed our resistance to budgeting as reactionary to childhood Protestant capital-as-virtue programming. She admitted once that she could only feel virtuous about grocery shopping if she bought nothing but “broken rice and industrial salt.” A gripped economy of terror in which nuts seem extravagant, because they aren’t, I don’t know, from the dumpster or something.

    But the odd thing is that the people who are truly extravagant don’t even think about these things. The Brujo often points out to me: The fact that *we* sit at our breakfast table (rescued from the trash) eating cheese on toast and worrying about our overconsumption? Is, um, kind of the point.

    Disregulation (among other things–heck, maybe even property ownership tout court) fucked up home ownership; not lip balm.

    Yet the cruel punishing irony: of ours being the richest country in the world, while so many of us feel (truly) so squinched and hungry. The B. gifted at bringing me back down to reality, maybe because he lived in West Hollywood and taught Bruce and Demi’s kids: Sure, we spend $30 at the Thai restaurant, but we don’t spend $300 on premium denim. We get fancy nuts, but we don’t get, I don’t know, Ortolan squab or range-fed Republicans or truffle-stuffed peasant [sic]. I shamefacedly buy Neutrogena shampoo for dry hair (a shocking $6 a bottle) but then of course I don’t use it, because I am face-planted on the (nasty beige shag Slumlord-chosen) carpeting, feeling too guilty to breathe.

    Most of what we do to work around money, with money, next to money, to get out from underneath money, doesn’t work. The beautiful thing about “Money and how it gets that way” [Henry Miller] is that eventually, like any repetitious happening in my life, it hits me over the head until I’m forced to realize that 1) there is nothing wrong with me just the way I am (?! what!? no, impossible!) and 2) I can’t do it right, ever.

    Or as the Young Monk once said, hugging me consolingly: “Aw, sweetheart—no one gets the grocery shopping right. It’s not possible!”

    This is ridiculously long and sounds all hortatory, but really it’s just me shaking my head and saying, in a low appreciative voice: Dude! I am SO picking up what you are throwing down.

  3. I don’t have time to comment on the real point of your blog, which I relate to immensely. However, I wanted to assure you that in no way was I judging any of your choices. In fact, I’m not really sure what you got because I was enjoying your kids too much. I was also too busy admiring your management skills and your ability to cook good food for your family, and let’s see, what else…. Oh! And your ability to actually believe that fancy nuts are a real replacement for ice cream. 😉 Anyway, I don’t have that kind of critical thoughts: “That’s sacrifice?” especially since I live in a precariously positioned glass house.

    Also, if there’s anything to approve/disapprove, it would be you having lots of room to disapprove of my grocery shopping choices, which include processed food, meat, not enough veggies (since nobody but me will eat them), non-organic most-everything-because-it’s-too-expensive…. 😉

    I am so often torn between the “I wants” and the awareness of just how freaking spoiled I really am. It is so hard to give up some things I’ve become accustomed to, and I admit it… I do feel entitled to them! In the light of day and truth, I don’t believe that, but I do feel that way sometimes.

    I struggled with this much less when I lived in the town of 500 people in the midst of farm country in the Midwest.

    Believe it or not, I do still have more to say and started a post about something pretty similar the other day, but I’ll shut up now because I must. 😉

  4. I didn’t really think you were judging me. You just happened to be the innocent bystander upon whom I projected my own judgments! Next time (you will go with us again, won’t you?!) I’ll be more aware of what’s going on with Crazy Mind and we’ll be able to poke fun at it more, hopefully with lots of references to dumpster diving.

  5. A range fed Republican! A truffle stuffed peasant! oh deary me you are too funny.

    and I’m going to remember those very compassionate words from the Young Monk every time I go grocery shopping. Thank you…

    ps – did the B. actually work for Bruce and Demi? I want details, darling, details.

  6. Brandon and I go through this agony together at least once a month, when we want to patronize a restaurant but it’s only been a week since the last time we ate out. I know that budgeting sounds kind of horrible, but when we actually do it, I find it wonderfully freeing. Because you just sit down and talk with another more or less sane human being and decide what is a reasonable amount to spend on such and such a thing, and then there’s no more agonizing at the store, or at the restaurant, or wherever, because you already know the upper limit of your spending, and you can feel free to go right up to that limit. I guess it works for me because I always budget a little more than I think is “enough”–just in case, you know–so I have the option of being a little bit indulgent.

    Anyway, enjoy your fancy nuts! (Hey–sometimes 99 cent stores have cheap roasted, salted pumpkin seeds, which, I don’t know if you would agree, but I think they’re as good as nuts! Maybe not as good as fancy nuts, though. And certainly no substitute for ice cream …)

  7. I realized that a budget was the answer a few seconds after typing “should I buy that bottle of probiotics?” because DUH, Jenny, you would know the answer to that question if you had a BUDGET! And yet still I resist. I’m not even sure what the resistance is about. Some of it is genuine confusion and ignorance but most of it is irrational fear. Maybe I can ask Susan or someone to hold my hand through it. and possibly stand over me with a whip until it’s done. Thank you for the encouragement and the reminder that t will be freeing, not punishing.

  8. Budget budget who’s got a budget….not us, as I realized this afternoon when the Brujo came home from the dentist with an estimate on his root canal ($1200 not covered by insurance) and we looked at each other blankly. Being bohemic has its drawbacks.

    The Monk said that when I came out of the store in tears because I’d forgotten one thing and bought an expensive something else: “I did it wrong!” He had his moments.

    (And the B. taught in LA for three years at a fancy prep school for the stars–parent/teacher conference with famous moms and dads.)

    FANCY NUTS FOR ALL!

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