I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. Some pretty big. It took me a long time to grow up. I think I was 40 before I felt like an adult.
But the majority of my screwups didn’t have long-lasting effects. For the most part, I was able to clean up the messes and try better next time.
I’ve been married to a great husband for 23 years, I have 3 wonderful children, I’ve got a master’s degree, and I live in a home that I love being in. I follow Jesus and have a few friends that I cherish and am committed to for life.
Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs, but everything turned out pretty well in the end.
Well, except for that part about always being in debt and living paycheck to paycheck. That one’s always been a mess. When I think back on my life now I can see certain circumstances working against me. But that wasn’t really the problem. My mistake was letting those circumstances define my situation.
My Father Never Taught Me
My father (who was a wonderful dad!) was raised poor as a child but was blessed with wealth in adulthood. And he was a giver. He loved to take care of his family, which for him included bailing his irresponsible daughter out of debt multiple times. He knew what it was like to struggle, and he knew that my little family would probably never make the kind of income he did (and he was right). So, he just wanted to help us out. He bought us cars. He paid off houses. He took us on vacations. He gave extravagant gifts. It’s the way he loved us.
I love my dad immensely, and my eyes still tear up when I think about how much my life changed after he passed away 10 years ago. He was so loving, so generous, so helpful and kind.
But he never taught me how to handle money. He only gave it. He rescued me from the holes I would always dig myself into. And then he would fill them in with free cars and houses so my path was smooth and easy.
But my husband and I were still broke all the time, living paycheck to paycheck, building up our credit card debt shortly after it was paid off, never saving or planning for a rainy day. We never made a plan together, never set goals, never held each other accountable.
My Husband Isn’t Interested
My husband is a kind and gentle man. He’s been with the same company for 20 years and has always been our family’s main provider. But he’s also … how shall I say it … financially awkward.
As long as I’ve known him, he’s never been concerned with money. He never worries about it, never talks about it, and, consequently, never really knows what’s going on with it. Kind of like me with politics.
He’s uncomfortable with handling it and discussing it with other people. He has no ambition to make more. And he can be overly generous because he doesn’t consider how one financial transaction affects all of the future ones. One time I put him in charge of splitting the dinner bill with 10 other family members and I think he broke a sweat. He would have paid for the whole thing if I hadn’t taken over. It was painful to watch.
I’m the one that handles our finances and makes sure the bills are paid so there’s enough food and gas money left for the week. But when your spouse or partner doesn’t check in, this can easily (and often) lead to unexpected expenses that quickly deflate any cushion you’ve attempted to make.
It can at first feel frustrating and make you angry, then eventually depressing and hopeless, until finally it’s just normal. Normal enough to never question or challenge and just accept that this is your life and you’ll always be broke.
It’s Up To Me
So, here’s the thing. I’m not blaming my father or my husband. My dad did what he thought was right, and financial matters are not my husband’s strength. In the end, it’s important to *me* to be debt free and financially independent.
And I’m the only one responsible for my priorities. I’m the one in charge of my dreams and my goals. Yes, I have some life circumstances working against me, but I’m the only one that can overcome them for myself.
My father’s lavish giving made me feel like I have to do the same for my children, so I can tend to go overboard with birthdays and holidays and vacations. I need to be more honest with my kids and let them see that the money is just sometimes not there and you have to say no. Debt is not an option.
My husband’s lack of concern and participation left me feeling resentful and eventually apathetic. Do you ever get tired of being the only one who cares? If you’re not careful, you stop caring too.
But life doesn’t always meet our expectations. There will inevitably be times when I am the only one who cares, which means I’m the only one who’ll do something about it. If it’s important enough to me, I shouldn’t need someone else’s involvement to move forward.
I already know my husband is willing to listen to me and try to follow whatever plan I set in place. But I also know he’s not going to change overnight and I’ll need to do some gentle reminding often.
I’ll need to be the one to come up with a money tracking system and fill it out every day. I’ll need to be the one to figure out how to increase our income and cut our expenses. I’ll need to be the one to save for a vacation and find the best deals.
And he’ll continue to keep his steady job because he’s a good employee and remind me that worrying over money doesn’t help and giving is good for the soul.
We all have circumstances and experiences that can hinder us from achieving our goals. We can either let them define us and resign ourselves to apathy. Or we can choose to keep caring, keep trying, and keep doing – even if it seems everyone else around us isn’t. Even if we’ve made some major screwups.
It’s your one and only life. Isn’t it worth it?