Thirty eight dollar and ninety six cents?
How can that be all that's left in my bank account?
I stare at the screen of the ATM machine, and retrace my steps from the past few weeks. I don't remember spending all that money!
Back at home, I lock myself in my office and go through my check records, but not without several knocks on my door.
"Mommy, I thought we were going to the store to get ice cream," Miss F asks from the hallway.
"We can't get ice cream today honey."
"But you promised. "
"I know baby, but I lost our money. When I find it I'll let you know."
"Did someone steal our money?" asks my little dude, who's standing outside my office with Miss F. He's six and loves hearing about people who break the law. He makes sure to tell everyone he meets about the time his mother got arrested. Even strangers.
After a conversation with a customer service representative from the bank, I discover I wrote a check that I forgot to record. It was for hundreds of dollars.
Since my husband's pursuit of a mid-life career change, I have become the queen of frugality. We have one year to go before Steve finishes school and (hopefully) gets a job in his new field. In the meantime, he works in an entry-level position in his new industry at entry level pay. Our challenge has been that our lifestyle requires more than entry level pay. There is nothing flamboyant about the way we live, but simply owning and paying property taxes on a small home, two older model cars and health insurance in the state of New Jersey requires substantial effort.
Our financial goals this year are simple: Cut out any unnecessary expenses in order to get through the year without debt. In order to make this year work, our budget has been hacked to pieces. There are no vacations or restaurant meals. I can grocery shop on next to nothing. I have learned to say "no" to the gamut of juvenile requests, the ice cream truck, school lunches, the Squinky dolls that live in the checkout lanes at Target, arcade games in the back of the bowling alley when one of the kids is at a birthday party. All of those expenses add up, which results in HUNDREDS of dollars every month on "things we don't need."
I send off a quick text message to my husband to tell him not to use the ATM machine and start brainstorming. I can dip into our emergency fund to get through the week, but I raided that fund a month ago, to pay off Steve's hospital bills. That was a real emergency, versus this, which is an inconvenience. I can throw the groceries on my Visa, except I hate using credit cards. Even though we pay them off every month, I quickly lose track of how much I'm spending when I pull out the plastic. OK, we will do the "eat what's in the cabinet and freezer" bit until the next payday. I just won't shop.
We're taking some risks right now to get Steve though school, and most of the time, I'm OK with them. I have lived with "money issues" for decades, and it wasn't until the last few years, that I realized I have spent a significant part of my life making decisions that were in reaction to my financial insecurities. Recently, I've acknowledged that my money issues are less about what we have or don't have in the bank and have more to do with what I believe I deserve, or don't deserve for that matter. For a long time, I had an unconscious agreement with myself that I wasn't worthy of financial stability or success. I believed I had to struggle. I deserved to struggle. Financial security was simply not something I was entitled to.
One of the benefits of yoga is that the more we become aware of our bodies in different postures, the more we become aware of how our minds work. One of the greatest gifts I have received practicing yoga is the ability to detach from my own thought process enough that I can observe how I think and when possible, change these thought patterns.
The $38.96 bank balance was unexpected, but I notice that it does not trigger the same reaction in me that it would have a few years ago, when that kind of news would have sent me into a tailspin of projections of bankruptcy, foreclosures, and homelessness. I'm cool with this. My husband and I are lucky people. Our situation is temporary. We have a plan. We'll find our way.
The next day, I get a piece of mail with the return address of a company that I had purchased stock from back in my 20's, at my father's encouragement. Until this afternoon, the stock had been forgotten about for years. However, today, Company X has paid me out for fractional shares of a stock I owned in a spinoff company due to a buyout.
I've heard before that sometimes, when you have faith, those unexpected checks arrive just at the right moment. This was definitely the right moment for us. I look up at the sky, and with a smile , I mouth the words, "Thank you."
Then, I head out to the grocery store.
©2012 Ilene Evans