Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Year of Gratitude #39

A Year of Gratitude #39: Grocery Shopping

I can remember a time, approximately nine-to-ten years ago, when I lived check to check. I had just gone through my divorce, I was living on my own for the first time EVER in my life, and I was swimming in debt.

I made some foolish decisions when it came to money and how I spent it. I was teaching, making decent money, but was over my head with a car that I couldn't afford, insurance for said car that I couldn't afford, an apartment that I couldn't afford, and multiple credit cards that kept being used because I didn't have money for the "things" that I wanted.

I've been that girl at the grocery story who stands in line forever only to have my card denied. It's embarrassing. I've needed to get groceries but didn't have money for anything, so I shopped with my Mobil card at the gas station convenience store for things that I needed (milk, pop, bread, snacks).

I can even vividly remember going to Olive Garden with friends and only eating the free bread that came with everyone's paid dinner... and having bread and water for dinner while they all had a feast. I never let my lack of money stop me from going out and having fun.

I should have had a better plan when it came to my finances. I had student loans to pay, and instead of starting to pay (I had no money to start paying), I deferred them and decided to go BACK to school for another Master's. Probably not the smartest thing, but it worked and in the end, I had two Master's and was at the top of the pay scale at work.

My ex-husband (just before he filed for divorce) decided that we should consolidate our credit cards into one card. We each had several cards and we took a few of mine and a few of his and put them together into a Citi Bank card. I still had other cards...

This new card, he thought, should be in my name. Let me "build up my credit" since his was crap. So we did and my new card was MAXED immediately with about $20,000 and was in my name. The accounts that were moved into the new card (his), were closed and suddenly, he had very little debt to his name and I had ALL OF IT.

Then he decided that he wanted to start a family (YAY-- me too) and get a new house. It was like all the problems in our marriage were going to be solved by a baby and a new house. Except... they weren't. 

A blink later, I was driving home from grad school and he called to tell me that he filed for divorce. I almost got into an accident and immediately pulled my car off the freeway. I couldn't believe it. I drove to my parents' house and went in... told them... they were in shock, I was in shock, and I took of my wedding ring/engagement ring and gave them to my mom. I cried like I had never cried in my life.

The downward spiral of debt started when I moved out (we separated) on my own and it only got worse.

So what does this have to do with anything??? Well... today I took Gus to Wal-Mart for some groceries. I walked through the store and found things I needed and didn't really need (like the chocolate mini-cupcakes) and I checked out and drove home. I put my groceries away and I have cabinets that are full of food... and a refrigerator that's full of food.

At no time when I was shopping, did I even think my credit card would be declined. Now, I know that we're living tight right now and I DO need to do a better job of watching my spending (Yes Steve, I AM aware and going to do a better job of watching what I buy), but we're not at the point of not being able to afford groceries.

It sucks to be in a position in your life where you can't afford the most basic things. My problem was not just the debt, but not knowing how to manage it, get out from under it, and not being able to make responsible decisions for myself. I was stupid. But I also got manipulated by my ex when it came to him dumping all his debt on me. He dumped the car (that I was paying $600 a month for... and that's just the car), I had to pay for an apartment and utilities ($750 a month), and car insurance ($100 a month). I was bringing home about $1,600 a month... and if you added in the debt I had... I was upside down.

Going shopping today made me thankful that we can afford groceries and that I don't have to worry about how I'm going to feed myself, Steve, and more importantly, Gus. 

My husband works hard to provide for us. He is EXCELLENT with money and finances. I'm thankful that he's in charge of our money and that we're able to go grocery shopping and I don't have to worry about my credit card being declined.


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