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Til DEBT Do Us Part.

I have found a wonderful TV show on CNBC that is called "Til Death Do Us Part" - Saturday nights at 10:00 PM, repeated Sundays at 1:00 AM (Eastern Time). As a side note: I now take time for TV 2-5 hours weekly on select shows, realizing all I do is work and because I'm finding myself in need of some other sources of mental downtime/entertainment. Will be reading more, too, and turning off my computer at reasonable hours. I am inspired by the good work that this television offers young families.

The host, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, author of a new book coming out April 1st, Debt-Free Forever (which I just pre-ordered on discount for $11 and free shipping), is a financial planner in Canada. She counsels married couples whose relationships are suffering due to financial strain. She puts them on a financial program and tracks their success/failure in monitoring their money. It's fascinating reality TV, the best kind.

It's noted that 90% of divorces are due to financial strain impacting the relationship. I can attest to failure of my quarter century long marriage ending in part due to imbalance on who works, who spends, a whole lot of blame and a heck of a lot of bills resulting from middle-class cultural expectations about what are the basics for living. Add to it, the waning sense of humor and team spirit in partnership, disagreements about how to handle teenagers, and sleeping in a marital bed with an invisible wall between both sides, and you've got a classic case of the American Family gone bad. That was us. What a tragedy and a bust of a dream of growing old together, holding hands and loving another forever. It's been so hard to mentally embrace I shall never again have the American Dream.

I guess I've healed enough over the past couple of years since separation and divorce to look at my own failures and speak on them. My blog readers never asked what happened... how it is a marriage since high school could end, and I thank you for the time I've needed to sort through this mess. Still finding myself... My God, I'm learning so much. I'm OK. Well, most of the time.

If it helps anyone out there, I think it's worth repeating some basic advice for family budgeting according to Vaz-Oxlade: "Every family that finds themselves in debt should cut up all their credit cards and live on a cash budget, keeping a log of each and every expenditure made. Use the following formula to set a budget. Keep in mind that the "life" category includes is everything from groceries, to gadgets to entertainment. Housing: 35%, Debt: 15%, Life: 25%, Transportation, 15%, Savings 10%."

When you are using credit cards, equity lines, etc. you don't realize at all that you are living higher than one's means. On the TV show, many of the couples are exceeding a reasonable budget by $1,000 to $3,000 PER MONTH. At that rate, a bankruptcy will be in their future, just a few short years away.

I am financially devastated from the divorce. That's a fact. I have lived on cash for two years and this transition has made me realize that any ONE thing (something breaks, or an unexpected medical bill/prescriptions,etc.) and my whole budget is thrown into a tizzy, causing a late bill someplace else and always scrambling to get caught up. I am repairing credit now and living lean.

Our next generation--the millennials--are in tough times and they grew up with a lot of technology (bought on credit by us Gen X'ers who overspent). The millennials feel special and entitled and they don't realize how competitive the marketplace is now for good jobs. How the hell will they make it on $10 an hour and own a home, have kids and all the things we think of as "standards" in our American culture? There's so much to be said on this topic.

Anyway... to wrap up this diatribe today.... Here are some things I do to save money:

  • No more haircuts, highlights, salon bills. Clairol Balsam hair dye is $2.50 at Walmart.
  • Me and the kids eat at a restaurant 3 times a year as a special treat. That's it. We'll order pizza once weekly using coupons as a special treat.
  • No new clothes. Ever. I go to the Hospice thrift shop and find pants for $4. Recently I got a like-new London Fog raincoat for $6. I have 3 pairs of jeans. 5 pairs of shoes (down from over 50 or 60 years ago). I don't even walk into stores and I throw away catalogs as they arrive in the mail. The kids use their own money for clothes and trade off with friends. I can't do it... It's sad, I'm their mom, but they are gaining perspective and forming values about their own finances.
  • I go to Save-a-Lot for groceries and bag my own groceries. I cook with fresh vegetables and meats on sale. I go to the Hostess bread store for the kids' snacks and our bread items. I don't use brand names for products and I go to the Dollar General for cleaning and bath products.
  • I get books free at and never pay retail for anything... choosing or for most of my purchases and services.
  • I still smoke cigarettes, my downfall from both a health and financial perspective... I use coupons and assign myself a certain number of cigarettes a day.
  • I manage the cost of gas by going out only when I have several errands to run on one trip. No more running out for one thing... coming home and doing it again.
  • I discovered cheap wine ($5 a bottle, which lasts me a week) works just fine.
  • There are no vacations, special events out are planned in advance or gone to only if free. I stay home.
  • Home improvements are spread out over the year. For example, if I lay down sod in the yard, I pick up squares piece by piece... $10 per week, instead of the whole job at once.
  • I have no credit cards. I keep cash on hand because I am more aware of spending than simply swiping the debit card.
  • I use fans and space heaters to keep the heating and a/c bills down.
Just some thoughts for today.


Anonymous said...

I live on cash and dont spend what i dont have.I pay my bills by direct debit.Ive worried far less about money since I dont have a husband than I did in the 10 years I was married at least when theres a fuck now I know it's mine
Ps have you tried vitamin b6 for the PMS ?

Anonymous said...

that should have said fuck up not fuck :D

Spidey said...

vitamin b6 is great for pms. i have been using it for years and it saved many people from being murdered.

Jilly said...

i have a friend that's completely dumb when it comes to money. I keep telling her over AND OVER that when there's "extra" money in your account, it isn't yours and you can't get happy and go shopping. that means that someone has yet to cash a check, or you used or card and the store hasn't put it through yet. Therefore, if you spend the "extra," you're going to be a theif. I just don't understand how she can't understand this fact. Some people need bad things to happen to them because of finances before they finally learn.

we also live off cash. I spend $60 at the grocery store a week and $30 for daycare (so i can have a day to run errands) and anything left after that is for surprises like when my shoes broke this week or copay for the Dr. We knew that me not working meant a strict budget, and i don't mind it because i get to be with my daughter, but i do miss the days of eating out often and buying things not previously owned. This same person from above is about to go to thailand for 30 days on a dream vacation and doesn't understand why i'm pissed off that she owes me $3,000 but gets to spend $5,000 on a vacation. She went to buy shoes today and was shocked that I wasn't going to buy shoes too. HELLO! YOU OWE ME $3,000 and you're going on a $5,000 trip and you wonder why I can't just go and buy shoes whenever I want? I really think this is going to end our friendship completely. I understand she's had a rough year, but not even understanding how her bad year has fucked other people over just pisses me off. I don't think she even feels bad that she's fucked me over. irresponsible people suck, and Alex is right, at least when I mess up, I admit it and really mean it when I say sorry and try to fix it ASAP. Then again, I doubt Alex is taking a $5,000 trip instead of paying her bills.

BTW doreen, have you heard of a veggie co-op? I thought of doing it since we eat a small fortune in fresh veg and fruits every week. About $40 of my grocery bill each week is produce. You pay them a specific set price each month and then you go to the farmer's market every week or the farm and they put together a large box of fresh produce (usually organic) and you take it. the veggies are out-of-this world and it ends up a big cheaper than at the grocery store.

Anonymous said...

Well, consider youself lucky. Finances and the economy have had a direct impact on domestic violence. Over the last few years the intensity of violence we see at work has definitely gotten worse.

I haven't ever been married, but I've been observing married couples for a long time. I agree with Alex - when there's a financial fuck up - I know it's mine and mine alone. I also LOVE the fact that the only person I have to account to for how I spend my money is possibly the landlord.

I remember very near the time McStupid and I split, I went out and bought an outfit that was on the clearance rack at Pennys. McStupid got indignant about it saying that I didn't need it, why did I buy it, I was bad with money, and when we got married I should just give my checks to him. I told him he should really not ever hold his breath and wait for that to ever happen.