Back in 2009, I was dating this guy who influenced me tremendously. Things didn’t work out with us. He had issues with aging and was interested in women 20 (or more) years younger than he was. I was only 12 years younger, so while we had fun for a while, his time with me was sure to end. Other than this, he was a decent guy, employed, funny, intelligent, a writer with a day job.
He lived in a home that he and his brother built. It was one of those Adair homes. He’d gone through a bankruptcy after his divorce and had downsized from a rather large multi-storied craftsman home to this smaller ranch-style Adair home. He tended to be a bit anal about keeping things clean and orderly. Everything was perfectly tidy and ordered. His home definitely did not look like the typical bachelor pad. I remember thinking that I loved the place.
I was living, at that time, in a small 1400 sq. ft. ranch home, circa 1970, with updating desperately needed. Updating which I would never have the capital to do. I envied his clean, new, modern home with a dishwasher and an indoor laundry area. To this day, he is an influence in my choice of furniture, decor and decorating. He also was the one who introduced me to Bailey’s Irish Cream as an alternative for my non-dairy creamer in the morning. As I look back at those days, 2007-2010, just after my divorce when I was trying to survive financially, it is as though it is an unhappy dream that I’ve awakened from after a rough night of sleep. I remember it. It felt very sad and difficult at the time, but now, a few years further away from it all, wrapped warmly in a blanket of financial stability and personal clarity, it just seems like a surreal almost nightmare kind of dream. I’ve learned that it’s the little things that matter, and sometimes, the little things reveal so much.
For example, my friend, who was also rebuilding his life after divorce and subsequent bankruptcy, had learned the art of a minimalist existence. He had really nice things, but they were things he’d purchased from thrift stores or garage sales and had refinished. He carefully chose the artifacts in his home, and while he had many mementos and photos, none of it, ever was cluttered or busy. And I remember, there on his almost bare kitchen counter, graced with only a wine rack (full of good wine) and a coffee-maker, sat the Bailey’s. It was a small thing, really, that wine rack full of good wine and the Bailey’s. Here I was, trying to feed my four children and I on $300 a month, and he had easily that much in alcohol sitting on his counter as a decor item. I remember thinking, someday, I wanted to be able to enjoy some of those things. I wanted a newer energy-efficient home, with nice furniture, and all the little things that make a home cozy, comfortable, inviting.
Shortly after this, my friend, his credit fully repaired, purchased a lot and built a beautiful state-of-the art craftsman home. On the other hand, I spent several years, paying off debt, scraping by, drinking discount ground coffee without creamer or with merely a little bit of milk. Purchased coffee at the coffee shop, was a luxury I could not afford, either for calories or cost. Life gradually improved. Bills were paid off, and then the bankruptcy happened. I found a place more to my liking and which required far less maintenance. It was energy-efficient, and had a dishwasher. I was spending significantly less every month on my overhead and living better. It was a great financial and emotional move for me and my children. I was now able to afford a few little luxuries, one of them being creamer for the coffee. Still, things were hard. The car I was driving was older, and costing more in repairs and maintenance than a car payment. It was also a 4×4, and costing me $400 a month in gas.
I was rebuilding my credit, still living on a cash only basis. I had one credit card that I paid off each month (no interest for a year, no annual fee ever). Then my daughter wrecked our only vehicle, and my Bankruptcy Trustee really stuck it to me. I wrote about all that in my article titled, It’s Raining Again. It wasn’t exactly a coffee-without-cream year, but it sure wasn’t a Bailey’s year either. It was devastating to, for the first time in many years, get a sizable tax return only to have it snatched away, and then later, to have worked extra hours to make it up, only to have it taken again. Crushing. I had to borrow money from my college student who was working and getting some good income. I didn’t know how I was going to eat, let alone have a Christmas. You just don’t take money from people like that right before Christmas, you know?
Then the car was totaled, and the pay off was double what I expected. At the same time my credit improved. I purchased a 2012 model fuel efficient car, and we were able to have a nice Christmas. I was able for the first time, to put my youngest daughter in a sports activity. Something she’s never done, because the divorce from her dad happened when she was 5 and he doesn’t help with anything at all. I just didn’t have the money.
This year, I’ve already filed my tax returns and am awaiting my refund. The amount I am receiving this year? Let’s just say, it more than makes up for all the money the Trustee Witch took last year. While I’m not in the place my friend is with his new home and fully repaired credit, I’m on the road to recovery. Other than still awaiting the foreclosure on my home, I am in a better financial situation than I’ve been in a decade.
Here’s the really fun part of all the frustration-turned-hopeful. Without using credit, I’ve been able to afford to go out to eat once a week (something absolutely unheard of just a few years ago,unless someone else paid for it). I can purchase a coffee at the kiosk, and pay cash for it, without it breaking the grocery budget (I don’t, due to the calories, but I can). All my medical bills from last year’s cancer adventure are paid off. I have enough in my FSA account to pay for the bills I expect to incur this year. I’m going to be able to get my son and my daughter braces (this is due more to them being double covered through their dads’ insurance, but it helps). Last night, I actually went to a local semi-professional theatre where my daughter was running the sound board for a stage production. I was able to do this without having to rely on her to comp me tickets. I’ve stopped drinking wine, so the wine rack on my kitchen counter still stands empty (at least until the next wine club shipment comes in having enjoyed the last shipment at the holidays).
And…this morning I drank Bailey’s in my coffee.