Money Can’t Buy Happiness…

 

…but you can rent it for three easy payments of $19.95!

Just kidding.  But I do want to talk about money for a minute.  Money, the ol’ root of all evil. Money answereth all things.  Money makes the world go round.  A fool and his money… blah blah blah.

My husband and I have been in pretty dire straights for the past two years or so.  Poor budgeting coupled with a shitty economy and shady bankers conspired against us, culminating in my husband’s layoff two months before our wedding in ’09.  Our backs finally broke under the strain and we lost…well, damn near everything.  I won’t go into it too much.  Lord knows if there’s one place I should be able to be honest, it’s this blog… So I’ll be honest and say, frankly, it’s embarrassing.  And I’m positive I’m not alone in experiencing the shame a person feels when they just can’t…quite….make it financially.  In a word, it feels like failure.  

You repeatedly sit there and ponder what you did wrong, what you could have done differently, better.  You are unkind to yourself.  Even the things beyond your control seem to be internalized as personal failures.  Before the end of that same year, my husband and I lost a baby.  That is to say, I miscarried.  Even now, you don’t know how hard it is to type that and then not go back and erase it.  It’s an extremely personal loss, and for some women, it makes them feel like a “bad” woman.

But anyway, lemme truncate what could potentially be an extremely long post, were I to describe all the events that led us up to where and how we live now.  We lost our house, and after a brief (although not nearly brief enough) and painful stay with some relatives (who shall remain nameless,) we moved to KY, where my best friend of 20-some years lives, me four and a half months pregnant with my daughter.

We had a LOT of issues with my husband’s unemployment and the place we ended up living was a dive that the landlords refused to take responsibility for.  But with some help from family, we made it through.  We moved into a tiny apartment.  It was me, hubby, the baby, (and the three cats and snake we had before we “got poor”.)  Coincidentally, the apartment had the same exact set-up as my very first apartment (which hubby moved into with me shortly after we met,) because they were owned by the same company.  It was like we had come full circle.  I was plagued by guilty thoughts.  We never should have left that first apartment.  I liked it there, it was just too small.  We never should have bought a house.  Maybe we wouldn’t be bankrupt. 

But it also felt like coming home.  By this time, hubs was working again, but we still lived paycheck to paycheck, and most of the time, not even that.  And I was grateful.  Grateful for the little apartment.  Grateful for my wonderful husband, although we’d been through many of our own personal troubles already. And most of all, grateful for my beautiful daughter.

Now fast forward to last month.   Tax time.  Often a time of woe and worry for many Americans.  And I was looking forward to it.  We had to get a good return this year, just had to!  We qualified for the EIC and we had a child…  Fingers crossed.  Check.

And we did.  Even with the fees from last year’s prep, which the tax place had carried over, what we got was…well, I don’t think I really expected for the news to be that good.  We could payoff our crappy “buy here, pay here” truck.  We could pay back a bit of the money we had borrowed during our “rough” year or two.  And we could get the things we had really needed for so long but didn’t really have the money on which to spare.  New sheets.  A new pot set for the kitchen.  New vacuum.  We even were able to get some things for ourselves.  “Luxuries.”  For the first time in a while, I was able to shop someplace besides Walmart.

And hubs and I talked over all the purchases, making sure we agreed and that we weren’t wasteful with the money.  And the best part is, at least for now, we are not only caught up, but actually ahead of our bills.  If we continue to budget wisely and not spend too frivolously, we can stay that way.

Which brings me to my actual point.  (Yes, there is one.)  And that is this:  not much has changed in my day to day activities.  We still live in our little apartment.  We still drive a crappy old truck.  But I feel a sense of contentment and well-being that was not there before.  I don’t mean I wasn’t happy with my life because we’re “poor.”  But the anxiety that tinged my daily life from never seeming to have enough money, from only just making end’s meet, that was gone.  It was like a dark cloud that I didn’t know was there rolled away and the sun came out.

Gas prices have reached an all-time state of ridiculousness.  Even though I still cringe to fill up my tank, at least now I can go do the one thing a week that I want.  I can drive the 18 or so miles to go play Volleyball, because I don’t have to worry about whether we’ll have enough gas for hubs to get to work the rest of the week.

If I see a book or a little outfit that I want to get for the baby, I don’t have to feel guilty or think, “she doesn’t really need it.”   Because I have been told, and I firmly believe, that children don’t need “things” to be happy.  I am very proud of the fact that I have been told on numerous occasions that my daughter is “the happiest baby” people have ever seen.  That she’s “always smiling.”  But I still feel the guilt every parent must feel – that I just can’t give them everything I want to be able to give as a parent.

If you haven’t gleaned what I’ve been getting at this whole time, I’ll just wrap it up real neat for ya.  Money CAN’T buy happiness.  If (God forbid, and I hate to even write it) I somehow lost my husband or daughter, I know I wouldn’t give a fuck if the world fell down around me, let alone if I had money or not.  But does having money, or being financial “able”,  contribute to mental well-being?  The answer is ab-so-freakin’-lutely.  And you’d be a fool if you said different.

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