Many personal finance gurus extol the virtues of living a cash-only lifestyle. They recommend putting money into envelopes, labeling them for specific purposes, such as groceries, gas, etc, and then when the money runs out–that’s it. You’re done spending until the next wave of cash flow comes in.
I’ve never been able to fully go for this idea, mostly for the fact that I know myself and I know that I would be borrowing from envelopes to pay for other items. For example, if we have to drive further one month, we most likely will need more gas money. For the most part, where we drive isn’t an option. We need to get to where we’re going. And living in southern California, the public transportation is horrendous.
While we’re not like other personal finance aficionados who shun credit cards, we do sometimes find ourselves in the hole. We love to use credit cards to rack up points and save for things, for example, we have accumulated enough points on one card for two free round trip flights to New York. On another card, we have enough points to be able to buy a few Christmas presents.
The only problem of course is when we can’t pay off our purchases as we go. Unfortunately, this has been the case for us recently.
My husband was unable to work for five weeks, putting us far behind on our expenses. On top of that, he switched jobs recently, and hasn’t been given any shifts recently. I often feel like no matter how hard we try, we keep living one paycheck behind. I need one extra paycheck to pay off our bills, and instead, I’m getting one less paycheck when my husband isn’t working.
It’s not his fault, obviously, it’s not like he doesn’t want to work. But it’s hard not to get frustrated when we can’t pay our bills. And by bills, I mean pay the credit card off.
We’ve resorted to living a debit-card only lifestyle, but the truth is, even then we still don’t have enough money for the basic necessities like gas and food.This issue constantly makes us reach for the credit cards to tie us over.
Sometimes I feel that when financial gurus write about these seemingly innocuous tips, they often forget how difficult it is to make ends meet. How families are shuffling day to day to make the best financial decisions. How sometimes it isn’t about simply cutting back on the Starbucks when you haven’t even had a cup of coffee at home in months. It isn’t about clipping coupons. Sometimes it’s about deciding whether you’re going to pay the electric bill or eat dinner. It’s about whether your kids will get shoes or whether they will go to the doctor.
Sometimes it’s not about paying off debt, it’s about making it to the next day.
I am grateful that we have not yet reached this dire situation. But I know that if my husband were to suddenly not work at all, we would find ourselves in a very uncomfortable position. I can see how it is all too easy to reach for those credit cards to last you through an emergency situation and how easy it is to rack up debt–not for frivilous items, but just to make it through the next day.
Paying off debt isn’t always easy. And sometimes, as personal finance bloggers, we forget that.