Someday I am going to have to sit down with my folks and hear how, in the world, they managed to balance finances at our house. I don’t really recall any steady period of time where both of my parents worked. Usually, it was just one single income from a very blue-collar job. This may have been for the “better” since we couldn’t afford babysitting anyway. My folks never burdened us kids with too much knowledge about our financial situation. We were smart enough to understand it and how it affected us. The phone would occasionally go out, as would the electricity. We didn’t buy new clothes either. However, I can remember one time when we were in a real financial-crisis situation. One evening when I was nine~ish (circa 1984) my mother put $10.00 on the coffee table for my dad. I remember it so clearly. That $10 was to buy the groceries for the week. It was two five dollar bills.
Well the next morning, the money was gone. No one had come over, nor had we left. One of us touched the money. I knew in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t me but I couldn’t say for sure that someone else hadn’t stolen it. We all spent hours searching for that money. We must have all looked under the coffee table 200 times; each thinking that ‘this time’ it would be there. Every day after that, we all would take time during the day at some point to search out that money. Sporadic hunts continued for about a week before finally tapering off.
There is something special about a family ‘crisis’ that draws everyone to solidarity. My brother and I didn’t complain about the lack of food. We weren’t starving. There were lots of cans in the cupboard and if we just ate a little bit less than normal we, together, could stretch what we had until the next week when we would have $10 new dollars for groceries.
Just recently, we overspent our budget on that new TV project I was telling you about in the blog “Cable TV.” Like most projects, we had a certain amount set aside but the total cost actually went over a little. Well, “a little” to Josh, but A LOT to the poor, little, rich, white, Mexican! I had to dip into our savings account which is something I hate doing, especially when it isn’t really an emergency. In fact, right now I am trying to build up a legit emergency savings and this delayed me! I told my kids that because we had gone over budget on our project, we didn’t have money for “extra stuff.” Luckily I even had grocery gift cards in my wallet to get us through the rest of the month. When I grocery shopped that first time, my sweet son kept pulling stuff out of my cart, insisting that we didn’t need it and challenging me on how we were going to run out of money. Isn’t he adorable?!? My daughter still talks about “that time when we were poor and it was not fun.” Seriously – it was, at best, two weeks of not eating out; not the family solidarity I was hoping for.
Several months after the great hunt, we finally found the $10 hidden inside an old soft briefcase that was resting against the wall, behind an end table. We probably moved that ol’ thing over and over, we just didn’t look IN it. My sister (who was a toddler at the time) was playing “business woman” or something! She put the case back but left those little green papers inside.