Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Anxiety

This post is going to sound like a complete oxymoron, but it's the truth of how I'm feeling.

Brian recently was offered a job, making significantly more than he's ever made. Not a gradual increase that comes from working for a company for years on end, but a sudden shift in our income level. We've gone from poverty-income levels to awesome middle class income levels. Almost a doubling of our income, just like that.

He's been doing the two job thing for the last two weeks, to be sure that the new job was going to honestly pan out, and it is panning out beautifully.

I grew up in a poverty level home, did have a short marriage to my ex where our income was nearly six digits a year, but he blew it all drinking and running around, so I still had to work to provide for Mikeal during my pregnancy and some afterward....that or I would 'steal' money from my ex's pants pockets while he was passed out so I could purchase necessities. So for almost 30 years I've known nothing but how to scrimp, scrounge, and barely squeak by, I knew exactly where every dime was going to be going all year long...if you could see my calendars over the last few years you'd see where I've written down exactly which bill was going to be paid with what paycheck and where I needed to find a way to make a way to squeeze out a few extra bucks.

I don't HAVE to do that now. I'll still be keeping up with when what bill needs to be paid when, that's just normal, but now we have money to DO things. We CAN take the kids out to eat more than once every few months. We CAN buy new shoes & clothes as needed, or as desired, without having to rely on whether or not a child support payment will come through or whether or not we're able to score a great deal or know someone who has children our children's sizes and have hand-me-downs to get rid of. We CAN take the kids to the movies once in a while without having to try to push a bill around to make it possible. We CAN do these things and it's not going to be a choice of food or fun. We can now do both.

The realization is overwhelming when I tell the truth. Our wants don't all have to be pushed until after we get our income tax refund, then IF we have anything left over after making up slack in our needs, we can fulfill some of our wants, whenever now. THAT is overwhelming, both negatively and positively. I'm still quite the frugal duck, who's always quite the pessimist when it comes to such positive things, simply because I know just how fragile such things are. If we were to screw up or something were to happen and we've spent willy nilly when we had surplus and added more bills because we could - we'll screw ourselves. We'll wind up no better than those folks who cry "pity me because I lost my house I couldn't afford in the first place, then racked up all my credit to the max, and now I'm in such financial dire straights because I had to constantly go bigger and deeper in the money hole to keep up with what society thinks I have to have." To further illustrate that point I recently purchased my first ever pair of tennis shoes (albeit, on clearance) that cost me just over $80...I was near panic when we left the shoe store! I think my most expensive pair of shoes ever was only $25, and that was because I'd caught a 75% off all clearance items sale, it'd been marked down from $125 to $90, then take another 75% off that. (They're my much coveted knee high black leather platform heeled boots.)

I'm sorry, I'm not a 'live beyond my means' type of gal. I'm absolutely happy with buying a house in the future that the payments on it could still be made if Brian found himself unemployed and could only find a job at McDonalds. I loathe - hear that - LOATHE the whole concept of credit cards and buying things on credit. In the last 6 years the ONLY things I have willingly purchased with the aid of a loan has been a cook stove and a car - the cook stove simply because every 'free/cheap' replacement we were able to find right then did not work or were dangerous to operate. I had it paid off in a year...and now, since we're in a house that's all electric, it only sits in my basement collecting dust. The car was a similar situation, we had to have a second vehicle, the one we bought outright with cash last year, after moving here, caught fire, so we took out a small loan to get a more reliable vehicle. We'll have it paid off next year, after paying on it for the last year. So long as Brian's truck gets running again soon we should be fine as far as vehicles go. ((It also doesn't hurt to have a father-in-law who is a used car sales person ;-) .))

So...with all that said I am anxious. The best parable I can make is to liken it to parenthood. You try and try to get pregnant, have some failures along the way, until you get to the point of accepting your lot in life - you still try, but you don't get your hopes set super high. Then BAM! it happens. You get that faint stay a bit leery of it for a while. You stay reserved for a while, praying it'll work out perfectly, but holding on to the fear that it could be taken away at any moment. Then at some point you get hit with the realization that HEY! this is REAL! its REALLY happening! And for a while you bask in that pure unadulterated happiness. Then the next wave hits you - OH SHIT! - MAJOR changes are happening. Major changes that are not only SUPER exciting and SUPER joyous, but also laced with much more added responsibility. Except instead of having 9 months to prepare and work out all these feelings before the blessed day arrives, it dropped suddenly, quickly, all at once.

Before the job switch and huge pay raise we were barely scraping by. There was absolutely nothing to put into savings. Our 'savings' can in the form of paying up six months of rent in advance with our income tax refund in case something happened we could forego a rent payment if we absolutely had to and to continue making payments to stay ahead.

That plan really hasn't changed, but now we have extra. OMG! We actually have 'extra' income! Almost $1000 a month that can be counted as 'extra' if we stick to the same budget plan we had prior to the new job.

It sounds silly, but that has caused me some anxiety. Seriously, I make living on less than $20,000 a year look easy and luxurious. And if truth be told it has been easy. I knew exactly where every dime was to go, etc, there was no room for extras, so we didn't have that many extras. Now there's room for some extras and I'm afraid that my husband, who grew up not having to go without, anything, really will start to fill up some of that wiggle room with 'stuff'.

My anxiety is further fueled by the fact that because he has been working at both places we've barely had any real time to talk about it, or anything really. He's so exhausted by the time he gets home that it's all he can do to eat dinner, shower, and go to bed, much less have a substantial discussion. THANKFULLY he's quitting the old job soon. He put in his notice this evening, with the clause that he would stay long enough for them to hire and train a new person. He'd put in the traditional 2 weeks notice if it wasn't for the fact that the assistant manager was just promoted to manager of a different store, so he didn't feel comfortable leaving them two people short at the same time. He gave a month's notice.

I cried happy tears when he sent me the text that he went ahead and put in the notice after telling me not too terribly long before that that he didn't have the heart to give notice because of the assistant manager leaving this week. I can't wait to see what life will be like when my husband only has to work from 8-5, M-F, and the occasional Saturday morning. We'll actually have the time to enjoy the money he'll have - at the SAME TIME! That's always been a major conflict with us - either not having the money when we had the time to do something, or not having the time when we had the money.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm not ungrateful for the opportunities bestowed upon us and the blessings these opportunities have given us, QUITE the opposite in fact, especially in an economy as volatile as the one we're currently living in. Its just a bit overwhelming at the moment. My greatest fear has always been being one of those persons who strikes it rich in the lottery and then has to file bankruptcy because they blew it....another reason I don't buy lottery tickets.

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