Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Shadow of Poverty

God posted it forward on facebook, and I clicked the link, "16 Brutally Honest Confessions From People Who Used To Be Homeless." My family has never been homeless. Through all of our struggles, unemployment, illnesses, and underemployment, we've always had an apartment or house to call home. Scrolling through the list I was surprised at the way it resonated. I'm not saying I know what it was like to be homeless, or that our situation was "just the same." Obviously neither of those things are true. However, the shadow that the past struggle casts over the present is undeniable. 

We are only a few months into a whole new life of having a paycheck that pays all the bills, plus enough that we can budget for things like clothes and household repairs. It will be a long time before the backlog of needs is fulfilled, but we are able to make small purchases already. Our tax refund came and, instead of using it to pay the day to day bills, we could use it to pay off some debt, pay for car repairs, and even put some into savings for upcoming medical bills. We are doing really well, and yet....

I still check the bank balance to make sure we have enough money to cover expenses. Actually, sometimes I check it just to check it.
I look at that balance and have to remind myself that in a matter of weeks there will be another paycheck that will pay all the bills for the following month.
I wonder how much money we need to have in savings before I will feel secure, how many paychecks it will take before I trust they will keep coming.
Every time we spend money I think of all the things it could be spent on, and I worry that we aren't making the right choices.
I want to do more for other people, but I worry about taking that too far - giving too much. As hard as it is to see others struggle, I am reminded that while we have more, and we have what we need, we don't have a lot extra.
When I told my daughter that we would no longer be getting food assistance she asked, "But how will we survive?"
I'm worry about saying "yes" to too many splurges, and yet I worry about being unnecessarily tight fisted with our funds.

Pretty much, I over think every purchase or expense.

We are in a time of transition, from living in poverty to having an adequate income. Some days that feels really good. Some days the fear and stress and worry creep in. We are working really hard at being fiscally responsible, having a budget, and creating priorities. I do think about how growing up poor may have affected our kids and their relationship with money. Hopefully now we will be able to set an example of how to manage money, rather than how to survive poverty. Thinking about that strengthens my resolve to be responsible with the money we have. I wouldn't wish the struggles we've faced on anyone, and I do wish we could have provided more fun and educational experiences for our kids along the way. Hopefully our kids will have futures that don't involve poverty, but if they do face financial struggle I know they have the skills they need to survive, and that's not a bad thing.

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