When Bad Luck Hits You in the Wallet
I won't lie. We got creamed this year. We weren't expecting to have surgery on Nana's other leg. We didn't expect our air conditioning system to die. We never expected our truck to need repairs, or a washing machine to replace. We didn't expect a new kitten.
• We did expect a big hay bill. If you have goats, you need hay.
• We expected $1000 in landscaping costs for the front yard.
• We expected to fork over a few grand for fencing.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, we didn't buy the fencing yet, which helped to defray the cost of Nana's surgery. To be fair, if we'd had the fencing up, maybe I wouldn't have had to chase Iko across the street, tearing my clothes and flesh, while worrying if another car was going to race by when Nana decided to follow in hot pursuit.
It's all relative. Nerve-wracking, but relative.
Every year we make a plan for the things we'd like to buy for the year. Unlike normal people, we haven't bought clothes in years, or taken a vacation, but we have reinvested in our home by updating the kitchen, the landscaping, and the animal pens.
We also make allowances for taxes, insurance, and the occasional emergency repair or replacement bill. I usually earmark a few thousand dollars for unforeseen incidentals.
This year kind of sent us a whammy of bills nearly one after the other. If they had been spaced out I might not have noticed, but piled up, you notice. Hard times.
I don't regret the surgery, the washer, the truck, or the kitten, but I am kind of mad at the AC. 😭 That one was unfair!
It's very easy to get depressed when you get slammed all at once, so I want to share what we do when the world gets heavy.
• Keep a good attitude. No matter how bad things get--and things have been worse than this in the past--we try to look at the bright side. Yes, Nana needed surgery, but maybe now she'll be pain free for the next ten years of her life. I wish I could get the same assurance for my knees.
Yes, the washer was a big expense, but I really hated that old (undependable) washer. I'm glad it died even if it cost me.
And we didn't need a kitten, but you know sometimes it's not about us. It's about the little guy who's in more trouble than you. There's always more than one way to look at something.
• Know what you have. We keep an eye on our bank balance. We're retired, so we live on a set stipend every month. The difference between us and most people is that we can put our finger on what we can spend at any given time. Which leads me to...
• Learn to do without. We put off replacing the air conditioning system despite being the height of summer and triple digit temperatures. It's uncomfortable, but not horrible. It was a trade-off we were willing to make so we don't see our savings take a nosedive.
• Don't go into debt if you're retired or not working. We have a rule in this house. If we can't pay for it with cash, we don't buy it. It's saved us from a lot of impulse buys.
That said, there are no absolutes. There may come a time of dire circumstances where you have no choice but to go into debt to save someone's life. Hopefully, those times will be few and far between. All you can do is use your best judgement and have a plan to recover.
• What can you cut? When money is tight, I go into overdrive in the frugal department. We cut out eating out, entertainment, shopping, and pare my food budget to the bone. We eat from the freezer and make do with what we have in stock. See "How to eat when you're dead broke".
If you're really in a bind you can...
• Take on a second job or freelance.
• Sell your stuff. If you have a second car, a bike, furniture, or gym equipment, it could be enough to get you solvent again.
• Move in with friends or family. I really hate to suggest that one, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. The important thing to know is that it's only temporary.
You feel defeated when life keeps handing you bills. That's why it's important to stay proactive and stay on top of debt. Cut back, reorganize, sell stuff, rent your time, trade, or hunker down and nibble at that debt until it's paid off. This happens to everyone at some point, so don't go into pity mode. It's life.
Getting out of debt was my number one goal nearly all my life. The most free I've ever felt was when we paid off the mortgage--our biggest debt.
I used to have a popup message on my computer reminding me every month when the mortgage note was due. I left the reminder running for a whole year after we paid off the house just so I could smile every 10th day of the month. 😊 Ask Greg. He thought it was hilarious, but it really made me feel good.
Have you ever faced a seemingly insurmountable debt? How did you handle it?