And then...she woke up.
It's taken a few months. I touched on but didn't go into details on how my year ended. Shortly before Thanksgiving, my dad gave in to the disease that was eating him from the inside out. He passed with my mom by his side and my sister right down the road. It was hard. No matter how long you wait for someone to move on, it never cushions the event. That being said, I went into hibernation mode. Eat/sleep/school/work/repeat. Well, it's time to shake it off and snatch that momentum back up.
My little family went camping a couple weeks back with some friends. I'd had a bit of an epiphany prior to the trip in regard to my (our) finances and how we do things. Me and the other wives got into a discussion about the household checkbook, and how the wives do things vs. the husband. The women with whom I was talking each had their own methods for handling the bills and the spending. They ranged from giving the husband a weekly allowance, to having one account for bills and another for whatnot. After Ex left, I didn't want to share a bank account with anyone else ever again. Then Honey and I moved in together and I began having issues with the fact that we didn't actually share anything. After a few long talks, and a lot of thought, I still don't want to share my finances and neither does he. We are both very gun-shy having each been married to very irresponsible people. Surprisingly, as little as we both pull in, we have more than enough to get us by each month. We have been able to do some things neither of us thought possible, short vacations, Mardi Gras events, and we were able to purchase a used 5th wheel camper this past year. It was a life long dream of Honey's and a "what if" for me. It always seemed a little farfetched so we didn't play too seriously with the idea. On a whim one afternoon, Honey was feeling adventurous and we went to look at one of the local lots. The very last one we looked at that day was within a price range we could easily afford and it was practically unused. We pounced.
It's been a nice and surreal thing. I mentioned to a friend of ours on the trip, that being afraid of spending is sort of like losing a ton of weight. You know how people who were perhaps very heavy for a long period of time in their lives lose a lot of weight, they mention that in the mirror they still see themselves as that heavy person. They still buy clothes too large, cook portions they can't finish, or avoid social interactions because in their head, they haven't changed. Well, it has been like that with me and making my living. I was so used to being broke, living check to check, and wondering where it all went at the end of the month that I still behave as though I'm broke. (not saying this is entirely bad) The really strange part about it is, nothing in my life is financially different than it was back then. Seriously. Nothing. Our household pulls in about the same amount, we have a similar house note, few outstanding rotating debts, and the regular house bills. Nothing special. So why on Earth do I have more at the end of the month now than I ever did back in those days?
I'd like to sit back and say that it's because my daughter is no longer small, no day care costs or formula to buy. Or maybe that where we lived, the cost of living was higher or more extravagant. I'm fairly certain none of that had anything to do with how Ex and I spent the years after I joined up, worked, and was then discharged. There were times when I wasn't allowed to deal with the checkbook on my own. It's taken a few years to figure out why, but now I know. Leading a double life isn't easy when you have one joint checking account. What never made sense to me was why he insisted on having a joint account to begin with. You see, we'd split up about 5 years into our marriage because I hadn't been faithful. We spent some time apart and got back together. Upon that reunion, I told him I preferred that we not merge our finances again. I'd gotten used to having money in my checking and savings account. I liked being able to buy nice shoes when I wanted and not have to worry about bills. He vehemently protested that decision. His response was that if we were getting back together, that meant everything had to be merged, finances included. True to form, it wasn't long we began struggling again. Making ends meet, robbing Peter to pay Paul. It was like that until that fateful day in October when he packed his things and walked across the street.
I lived on my own for about a year, as long as I was pulling my overtime I was good. Rent was paid, my child was fed, and I was OK. As soon as the bottom fell out with the oil field that year, it got difficult. Honey saw me struggling and realized that I was about to lose my house that I'd worked so hard to get into. Once we both realized I wasn't going to make it, he packed me up and moved me into his home. It took another 2 years for us to get to a place where we were more than romantic roommates. I was afraid to tread on his turf and make changes to a place that was not mine, and all he wanted was for me to be comfortable. There have been no fights about how or where to hang a picture. No decoration struggles of any kind. Honestly, the one thing that throws him off the most is, how much I clean. He tells me the house is too clean. Again, something I can't just stop doing. Ex is a minimalist, he wanted a very neat home. So, that's what we had. I've actually had to learn to stop cleaning incessantly. It's weird.
Over the years I've gone from being a woman who believed she was bad with money to one who knows she's a budgeting hound. I never did understand how "bad with money" equated having all the bills caught up or ahead and a substantial amount in savings. Granted all that was a pipe dream when Ex and I got back together after the first spilt. When we finally split for good and I was getting rid of basically everything, I realized...we had nothing to show for our 11 years together. Not one thing of true value. We had a couple of well used vehicles & a house we were about to lose when he moved out. A house he later referred to as a "major financial fuckup". He'd never wanted one, he conceded for me when we moved home. Other than that.... Nothing to show how hard we worked. Our furniture was cheap, I've never owned a set of china or silver, & what art we had were cheap prints. I wanted that house so badly...I wanted something to show for those 10 & 12 hour work days.
I still have moments of panic when my school checks are not consistent, but those moments are usually unfounded. There are days that I'm in awe when I look around & see what I've accomplished in such a short period of time. Honey works two jobs & I pull money from 3 different sources, we make our lives possible. I am quite proud of what we have & the way we handle things. In this life... there is never the danger of lights or cable being shut off (we have cable!!), no worries where groceries will come from, & no issues getting my child what she needs when she needs it.
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at how my life has turned out. When your spouse is maintaining dual identities, they use a lot of resources. I know now that I was suckered for my paycheck when we got back together the first time. Yes it aides in my aversion to joint financial management, but it also helps me know I'm no where near the spendthrift he made me out to be. I will say this, he's a savvy fella. Not many men can so effectively use women & have them willing to pay his way.