The topic for this month’s PF Bloggers Group Writing Project, “Poorest Time of Your Life” which was decided about 5 months ago, comes at a somewhat inopportune time. When our group picked out these topics, whoever it was that suggested this topic must have thought that we must all be in a position where the poorest time of our lives were in the past and could serve as an inspirational story of financial achievement.
But with the recent and current economic developments (or should I say, deterioration?) and the rate of inflation, I really can’t say if the poorest times of our lives really are past. At first thought, I just assumed that the poorest time of my life was past, but upon further contemplation, I am beginning to question if NOW might not be the poorest time of my life.
When I sat down to write this essay, I had planned on writing about two brief periods in Madoline’s and my past when were quite poor. They were transition periods in our lives, however, which really didn’t last very long and probably didn’t really count as being poor.
Poor Period 1
The first was right after Madoline graduated from college which coincided with the ending of my first job, which was a 9-month contract position. We had had a falling out with our stepfather who, as trustee of our mother’s estate, was in possession of the income she had left us. For more about this, please refer to our Family Financial History.
While our rent was still being paid by our mother’s money, we had little left from my earnings and were living in a town where employment opportunities were scarce. For about a month, we made a little money here and there teaching piano lessons and singing at weddings of acquaintances, after which we managed to secure 2 out of 5 full-time positions that opened up at a new company in town.
Poor Period 2
The second poor period was after we quit that job and moved to California. We had saved up $10,000 after working 11 months and had also managed (with the help of an attorney) to persuade our stepfather to turn our mother’s income over to us as she had intended. While the monthly income wasn’t a lot, it was enough to pay the rent and some bills on a small place, and we felt the need to leave Hawaii and start afresh.
We spent $800 on 2 one-way airfares; $225 on airfare for our dog, cat and 22 mice ($75 per ticket – the mice counted as “one”); found a place to live for $650/mo. in Hayward, CA; and figured we had enough to cover the movers and sustain us for at least a couple of months while we looked for jobs.
But we underestimated the costs of the move which was based on the weight of items moved. Because we didn’t have a parents’ house where we could leave things, we had to take everything that had meaning to us, such as a an antique desk of our mother’s, our piano and mementos of childhood. We had no idea how much everything weighed and assumed it wouldn’t be more than 1,000 lbs., so we had estimated about $1,200, but when the movers’ invoice arrived in California stating a total of almost $3,500, I knew we were in trouble.
After the initial costs of moving in, buying necessities for our new place, putting a down payment on our car (read about that catastrophe here) we had just about $3,500 left for the movers. Our monthly inheritance income check had been delayed due to mail forwarding, and for a few weeks, we literally had no money in the bank. I have a memory of one night when we rummaged through all our pockets and purses for change. We gathered about $10 with which we then went to the grocery store to buy food.
We began job hunting as soon as we got a car, and took the first jobs offered to us at Togo’s Eatery (a sandwich shop similar to Subway). When we got our first paycheck, around $100, we took it to the bank and deposited it. The clerk told us the balance would be available immediately, so we went grocery shopping and put it on the debit card. We found out later that the clerk had misinformed us and that we had gotten an overdraft because it turned out the balance wasn’t immediately available after all.
But this only lasted a few weeks. Our mother’s income check eventually arrived and continued to arrive each month. After our scare of being poor, we saved like crazy. We continued working at Togo’s for the time being and got hired on to manage a new pizza restaurant that our boss opened a couple of months later.
So things were hairy for a while, but that brief brush with near poverty was an invaluable lesson and catalyst for our desire to live frugally.
Is Now the Poorest Time of Our Lives?
I am beginning to wonder if the present might not be the poorest time of our lives. While we still have money in the bank, I can’t but wonder how long it will last if this recession and rate of inflation keeps up. Our monthly grocery bill is almost double what it used to be (we only have one supermarket within 40 miles, which may mean higher rate of inflation). The cost of propane has increased at least 150% since we moved in 3 years ago. The list goes on. But our total income continues to decrease – both from our business, which was very promising and the reason we bought the house, and our inherited income.
While we are OK for now as far as having money for groceries, the mortgage and bills, I can’t help but worry that we’ll run out in a few months. It is truly scary because this is much more permanent than our previous “poor periods” which were nothing in comparison. We didn’t have mortgages back then. We were living in areas where we could find employment. We are again living in an area where employment opportunities are scarce to none, even when the economy is good. But this time we can’t move because we have a mortgage which we can’t refinance now or sell the house in this current market as our property’s market value has decreased by 40%.
Maybe I’m just being paranoid and worrying for nothing – I usually am. But what if I’m not?
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About the PF Bloggers Group Writing Project
The Personal Finance Bloggers Network currently consists of 7 active personal finance and frugal living blogs. The Group Writing Project is a monthly project wherein each blog will write a post on a pre-determined topic and publish it on the same day of each month. Be sure to visit thePF Bloggers Group Writing Projectpage for the others!
Extended Group Writing Project Invitation
If you are a blogger, we would like to invite you to write your own post on this topic and submit it for listing with our entries on our Group Writing Project pages. Please visit the following page for details on how to participate in our Extended Group Writing Project