I’ve been pretty broke my entire adult life. But when you consider that I dropped out of high school by 16, had my first kid at 18, and didn’t start college until all my peers were halfway through grad school — and it was only community college at that — it’s not particularly surprising that I’ve been pretty broke my entire adult life. But these last few years have been especially rough, and the last year has been extra especially rough.
I have a primary job that pays pennies on the dollars (and a part time one that doesn’t take out taxes or pay enough for me to set aside those taxes myself), two toddlers in full time childcare, and I live just outside of the 6th most expensive city in America, where the cost of living is nearly 50% above the national average; where the median home price is just under $700,000; and where the median household income is close to twice what I rake in from two jobs and my Army Reserve duty combined. I work 50 hours a week (at least) between my full time job + part time gig, and one full from-sun-up-to-sun-down weekend a month with the Reserves, and I still don’t make enough money to save a single cent…ever. I make barely enough money to pay my monthly expenses — the necessities like rent, daycare, insurance, etc. — and I struggle each week to find money to buy gas to get to work and food to feed my kids. Accumulating debt is a natural consequence of this set-up and, unfortunately, paying off that accumulating debt and putting money into savings are luxuries I literally can’t afford. When I say “I’m broke” I mean it: I’m fucking broke. And I’m sick of it.
I’m sick of the never-ending cycle of stress and anger and resentment and regret. I’m sick of constantly feeling stuck. I’m sick of working my ass off and not even bringing in enough cash to make a dent in my debt or to stash in the bank; of perpetually treading the same choppy waters. I’m sick of throwing money away with rent each month instead of investing in a place that’s mine. I’m sick of wondering if my kids will remember these rough days and hate me — or feel embarrassed — when they’re older for feeding them pancakes or cereal or shredded cheese on a slice of bread for dinner every night. I’m sick of smiling and waving at the neighbors, pretending like we’re doing just fine. I’m sick of offering Ohhh, I’m so sorry I didn’t have time to run out a get a gift for your child’s party. I’ve had all three kids by myself this weekend. You know how that goes… when Bri is invited to a birthday party and shows up without a gift. I’m sick of gushing about how I shop at Goodwill for the kids because it’s such a great deal when the reality is I’m embarrassed every time I set foot through the door but it’s the only place I can afford. I’m sick of having at least one mental breakdown induced by financial stress Every. Single. Fucking. Day. I’m sick of feeling like a failure.
And I’m sick of feeling alone. I’m sick of Googling ways to get out of debt and reading articles about frugality and simple living, only for all the search results and all the articles to proselytize on the assumption that I have “extra” money at the end of the month to put toward debt or into savings, or the ability to easily pick up another job for some “quick” extra cash. I DON’T. For all intents and purposes, I’m a single parent living 2,000 miles away from my nearest family member (which means “free” or “built-in” help isn’t available). I don’t need what all these sites out there offer; I don’t need to learn to redistribute my income in order to optimize it. I need more fucking money. It’s not that I make a measly salary (although for the area I live in, I do). It’s that my salary, which would cut it almost anywhere else in the nation, doesn’t cut it here. According to federal, state, and local guidelines I make far too much money for every single public/government assistance program available (daycare subsidy, food stamps, energy assistance, housing, medicaid), except I don’t even make enough to pay my regular bills. Not extras like a morning coffee or monthly haircuts (neither of which I’ve ever indulged in anyway). Regular bills — rent, daycare, groceries, insurance, blahblahblah… How in the fuck I’m not “poor enough” baffles me; how in the fuck the government determines that I make too much money to qualify for assistance when I don’t even make enough money to pay basic living expenses and forego food for a few days each month so that my kids don’t have to baffles me. It’s incredulous and demeaning and frustrating.
I’m sick of there not being an accurate depiction of my situation out there for me to reference or to follow along with. So fuck it. I’ll make it. Right here. Welcome to BROKE, a new series here on the blog. Over the next however-the-fuck-long it takes for me to stop being so fucking poor, I’m going to document my experience here. Maybe it’ll be a year. Most likely it’ll be five. At least. During that time I plan on providing a complete and detailed overview of my financial situation and a list of my financial goals so that I can figure out how to achieve those goals and create a roadmap to get there.
I’m not one for censoring myself, which means shy of handing over my Social Security Number I’m going to lay it all out there for everyone to follow along with, or to ignore. Whatever you want to do is your choice. My choice is share it all here. Not so much for accountability, but more so because “talking it out” has a way of generating new ideas, spurring engagement and discussion which in turn inspire AH HA! moments, and clearing the haze so that I’m able to approach my hot mess life with a new perspective and/or approach. Because working it all out here forces me to take a closer and honest look at my finances. Because I’m almost 30 years old and have no positive financial equity in my life, which is a clear indication that my current set-up obviously isn’t working (FINANCE: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG, KELSEY). Because I won’t let money and finances and debt ruin my relationship with Shannon (because money ruins relationships, especially when couples aren’t honest with each other about how much of it they do or don’t have). Because I won’t entertain the idea of moving in with her — even though it’s something we both desperately want — until I’m 1,000% certain that I won’t be scraping by every month; that I won’t be letting my responsibilities burden her to the point where her future, or our relationship, is gassed. Because I’m sick of worrying that I’m setting my children up for failure. Because my kids, Shannon, and I all deserve better.
But before we get started, a few notes/points of clarification:
- Raw, real, and honest. That means that sometimes (most times) it will be underwritten with tones of negativity or anger. ↑ Case in point.
- A way for other people who have been through similar situations, or who are living through similar situations right now, to connect, engage, share, inspire and offer inspiration, and find motivation.
- A pity party.
- A fishing expedition for handouts.
- A cry for attention.
My situation isn’t ideal and most days there’s no way to sugarcoat it, so don’t expect me to try to paint a different picture here. There will be cuss words — lots of them — and YELLING and even EXTRA LOUD YELLING. I’ll probably sound frustrated and resentful and hopeless a lot of the time because — SPOILER ALERT — that’s exactly what I am a lot of the time. It’ll get better one day blahblahblah. I get it. But that day isn’t today and I don’t see a point in pretending it is.
That being said, I’m legit excited to see where this series takes me and those of you who will be following along. I’ve put a lot of thought and planning and preparation into this new endeavor in hopes of providing a somewhat chronological, cohesive story and so far, so good. This week I introduced you (and myself) to this new project, BROKE. Next week I’ll start breaking down my current financial picture — income, assets, expenses, debts — so that I can start keeping closer track of my current spending habits and routines in order to determine trends, find places where I can cut expenses and boost income, and revise/optimize my current budget plan; so that I know exactly where I stand. After that, I’ll start introducing a little more of the story surrounding the set-up we have at home with Shannon and I being a couple and my still-legal husband living in the basement, and will elaborate on my current + [very] urgent housing dilemma, and the options that are available to me to solve it. I’ll talk (type?) through ways to cut expenses, and hash out ideas for ways to bring in more income. You’re welcome to follow along if you want (and please — share your tips if you have any!!). I can’t promise a feel-good, happy-ending story. But I can promise that it won’t be boring. So you know. At least there’s that.
BROKE is a series that takes an honest look at the details of my hot mess financial life and documents my struggles and successes at a serious attempt at getting out of debt so that I can save money and stop living less than paycheck-to-paycheck. My goal is to have a new post ready for y’all each week, but life is life and that might be too ambitious so don’t hold it against me if I miss a week, mmmk? Kthanxbye.
Read through all BROKE posts here.