Straight Outta Cash…The struggle and value of our lives in the dollar

How many times have you spent money and actually remember what you

spent it on? Yeah I know it’s a rarity these days and while I

always used you say that I wouldn’t become the debit card girl I

have inevitably become just that. I mean this was a time when cash

was the thing and it was cool to see those dead presidents on

green paper with their serious stances and stone walled

expressions. It made you feel accomplished, like your work meant

something and above all important. Hell, it made you a hell of a

lot richer than the next guy who didn’t have a dollar to spare or

even the homeless guy begging on the street.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that I was any better than

the homeless guy on the street but I will say I did in some ways

feel pretty awesome. Then came the plastic, an inevitable death

trap that we would live eat and breathe by; let’s face it, I

spend more money swiping this card than I ever did with cold hard

cash. Why? Because I could see the funds I was throwing away and

therefore knew when to reign in the resources before it was too

late. Online banking is another thing that just kills me. I don’t

see the money coming out and therefore am broke before month’s

end. I hate when there’s more month than money to go around.

So I started to cut my expenses in half and eliminate the luxuries

life had to offer me. And still I was left with nothing but a

sinking feeling in my gut, a tear in my heart and a fire blazing

in my account of over drafts and threats of wage garnishments (due

to student loans of course, but that’s a whole other topic)

because these days our money is gone before it even gets into our

precious hands where we can appreciate the fruits of our labor.

Every week my paycheck is gone before it hits the bank and what am

I left to show for? I am 31 years old and barely making it on my

own. Scoot over Earl I just may have to take the 10a-2p time slot

on your intersection to make ends meet, hope you don’t mind, oh

and by the way I’m going to need to borrow your cup for change!

No unnecessary outside expenses affordable.

My generation is struggling. It pains me every day that I can’t

provide for myself or help loved ones, like my mother in her time

of need who mind you has never asked me for a dime, simply because

my efforts are null and void. Minimum wage is a joke when the cost

of living is sky high. I saw a post on Facebook about what $20

used to get you in groceries and what $20 gets you now and it’s

pathetic. If you can feed your family on a coke and a bag of chips

then I guess we’re all living the high life. I remember when I

used to go to what was then called the penny candy store and leave

out with a brown paper bag full of goods for just $3. Mind you it

was all junk food and my friends and I had stomach aches by the

time we got to lunch…it’s the concept people.

My mom’s boyfriend would by $200 worth of groceries every two

weeks and we were swimming in more food than we knew what to do

with. Things were made to last and jobs were treated like careers

where companies looked out for you and had your best interests at

heart. Vacation time and sick days, good pay and descent hours,

maternity leave without “hours worked” restrictions and even a

personal day or two were part of the financial plan and just

given.

I shop at the dollar store for most things these days and I

specifically look for off brand items while grocery shopping as

well as compare prices to stay under the imaginary budget, that at

the end of my day doesn’t really exist because I am still going

to be -120$ short on my bank statement (for this week anyway) or

running to work on E begging my family for gas money when they

know I just got paid; and they can barely make it, or sacrificing

enjoying time with friends because I don’t want to be humiliated

in the event that wherever we’re planning to go requires I have

cash on hand that doesn’t exist for me to spend. And I know

they’re my friends and sometimes they don’t mind spotting me

here and there but how do you live with yourself in that moment

when you know you aren’t’ even sure when you‘ll be able to

return the favor?

Have you ever borrowed money from someone that goes against

everything you stand for and then have no choice but to put

yourself on that line and then struggle even harder to now pay the

bill and then have to make double in return to repay the debt and

then afford that same bill next month? Or not have a health

insurance plan because you can’t afford it; not a co-pay or a

pre-pay or a post-pay and are scared to get on government aid

because if I can’t even manage to pay for my life on their plan

then what kind of minimal health care are they going to provide

me?

How about when you can’t even THINK about wanting something…and

I’m not even talking about the desire to buy clothes, shoes, and

accessories (which I love and miss doing terribly) but the

essentials: like deodorant, toothpaste, gas, groceries and rent

(two things which are no longer a problem cause I live with my

mother now but, if we’re being honest, still can’t help with),

or just wanting to celebrate taco Tuesday or go to a movie (I

wouldn’t even care if it was a half priced early show, but I

can’t even meet the expense of that). What about counting dimes

and nickels so you can get a cheeseburger off the dollar menu at

McDonalds for lunch but can’t buy that cause they switched it to

a value menu and the clerks like, “$0.63 more cents please” or

you come home and want to make a hamburger and cant cause all we

got is bread and ham that your sick of cause you’ve had a

sandwich for dinner for the last three days.

Nevertheless, I try not to let the fact that it upsets me show

because I can only look upon it all and take full responsibility.

I am almost sure I screwed up somewhere. I know that I could have

managed my expenses better by not spending money on myself or

going to college thinking that a degree would help me get

somewhere better than an unpredictable retail job that doesn’t

pay me enough to pay back school and live an adult life outside my

mother’s house, but why shouldn’t I be able to indulge in life?

Why has it become so difficult to do so for me and many others? It

sickens me to think that I should be ashamed of splurging on

myself every now and again.

But this isn’t about beating myself up or saying that those

with less than me haven’t’ gotten it done. It is to say that we

need to wake up. Not as a government but as a people,

individually. Our government cares about themselves and no one

else and its time we start doing the same. It’s time for me to go

back to simpler times where one pair of shoes lasted a lifetime

and you didn’t get the next pair till those were worn and a time

where bread milk and eggs were the survival of the fittest, where

you got something only if you earned it. I did chores as a kid and

I got an allowance.

Future thinking I will have to make sure everything is paid in

full before I indulge and while that may be never for me, at least

I won’t have the money demons at my coat tails dragging me back.

Can’t lose sight either, because once you look away they got you

and you’re right back where you started from. It’s a constant

race to safety but no one knows where or what the safety tree

looks like so you just got to keep on moving.

I used to say that I just wanted to be able to live comfortably

one day, in a house preferably where I made enough income to have

all the bills taken care of and not have to worry and stress and

tear myself apart, but I think that I’ve reached comfortable.

Here I know what to expect and I know what is expected of me; A

sad fate. I asked to be comfortable because it’s a cozy warm

feeling its content its peace and its love but I was a kid and I

didn’t’ know any better and I suppose my mom couldn’t have

known that there’d be days like this either.

I miss those days sitting in the backyard dreaming up stories for

us to play and building snowmen and shooting off fireworks on the

day we all rejoiced in what we thought was so much freedom. If I

could click the heels of those ruby red slippers I begged my mom

for when I was just a little girl and go back…I would and I would

do it all differently. They say you can’t go back to the past and

alter things without changing the future, but I think I’d be

willing to take my chances. Donald Trump just might be the next

President, lol how much more ridiculous could things possibly get?

With all of this my advice to parents is teaching your kids the

things that they don’t teach them in school. Teach them how to

balance a check book (it will help them to understand the value of

money, organization, a useful skill). Raise them to earn the

things they are given by doing chores and receiving allowances but

also give them penalties when they do not accomplish those things

(it will teach them responsibility, something to value and how not

to be lazy and that ultimately not everything in life is free).

Guide them to avoid the error of your ways (the things you have

learned from failing) without discrediting them or not allowing

them to make their own mistakes. Let your children explore all the

possibilities life has to offer them and not the ones nay sayers

prey on them to believe, expand their horizons and show them

different ways to achieve their dreams: college isn’t for

everyone and it is NOT the begin and end all of their career or

status.

Do you see how many people make it big in the world without ever

having sat in a classroom or received a degree as opposed to all

of us who have one and in turn have nothing to show for it but

overwhelming, paralyzing debt and regret? That being said there

are some of us that have made it and to them I say hats off, but

we need to shed light on those of us who didn’t (due to

unavailable positions, the economy, not enough experience, etc)

and those of us who just don’t fit inside a school. And please

don’t forget home economics…whether you have a son or a

daughter teach them how to cook and wash clothes so that later in

life they know how to provide for themselves and not depend on

others. Make them read and write and try everything at least once.

Introduce them to new places and foods so that they can be well

traveled and diverse.

In the end no matter what my circumstance I always seem to make it

out of the shark tank by nearly a couple of centimeters. It is my

resilience against failing that I believe has gotten me through

most everything and in most cases by the graces of a higher being.

But that is not the fate I want for others because for me when it

rains it pours, there are more grey skis than sunny days and I’ve

probably learned more from pain than I could ever have learned

from pleasure so I am hear as an advocate of educating this

generation into becoming promising individuals.

My name means messenger of God and if it is my purpose in this

life to go through hard times repeatedly so that I can edify what

stays ahead when I am left behind than that is what I will do with

the talents that I was given. I used to assume that I had this

great burden to deliver the message always dodging bullets because

no one likes the messenger, but pondering it now, maybe I am in

fact the message.

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