It’s mid-March. We’re getting a tax refund and I should feel happy — but instead I’m kind of anxious. We had a mini-celebration of refund-mas — I got an iPhone and My Chemical Romance is getting something for his car. But now there’s this leftover money.
Here’s the thing: I am a fantastic mom. I’m a great cook. I can bake well enough. I can write. I can drive, hula hoop, knit, sew, drive a stick-shift, install car seats, find random things on Google — once my friend Emily emailed me to ask about an article I’d linked to from Facebook, like three YEARS ago, and all she could remember was the basic premise, which was really very basic. She said she’d googled for it and couldn’t find it. I found it in three minutes. Here is the story. (It’s really good!)
But I am totally stupid about money.
I know how to spend it. I know how to coupon — to the best of my abilities. My parameters are that I only buy organic meat and dairy, and mostly organic fruit and vegetables. I also try to avoid hydrogenated oils and trans fats. So, what’s left after that — like mustard and salad dressing — I can coupon for. Also, I really like Cottonelle toilet paper and that crazy paper towel that feels like paper. And I’ll only use Duke’s Mayo.
Okay, so couponing is kind of moot.
Meanwhile, we’re getting back this money and I don’t know what to do with it. The conventional wisdom says, Of course, pay off credit cards first. But which ones? The one with the highest APR. Okay, then which ones? (And, um, what is APR? Is that different than interest rate?) And, do we put aside $1000 for an emergency fund? (Ha, I just typed emergency FUN.) Start a savings fund with 6-9 months of My Chemical Romance’s salary in case anything happens and we need a cushion? START SAVING FOR THE POTENTIAL OF FIVE CHILDREN IN COLLEGE?!?!?!
It’s enough to make me want to go back to bed, or turn on some really bad reality tv and pretend none of this is happening.
Most — all? — people suggest making a budget. I have a hard time because something always happens — like I’m having a little medical procedure next month that will wipe out some money. My Chemical Romance needs new tires for his car. The boys’ are going to Cub Scout Camp for a week this summer. Mineral’s out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are over $1000/month. A pipe bursts in the home we own, spewing sewage out of all the faucets for our tenants, and it has to be repaired. Cousin It’s birthday is on Christmas. My Chemical Romance’s grandfather died and he wants to fly back to San Diego for the funeral.
When I sit down and make a budget, I discover that we can’t even afford to put gas in our cars, much less have a pizza from Whole Foods Market once a week. This makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.
But I am going to try and fight the urge to hide and forget about it. Tonight I’m taking the family to Kids Eat Free at Earth Fare. Small steps.