Dear God and Dave Ramsey

Dear God and Dave Ramsey:

Not that you’re one and the same or like you have the same address or anything, but you both live in the money department of my brain.

This is what I look like in the mornings. My eyes are sealed shut with monkey poop and they hurt, the lids are sore and red and the sinuses below them are full of fluid and puffy and swollen. I have to do a sinus wash and take a bunch of Benadryl before they stop hurting and itching and before I can breath. I don’t buy the Zyrtec, which helps more, because it’s a $50 copay and that’s not in our zero-based budget. The generic Benadryl is only $4 and it seems to help, but it wears off in my sleep and the window air conditioner blows everything I’m allergic to straight onto me all night long and I wake up in a swollen, itchy, painful mess.

My baby used to take a bunch of allergy medicine because he’s had a rattle in his chest since he was born. But, the Dr. said just forget giving it to him because it wasn’t even helping his constant congestion. So, now I take him for a lymph node massage and that’s only $10 and it helps him a lot. I usually end up using my blow money to take him to this therapy, Dave. In fact I rarely ever get to blow my blow money.

It’s the allergies. The pediatrician says it’s the mold in our tiny rented house and we should move immediately. Plus, the hay fever from having window air conditioners that blow all the pollen straight into the house.

Oh God, thank you so much for the money to buy a new window unit this year. It was expensive, but I just couldn’t take another year in the sweltering East Texas humidity at 103 degrees, Dave. It really will make you physically sick to sit in a house that feels like an oven all day long. I really would be perfectly happy with this solution if the pollen didn’t make me and the kids ill. Winters are a problem though, as the city has outlawed the use of the only heat source we have because it’s a serious carbon-monoxide risk (as the soot on my walls can attest to).

Dave, we finally paid off a ton of debt, around $8,000 probably. And we had a paid for, debt-free, we-own-him-outright, baby in the meantime. We took the crappy jobs and go without all kinds of stuff. But, I’ve still got a whopper of a student loan. My husband got a great new job with a big fat raise so we can finally make our minimum payments and get my student loan out of deferment. I graduated over 10 years ago. In college, they failed to teach me about how an interest rate accrues but they made me spend an entire year trying to figure out what the square root of something was. We’ve been “paying our professional dues” and have never made enough to pay the ever interest-accruing burden. My husband was pretty depressed that our actual lifestyle wasn’t improving with his new job. Who wouldn’t be?

But, we’re afraid to get in over our heads with a mortgage. So many people we know are in a scary place with their mortgages. When you change jobs, that’s the only time you can cash out the 401K. We want to buy a house. That’s everyone’s American Dream isn’t it? After the penalties and taxes we’d have about $5,000 for a down payment, closing costs and moving expenses. It doesn’t seem like enough. But, it feels like this might be the only time we’ll ever have even that much all at once.

Dave, I know you say that $7,000 401K should stay in where it is and we should save up a 20% down payment and continue living here in this mold-ridden two bedroom house we’ve outgrown. Financial Peace Revisited even says we should save a real emergency fund of $20,000 before buying the house. Economically, that $7,000 is supposed to somehow turn into a million when we’re 65, or are they making us wait until 68 to retire now? And I guess we’ll need it, because I just got a letter from Social Security saying they’ll be paying me $335 a month when I retire and I certainly can’t live on that. But, now that we have to pay that student loan it feels like we’re back to square one. There is no money left over to save. How are we going to save $80,000 to move out of here, Dave? Right now $80,000 feels a lot like never. (And Suzi Orman – where the hell am I supposed to come up with money for my own savings account?)

Thank you God, for our new mini-van. We HAD to buy a new car, the other one was dead, Dave. We drove the humiliatingly ugly thing around for 3-4 years but it really was finally dead and we bought the van with cash. Just like we’re supposed to, Dave. I have to admit, it really did feel pretty good. I felt like something brand new, only without any anxiety or burdens. It was definitely worth the wait not to finance a new car.

We gave up the envelopes after two years simply because it was ridiculous to carry around empty envelopes, Dave. We spend all our money in about one day – grocery and bill day – then the envelopes are just mocking us, empty as can be.

I haven’t gone home to see my family in two years because the price of gas is too much to justify. Like losers we’re letting my parents give us gas money to come home this year to meet my brother’s new baby. Two of my siblings haven’t met my toddler either. My parents had to pay for the last trip too. It’s too humbling.

We boycotted Christmas with the extended family and buy all our kid’s gifts and our clothes and furniture from garage sales. But, I confess to adding the expenditure of cell phones. I tried to say no, but my husband, well he HAD to have it. He said he could drive the ugliest car without a radio to work for the mileage, but he wanted to be able to talk on the phone during his 45-minute commute and he needed the “status” of something Dave. He needed it. It was a deal breaker. I fought it, I did. But, he deserved one thing for getting a new job, didn’t he?

We also kept basic cable. Dave, you can’t stick me in the house staying home with the kids, trying to get something done without a TV. We don’t even get ONE free station out here in the boonies Dave. Not even one. B
ut, we canceled the HBO so please, no one tell me what happened on the last season of The Sopranos and don’t tell me about Big Love either. I did keep wearing makeup and doing my hair every 5 months and last week I bought Ainsley a brand new package of panties, as she’d been complaining for months. I sneaked it into the grocery fund. We had to keep the Internet for work purposes, but we’re keeping our receipts for taxes. We’re taking the write-offs this year. We also added a babysitting fund of $20 every Thurs. We figure our marriage has to be more important than paying off my student loan doesn’t it? Never eating out or going to do anything fun pretty much ruins a marriage seems like.

So, maybe we’re not your textbook Gazelles going at our debt with what you would call intensity. But, we’ve paid a full tithe – that’s on our GROSS God, our Gross income – every single payday for several years now.

We’ve made a zero-based budget every single month, Dave. And we’ve stuck to it as well as anyone else without a crystal ball can. We’ve kept our emergency fund as close to $1,000 as possible. I’m working my butt off, writing from home, taking the leap of faith, just like you told me to God. My husband’s taking every freelance job that comes his way. And we haven’t financed one single thing or put a single dime on any credit card, Dave. That’s something right?

Most days I’m optimistic and I’m so sickeningly grateful for this roof over our heads, cars that get us where we need to go and my husband’s job that provides a steady enough income to make our payments. I’m a huge bragger about the bargains I get at garage sales and as proud of being thrifty as anyone you’ll ever meet. I recommend the Dave Ramsey program to everyone I meet and I constantly remind my husband that we’re so close, so very close, just hold on one more minute, in 5 years this will seem like a blip, this is just what it’s like on the way up, just be a little tiny bit more patient.

But, then there comes a morning like this one. Where I wake up with allergies so bad my eyes are sealed shut from a moldy house with no central air, and a sick kid that I’m not taking to the doctor because I didn’t put the co-pay in the budget, and I’m having to mooch off my parents at the age of 33 to buy enough gas to see my family, and I’m kind of sick of it. I’m so totally OVER being the working poor and trying to live within our means.

So God, I’m ready for a major financial windfall any day now. In fact, NOW would not be too soon. And Dave, I’m working on Financial Peace, but sometimes I have to admit this feels more like pain than peace and it seriously sucks!

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