Being Broke While Working Hard

I am sure many living in NYC can sympathize with the title of this post and have counted their cash from the change jar many times over, to see if it’ll be enough for a return commute and a cup at Dunkin Donuts. Living by yourself is one thing. You can go on a starvation diet for a few days until your bi-monthly paycheck hits the bank and look leaner by the time the mulla arrives. You can then go on binge shopping on Amazon to fill up all that’s empty, do a pop in at Zara’s, or book a mini luxury trip, knowing that it will all be fine. Not so much when your family of one becomes a family of 3 (plus). It all changes once you add another human being into the mix that only you are solely responsible for. Transitioning from the selfish freelance lifestyle I honed for the 7 somethings years I have been in this urban ant hill, to a relentless schedule that hardly allows for any breathing time, was the most challenging thing I have ever done. I am still adjusting. When your biological clock rings the alarm, all you can see is cute baby outfits, the prospect of watching Kevin Home Alone for Christmas while baking Vanilla Kipferl and having your perfect munchkin cuddling up with you in bed. You fantasize about recreating your own childhood only a thousand times better and becoming an improved version of yourself in the process. Becoming a parent is an amazing journey that I would not change for any money in the world, but it is an intense one. We are currently at the two and a half milestone with our baby and things have definitely gotten easier in the “manage-your-life-without-sleep” department, however managing our financials has been an uphill battle. Going into this marriage I was fully aware that I would be the primary bread winner for a good amount of time. I also knew that my husband is very talented and the most hard-working person (besides my own parents) that I have ever met, so trusting this we moved forward on our path together. Most of my life I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have enough change to buy myself lunch at the high-school cafeteria in Germany where I grew up. I didn’t have money to buy the toys, food, or clothes I desired, and once that changed in my twenties, I felt so liberated. All the sudden I didn’t have to rely on friends or calculate every penny when in the supermarket. All the sudden I could just shop without checking my bank account like I am OCD and enjoy every dime spent. When I then would glance at my balance there would be large positive figures smiling back at me – even after all expenses paid and friends and siblings invited – and I would be at ease. I didn’t do that bad after all. Ahhh, the luxury of having no responsibilities. Flash back into my current reality: Today I was staring at an empty-ish fridge with a couple of rotten tomatoes, spoiled cheese and a few drops of soy milk with negative dollars in all of our checking and savings accounts with a credit card maxed to over the limit – if that’s even possible. For the first time I was scrambling to provide dinner for my baby! Don’t get me wrong. We are living in a nice 3 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. The apartment is not ours but it’s modern, features high ceilings and nice details and we even have a backyard! I have a 401k, own some stocks, have loving families and I am sure there are tons of people living way closer to the poverty line than we do. But this is our reality, and something is happening that makes me very nervous. We are made painfully aware that we are lacking on income. Or perhaps just having a hard time managing our money to live in line with our means. I am not a book keeper, but I am pretty good of taking care of all bills. Lately it became pretty clear that we are swimming against the current. A couple of years into our marriage, my husband is still into the seeding stages of building his business, which I to this day have no doubt will eventually be very fruitful for us, but it’s putting us in scavenger mode for the time being. And it has become crystal clear that scavenging is not our thing. Transitioning from a free-spirited spending stage to a “watch-the-pennies” mindset is taxing. Add to that a rigorous schedule of 18 – 20 hour work days, no personal time or date nights, and a growing resentment towards – yeah what exactly? That my husband doesn’t like to submit himself to a 9-5 work schedule like myself and doesn’t get any company benefits? Perhaps it’s jealousy that he is trying to follow his passion while I am hunkered down behind a desk – which by the way is polar-opposite my freedom loving nature. There is also the fact that I am forced to be swallowed by bills, even though I shouldn’t be, based on my income. It’s been five years and my tolerance is wearing thin. I want to scream at him to take on a 9-5 job like I did and that is causing resentment. It is hard if you look in your empty fridge and wonder what to give your little toddler for his daycare lunch and snack time. Oh and then there are the times when you have already asked your closest relatives every other day for the past weeks to transfer a Chase quickpay for a small amount ,which you promise to pay back the next payday (along with a laundry list of other bills). Communication in situations like this is key. We sat down and discussed. I illustrated how all our savings from his inheritance are dwindling down in order to subsidize his business. I explained that we’ve reached the point when we won’t be able to pay the weekly daycare fee, being late three times already, scrambling. He understood and took action. And that’s why I love my husband. He figured out a way to take on a full-time position while keeping his own business and this is really the ideal outcome I was hoping for, so that all the long hours he put in don’t go to waste. I can’t wait to see how we are progressing, but life oftentimes needs adjustments, so it’s great to stay flexible in anything you do.


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