The end of summer means the end of sunshine, shorter days, cooler weather, and increasingly longer nights. Time change occurs with the end to daylight savings . . . and I come home in the dark. With three days a week running nearly 11 hours, including commute time, and 30 minutes to snarf down lunch without interruption (if I am lucky), it is easy to become a bit melancholy. Being outdoors during the day becomes really important as it does change attitudes. Luckily, I am not prone to depression, nor do I live in the far northern latitudes, and we are not hemmed in with blizzards and ice. Still, the end of the year is always a bit of a downer because of less money in September and October from summer’s shorter work hours, and the looming of property taxes being due in December, and again in April. When we were really underwater with a second property, it was a real scramble to find money for anything.
We sold the second property, which gave us more money, a good tax refund, and the opportunity to pay off some big bills. Did we? No. Instead, we spent it on a long vacation. Do we feel guilty about it? I suppose we could, but that is over and done with, and we had a good time. Mentally, we were not on the frugal wagon. Emotionally, we were just worn out. I was more worn out than the DH simply because he didn’t want to discuss it, didn’t want to join in the discussion, and only complained. However, when I put my foot down about the second property and said, “We’re done!” he took some notice. I think that is when our attitude change toward our money began, even if we didn’t handle it too well.
Getting rid of the second property was a good thing. Even it had its trigger point. Prior to selling the second property, we were giving $100 / month to a brother leading a derelict life. When I found myself teetering and feeling guilty about spending that $100 on glasses for the DH versus the brother, I knew something was really wrong. That’s when the bro was cut off. He did nothing to earn money, he had a nasty attitude, and the last word in his vocabulary was “Thank you.” He wanted money even when he came to live with us, and was pissed off when I got $110 / month from the county to house him since he was indigent and I didn’t give it to him. The idea was he would stay with us and look for work. Did he? No. He spent the first three months just reading science fiction books and smoking on the patio. DH wouldn’t come out of his office at all. Altogether, this was a pretty dark space. And, we never heard a “Thank you” at all. After five months, we gave him four weeks notice, and he could only curse us for our charity.
I pity my brother. He died without anyone caring too much; he alienated both friends and family. I expect I was the least charitable of the lot as I did not have a positive attitude about him for years. He did not make it easy to like him, though, and was capable of holding grudges for decades. He smelled, he had no manners, and he stopped trying to improve his lot in life, which, to me, is the saddest statement of his life. It is also the frustration I have when I look at him – I could not save him. He died a year ago, and I still wrestle with my feelings about him and people like him. Yes, it is easy to say there was nothing I could do – which is true, I tried – but he did not want do anything for himself.
In reality, we have had our own hard lessons about money. We still do. We have to decide to implement change and to stick to that desire through thick and thin. Fortunately, we do have a good income and decent jobs, but if something did happen, we would lose a great deal. I expect family would help us out, though some would say we were fools – even my brother, if still alive, would tell me we were financially foolish! (He did while he told me was given a $30,000 credit line on a credit card which he had no intentions of paying off!!)
Change is not easy. It can seem impossible. It is frustrating to reign in spending and say “No!” when you are used to ignoring the consequences. In those darker times, inspiration is the guiding light. We have paid off one credit card. We are our own inspiration – we know we can do it. That is so empowering. Besides this, reading about other people’s financial paths is also inspirational – we are not alone in our failure, nor in our success. We all need a light, a refuge, for financial pain or other pain. This is where we learn and grow. And this is also where we can help others without ever knowing it.
My brother gave me a gift. The gift is to remember the value of our lives, and to not give up on ourselves, no matter how frustrated or angry we may be with our situation. Others do the same. Life is strange in that way, filled with dichotomy and humor. The gods do laugh at us, and it never hurts to laugh at ourselves as well – it makes it so much easier to get up, dust ourselves off, and move on with life.