Well whaddya know, No Spend Month has come early for us. I recently discovered when paying the bills a few days ago that we are broke. B.R.O.K.E. Stony broke. We have zilch, nothing, nada (is that how you spell it?) I had absolutely no idea - sure, we had some big bills recently and it didn't help when the painter asked for $2000 deposit but on the whole I thought we were doing well, particularly with the usual 'post-Christmas' slump. I know what you're thinking - how could I not know? Easy - there was one bill I had been blissfully unaware of - Noel's American Express card. This is a charge card, not a credit card and his work provides it. He puts all his work expenses on the card and is then able to claim them back. Sure, he can put whatever else he wants on the card but whatever he does use the card for, he has to pay for in full every month. So imagine my horror when I opened the bill and discovered a total of $4000 demanding to be paid in full immediately. Talk about sick to the stomach! How were we going to come up with that amount and still be able to live? And just as importantly, what the hell had that $4000 gone on? Almost $1000 of it was work expenses admittedly. There was also the kids' trampoline and the family tent (which I was a bit perturbed about Noel putting on his Amex card at the time, when I already had the cash for it) however, there was still $2000 worth of bits and pieces on there, much of which could only be described as crap. Now I hate to point the finger but IT'S NOT MY CARD...
I'm telling you, I know how poor old Pete feels in the Sally and Hanna stories at the moment! I know I have some vices of my own and we'll get to that but it made me angry. I wish we didn't have to have the blasted card but it's a work necessity. And very convenient for all sorts of other things, obviously. I suppose in some ways it's good that we have to pay it off every month, otherwise with a bill like that I would be tempted just to make the minimum payment and then where would we be? And of course the timing is perfect, with tax to pay next month, the painter will be wanting to settle his account (should it ever get finished) and to top it all of - we're going on holiday tomorrow. Thankfully one of Noel's colleagues has offered to lend us his beach house for free but how do you have an entire holiday without spending anything? Funnily enough, I'm pretty confident. The accommodation is free, the beach is free, we're taking as much stuff as possible from home. I reckon we can have an even better time together without spending a cent.
The boys however have taken the news pretty hard. Ali is as we speak hunting all over the house for money he can call his own. His $5 book voucher, the ten pound note he and Liam got from an aunt in England for Christmas, the $1 coin on the coffee table. He reckons he might be lucky enough to have enough to go and see Alvin and the Chipmunks at the movies but is a bit worried how he's going to afford to pay for all of us to have dinner at our favourite holiday restaurant, the Ocean Sports Club. Liam, our seasoned Trade Me veteran on the other hand was unruffled and asked if we would like him to give us a loan. In his eyes, $184.50 goes a long way! He didn't really see there was much of a problem until he accompanied me to Mr Patel's this afternoon. 'Can I get ice cream?' 'No'. 'We've run out of dip, I'll go and get some'. 'No'. 'Oh please can I have a bottle of lemonade?' 'Nope'. I then overheard him talking to a friend on the phone not long after. 'We're broke', I heard him say miserably. 'Welcome to my world - now you know what it's like!' came the reply from his 10 year old buddy who's dad has been struggling to find work for months.
My mind is racing ahead as to how we are going to cope during No Spend Month. I have four birthdays, three of which require presents. We are going to see Colin Fry - thankfully Mum and I bought the tickets last year and she has a voucher for a free night at a hotel, thank goodness. We were supposed to be going back to Miranda Holiday Park for a weekend, then there's the work 'do' day at the races. I guess at least everything is free for that except the petrol to get there. Whatever happens, we'll cope – we have to. It's not all doom and gloom - I mean in other areas we are doing so well. We picked a huge bucket of plums yesterday and are going to have a go at making plum jam. I also froze seven huge bags of runner beans and there are still so many other fresh food items we don't need to buy for months. Noel has surpassed himself with the zucchinis again. I wonder if I could start trading them with Mr Patel in exchange for other items? Now there's an idea worth pursuing when I get back!
Fruit and veges aside, the situation is still pretty desperate and there are bills to pay so tonight we have called a family meeting. We are all going to sit down, identify our wasteful habits and work out roughly what we can save. Maybe then every one of us can see how we are all contributing to us having no money. Thank goodness I have the SS know-how to get us out of this, but I still need everyone else to pull their weight too. Wish me luck!