I’m blissfully sitting at my kitchen table, working. It’s 2011, late December, just before Christmas. My husband is just home from work, relaxing in the family room, where our dog, Piggy, is curled up tight in her favorite napping spot, snoring. Then it……well, happened. An ordinary moment from the outside, but one that would change my life more than I could have imagined. This moment would never make the front-page news or even be worthy of a Facebook status. But none of that mattered. It was my first wake-up call. Telling me I was BROKE.
As I said, the moment was rather benign and ordinary. I get an email from my boss, saying that I’ll need to make a business trip. “Go ahead and book everything, and submit your receipts when you get back,” she said. The travel policy was for employees to front the cost of the flight, and the company would reimburse us after the trip had completed and all receipts had been submitted.
No problem. Let me just check my credit card statement. (The fact that I went there first should already be telling you something.) The number sitting under ‘Remaining Credit’ caused things to move in slow-motion. $90. That’s all we had available? When did that happen? Ok, maybe we have enough in our checking account. Being in the last days before payday, we had a hefty ‘ol $52 in our bank account.
I sat there for a few minutes, frozen. For so long, I’d always made it work. I could usually juggle things well enough to get money from somewhere, or put it on the trusty credit card if I had to. I’d made a fairly reliable routine of paying it down “just enough” to get more breathing room. But this time, there was no way out. I sat still and silent for a few moments. Once my reality had some time to sink in, the tears started flowing and so did the inner monologue. “How the HELL did you get to this point? How can someone make decent money yet be so poor? You’re pathetic, you can’t even float a $400 plane ticket…”
I continued to sob. Then I sobbed a bit more. Finally, the tears dried, and I felt a surge of financial self-preservation kick in. “This madness ends today”, I told myself. The days of living paycheck-to-paycheck were over. And with that, the journey began…