Thursday, 28 January 2016

The (Sort Of) Plan...

I said yesterday that I didn't have a plan, but I guess I sort of do.  At this stage it's Simple Savings and  just doing my best.  Oh - and facing up to things such as phone calls and letters and deal with them then and there instead of running away (or throwing them away unopened).  Apart from that I don't really know what other choices I have until I've met with the bank.  I'm pretty confident that I can keep up with the mortgage, it's just that I don't have anything left over for bills and food.  Of course the sucky thing with monthly bills is that they keep on coming and the further you fall behind the more you owe and are unable to catch up until they cut you off.  I'm amazed I still have Internet to write this with actually because I haven't been able to use my landline phone for days.  Don't speak too soon Jack...

All I know is at the moment I am $5,000 overdrawn in my bank account.  Cool huh?  That's the part that worries me, trying to catch up on old bills when you still have new ones coming in, how the hell are you supposed to get anywhere?  Things like phone and Internet are rather important, not to mention my car.  I owe $600 on that too and my registration is way overdue which I have to pay by tomorrow because the police caught me driving around a while ago with no rego and if I don't pay within 28 days I cop an extra $100 fine on top!  Oh and then there are the debt collection notices I've been receiving from the orthodontist saying I owe them $2,000 for Ali's braces.  I'm not sure what they're going to do if I can't pay, drive 90 minutes to our house and pull them off his teeth?!

Anyway, that's off the top of my head, there's still way more such as insurance which is also kind of vital and I can't remember the last time I could afford to pay anything on my rates, maybe six months ago?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not whinging (I hope it doesn't sound like that), I'm just saying how things are and writing all this down is getting things straight in my head as much as anything.  I know there are people far, far worse off financially than me but this is my own personal situation and I don't like it one bit because I can't see how I'm ever supposed to a) catch up and b) stop myself from falling further behind.  I bloody well will though, somehow.  I have to have faith in myself and my own abilities.  That's one of the great things about reading through Simple Savings tips; you come across tales of people all the time who were in far bigger holes and managed to claw their way out of them.  It gives you hope.  I tell Ali all the time when he has a problem, 'There ain't nothing that can't be fixed'.  Maybe I need to start believing that myself.

The bank is well aware of my situation (well I think so, they must be because they've stopped sending me automated phone calls all hours of the day and night).  My bank manager has been hugely supportive of me through the whole disastrous chain of events the past couple of years and is just lovely.  Every time she sees me she gives me a hug and says 'I don't know how the hell you keep going!'  Quite frankly neither do I!  But as I also like to tell Ali, life just keeps on moving, no matter what.  The world has this habit of just keeping on turning and whether its the outcome you want or not, things just have a way of working out.  Even so, there's only so much my bank manager can do, much as she wants to help me.  It's up to the Westpac powers that be to let me know what can and can't be done now.  As for pretty much everyone else, they've been amazing.  As soon as I finally have the courage to pick up the phone, apologise for ignoring their correspondence for weeks and explain about The Thing, they couldn't be more sympathetic and helpful and most of the time are happy for me to pay them off at as little as $10 a week.  When you owe so many people money it adds up to an awful lot of $10's a week!  But at least I feel like I'm doing something.

Still, this isn't supposed to be a doomy gloomy blog, I was just getting that stuff out of the way to explain the situation and the kind of money I need to find.  Now that's done, let's talk about something else.  After all, it's not just about me!  Ali - my baby! - is 18 in a few months and about to start his final year of school.  At this stage he wants to go to Uni next year and study to be a psychologist but who knows where his path will take him; that kid can be anything he wants to be if he puts his mind to it.  Liam has just passed his first year of Uni and he and his girlfriend have been working here all summer to support themselves and pay rent for their first flat when they go back to the big smoke in a month's time.  Liam has been doing anything from working in a local takeaway to spending 50 - 60 hours a week washing windows!  He knows how important the summer months are for uni students to save as much as they can in order to make the forthcoming year easier.  He's still got two years of his degree to go and I don't tell him this anywhere near enough but I'm so proud of him.  He's a good man; a really good man.

And then there's Gareth.  Don't ask me how I did it, I'm still pinching myself but somehow I've managed to bag myself quite possibly the nicest, most genuine bloke on the planet.  I know, right? How on earth has he not run screaming from my chaotic world?  I try to restrain myself from asking him that on a daily basis but no matter what life throws at me, and in turn him, by some miracle he continues to stick with me.  Take it from me, there are not too many blokes around like that. Funnily enough we actually met through one of my spontaneous attempts to save money.  It's a pretty cool - dare I say even romantic - story even if I say so myself and I look forward to sharing it with you soon.  But that's another blog...

So see, it's not all bad!  I still have lots of wonderful stuff going on.  And I still have my beloved Nawtypoo Cottage, at least for now.  Which I hope I never have to leave because recently I built my own vegetable garden and I am SO proud of it!  I built it all by myself for free using recycled timber the previous owners left behind and filled it partly with soil I already had and the rest from a local landscaper for a very reasonable price.  My mum and her partner Peter saved me a fortune on plants by growing lots of extra ones for me when they were sowing their own and I bought a few myself or got given them from friends.  No kidding, I have food coming out of my ears!  Tomatoes, courgettes, spring onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, rhubarb, beans, beans and more beans... my garden is saving me an absolute fortune on food, check it out!

Actually this photo is a few weeks old now, you can't even see the trellis for beans and more and my tomato plants are taller than me!  I would love to know how much my garden has saved me already, I would estimate it to be in the hundreds even after such a short time.  So I guess I really am making a difference to my finances, even if I don't think I am.  And we're eating better than ever too!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Tooth and Nail

Finally, the first official blog of the year!  And we're well overdue for a catch up, how long have you got?  I shall try and pack as much as I can into a nutshell but there's no easy way to say some of it. Firstly I must apologise for barely writing in so long.  Towards the end of last year I got a full time job, everything happened very suddenly and I just kind of disappeared from blog land overnight. Apart from the fact I was so flat out I didn't have time to write any more, all was lovely jubbly for a while.   After all the months of struggling to find work and not knowing where the next dollar was coming from, it was a brilliant feeling to know that regular money was finally coming in and my life was back on track and heading in the right direction.

The thing is, life has a way of throwing you off track just as quickly as it sets you on it and as we all know when it comes to me, life wouldn't be normal without a big curveball whacking me over the head!  You may have heard me mention before about The Thing I Can't Write About.  And I still can't and quite possibly will never be able to, but suffice to say the past seven or eight months have been absolute hell.  And to quote Forrest Gump as I am apt to do, 'that's all I have to say about that'. It's not just my hell though, others have been going through it with me just as much or even worse. But when it comes to the financial repercussions of the past eight months, this has been mine to carry alone.  As I write, I am close to losing everything.

How close?  Well I don't know because I've been too busy running away and hiding from everything you see. I knew bloody well everything was falling apart around me but I already had way too much on my plate to deal with people who didn't know me or didn't care. Did I give a stuff about being a whole $80 overdrawn or bills not being paid?  Did I hell.  There was nothing I could do about it anyway. Money had been hemmoraghing out of my account for months and I didn't have a hope of being able to catch up. Banks, phone calls, letters, emails - I was so scared to open my mail I didn't even know my divorce had gone through until three weeks after the letter arrived!  You can't imagine how happy I was to open it and discover it wasn't a bill!

As can happen when things get out of control, you stop looking after yourself.  Every day was just a blur and I stopped cooking and shopping properly; feeding whoever was around anything I could get my hands on just so they were fed and didn't bother me.  I also decided it was the perfect time to start drinking like a fish and smoking like a train, you know; just to help the financial situation even further!  Fortunately a New Year dawned and along with it new beginnings and new resolutions. And then I lost my job.  One minute I was working away at my desk, half an hour later I was packed up and home for good.  It was just unfortunate circumstances, nothing anyone could have done about it and no hard feelings.  But this meant that any chance I had of getting back on track had now gone flying out the window.

So now I'm Jack the Dole Bludger!  Not by choice you understand, I'd much rather be working but the reality of the situation is I can't go out to work right now, or look for a new job either.  I've been signed off for three months with acute stress and after that - well we'll just have to see where we're at. I've learned not to plan anything any more.  My local WINZ office has been amazing, everyone is so supportive and helpful and they are doing everything they can to get every cent I'm entitled to.  The only problem with that is, $477 a week barely even covers the mortgage, let alone any bills.  I won't bore you with the nitty gritty of my debts, that's a whole other blog.  I know there are countless people out there who are in far worse debt than me but that's not the point.  The scary part is not being able to see how you're ever going to catch up and the even bigger fear of falling further behind. And not having a plan.  I've always had a plan before but I'm all out of ideas right now.  I've sold everything I possibly can with the exception of my grandmothers (God rest their souls) and that alone has kept me afloat for a couple of years but there really is nothing else left I can see to part with.

There's only one possible way I can see of ever being able to get out of this situation.  After a long break I've joined Simple Savings again.  Reading through all the tips and discussions is like catching up with a dear friend.  There is so much I had forgotten!  So much I used to do that I don't do any more, and so much more I can do.  It's jogged my memory, but more importantly it's lit a fire in my belly.  I will NOT let this beat me.  I will NOT lose my house.  I will hang onto it tooth and nail.  And as I go along on this new stage of my journey I'll do my best to share as much I can with you, just in case it helps someone else.  Are you ready?  I think I'm going to be a busy wee blogger from now on!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Day My Undies Fell Down

I still vividly remember my most embarrassing moment ever.  I was five years old.  Crazy isn't it? At the age of 43 I still haven't managed anything more embarrassing as an adult but I swear it's God's honest truth.  I wouldn't say it's my earliest memory, I have many fleeting ones here and there from further back.  But this is probably the first one I remember in its entirety.  Obviously the experience has scarred me for life, but now I look back, I like to think of it as my first encounter with a real life angel!

December 1977

Selborne, Hampshire (UK)

I know for a fact this momentous event in my young life occurred then because it was my mum's birthday in November and the whole episode came about due to one of her birthday presents.  When I was little one of my very favourite joys in life was when Nanny and Grandad used to come and visit and bring THE CATALOGUE.  Oh how I loved those catalogues!  There was Grattan's, there was Kays – enormous great volumes they were, honestly they make today's Ezibuy catalogue look like something you'd blow your nose with.  They were full of pages and pages of clothes and TOYS – oh so many toys – and STUFF.  Stuff you just couldn't get anywhere else and I would spend hours browsing the hallowed pages.  Nanny and Grandad used to buy all sorts of things from these catalogues and it's only now I realise that it was because they couldn't go shopping.  Grandad couldn't drive and Nanny, well she couldn't walk, she was paralysed. Nanny had never been able to walk as long as I had been in the world and I never thought to question why, that was just how it was.

Birthdays and Christmas were an especially exciting time of year because you knew everyone would get something from THE CATALOGUE and my mum's birthday was no exception.  This year proved to be the best yet!  I'm not sure if my mother felt the same way but I was absolutely enchanted with her gift from Nanny and Grandad.  New undies!  Seven pairs to exact, one for each day of the week. I knew for a fact that's what they were intended for because each one bore the name of a different day. How ingenious I thought!  Not only that, they were so pretty, each day of the week written in flowing scripty writing and surrounded by different types of flowers.  I thought they were the most beautiful undies I had ever seen.

Mum on the other hand seemed in no hurry to try them on.  I couldn't believe it – what on earth was wrong with the woman?  I would have done anything to have undies like that!  But instead of tearing them all open enthusiastically and proudly pulling up a brand new day every morning, she put them on top of her 1970's leather ottoman.  And there they stayed.  Days turned into weeks and still they remained, neatly and individually wrapped in cellophane. In the end I could stand no more.  If my mother wasn't going to appreciate these beautiful undies, well I would!  So I hatched a plan.  Surely she wouldn't notice if just ONE pair went missing?  She had so many!  All I had to do now was wait a few days for the right day and that was Friday.  I chose Friday because the undies for that day were purple and that was my favourite colour.  It still is!  Such an elaborate subterfuge takes careful timing.  I didn't want anything to go wrong on the day so I waited until one afternoon when she was safely out of sight and snuck into her room.  My heart thumped and my tiny hands shook as I quickly
flicked through the pairs until Friday was safely in my grasp, then bolted to my room and hid them where all the most precious and secret things went – in the bottom of my deep, dark wardrobe.

It felt as though Friday would never come but eventually it dawned and I bounced out of bed in excitement!  At last I would get to wear my beautiful undies!  Mum on the other hand STILL hadn't even moved the other six pairs from on top of the ottoman.  My plan had gone off without a hitch!  I went off to school feeling incredibly nervous.  What would people say if they knew I was wearing big girls' undies?  Seeing as nobody saw my normal undies as a rule the chances of getting found out were incredibly slim but even so, it meant handstands and cartwheels were DEFINITELY out of the question at least for today.  Nobody could ever know – especially Lindsay Allan.

Lindsay was my very first crush.  He had black hair and lots of freckles.  He was eight and I was only five but he wasn't mean like the other big boys, he was nice.  Even when he found out I had a crush on him he wasn't mean.  A few weeks before, one of the big girls had told him I had written 'I love Linsey' in my secret Mr Men notebook and I was mortified when he came up to me in the playground.  'Can I see it?' he asked.  In fear and trepidation I pulled it out.  What was going to happen now?!  Michael Povey (another one of the big boys) had already called me a dipstick when I missed the ball playing rounders.  Even worse, Paul Cannings had pulled faces at me when we were singing Christmas carols and said I looked stupid dressed up as one of the Wise Men.  What terrible thing was this guy going to do to me?

'You've spelled my name wrong!' he smiled.  'Have you got a pencil?'  Dumbstruck, I handed one to him and watched in amazement as he wrote down the correct spelling.  'There you go!' he grinned and patted me on the head before running off to join the other big boys playing football.  From that day forward I never forgot how to spell his name! Even so, I still didn't want him or anyone else seeing my undies, beautiful as they were and as the day progressed I discovered to my distress that they were a tad too big.  Actually more than a tad, I was having trouble getting them to stay up.  Fortunately when you're only five you can get away with going to the loo a lot and that, combined with a few subtle pull-ups in the book corner meant I successfully managed to get through to the end of school.  Yippee!  I had done it.  I had worn my beautiful big girl's undies all day!  It would be my secret and mine alone forever and ever.

Our primary school was so tiny it was more like a big house than a school really.  It sat on top of a big hill and at the end of each day us little ones would run down the long snaking driveway to the bottom of the hill where the parents waited to take us home.  Miss Butler the headmistress stood outside the door ringing the big brass bell and I was off like a robber's dog.  I couldn't wait to get these bloody undies off and put some smaller ones on, they were driving me mad!  So I ran, school bag swinging, bowl cut flopping and just like always by the time I got from the top of the hill to the bottom my knee-high socks had managed to work their way down.  Except today they weren't the only things which had worked their way down.  By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, my undies – my beautiful purple Friday undies from THE CATALOGUE which nobody was supposed to know about forever and ever – were down around my ankles.  And I just stood there, frozen as all the parents and all the kids who had already reached the bottom of the hill before me, looked on.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a grey-haired lady with glasses and a kind face stepped forward. Quick as a wink and without saying a word, she whipped them up from round my ankles and back to where they should be, before stepping back again as though nothing had ever happened.  It was Lindsay Allan's mum.  I wanted to die of shame, of all people to come to my rescue!  I don't remember too much after that.  Obviously I got sprung wearing Mum's new undies but we're still on talking terms 38 years later so she must have forgiven me.  I sure as hell never worried about trying to pinch the other six pairs though, she was welcome to those!  What I remember most of all about the whole episode is the kindness of Nancy Allan.  To this day I have never forgotten it!  It wasn't hard to see where her son got his kind heart and gentle nature from and that has been something he has carried throughout his entire life.  I know that for a fact because although our paths didn't cross much during the rest of our school years, as an adult I got to know him and his whole family very well.  In fact he and his brother were ushers at my wedding and he even came to visit us in NZ!  I have no idea if he or his mum remember either me having a crush on him or my undies falling down – but I won't remind them if you don't!