Life after flat broke.

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2010 + 11’ + 12’ was without doubt, the most flat broke Dave & I have actually ever been.  And we’ve both been those stereotypical university students, living on zilch.  But 2010, 11’, & 12’? Well, that was less than zilch.  That was the real deal zilch. 

No actually, that was zilch.  With a kid.  Which was every bit terrifying as it sounds.

We’re not flat broke any more.  We’re not cashed up either.  We’re just … comfortable.  And y’know what? I’d go as far as saying that our newfound ‘comfortable’ is deservedly so.

When I think back to life when I was working full-time ten hour night shifts in nursing, five nights per week, finishing work, driving home, not sleeping, & then beginning my day raising infant through to toddler Max whilst night shiftin’ for two years? Well, it honestly feels like it was in another lifetime.  Not this one.  Don’t get me wrong, I will never forget.  Fuck, I used to cry all the time.  Sometimes daily.  And it wasn’t because I was depressed, I wasn’t.  But our flat broke status meant that life for me, & for us, felt like I was kinda like a prisoner of war in my actual own life.

Sometimes I would cry because Max was crying, other times I would cry because I’d been awake for anywhere between 48-72 hours straight, but mostly? I cried because in the two years that I worked night shifts, & then raised Max the next day on no sleep, not a single family member or friend offered to take Max so that I could sleep.  Just … sleep. 

For 27 years, I was always the person who bent over backwards for people, asked how high I should jump when anyone demanded that I “jump”, organised surprise events for everyone, catered the birthdays of family & friends, photographed these events so that friends could get a decent family shot of themselves, hosted Mother’s group meetings at my house, told Dave “yes, absolutely, you should definitely play another football season”, etc. etc. etc.

27 years man.  27 whole years spent loving people intensely, & doing just about anything for them.  And so y’see, … that’s why I used to cry.  Because night shift broke me, & it opened my eyes to see just what happens when you pour a whole lot o’ love into family & friends.  Sometimes? They kinda don’t necessarily pour anything back into you when you need it from them the most, no matter even how much you do for them, & will continue to do for them.

It’s been nearly two years since all of that flat broke, night shift workin’ hell, & life is incredible now, but my personality? Seemingly changed forever.  I’m not that same sweet Cherie any more.  It appears I’ve lost that do-anything-for-everyone nice’ness? Ok, sometimes? I’m a complete bitch, actually.  And look, I really do hate the thought of holding a grudge, but it’s like I’m unable to forget all of the nothing I was given from the same people I used to do everything for.

I just can’t forget it, y’know?

I’m 31 now, & I still have my same kind heart, but I extend that generosity less frequently, & with an abundance of caution.  Because I just don’t think I can forget those days where I used to sit on the floor of the shower sobbing after having worked night shift, then coming home to raise Max, then waiting for Dave to come home from work, just so I could get ready for the next night shift.

And yep, it’s my own stupid stubborn fault.  Because yes, we could have remained on one income, Dave’s income.  And we therefore could have remained in our shit load of debt, & hey, perhaps even dug ourselves an even bigger financial grave.  Absolutely.  But I needed my family to be out of the considerable amount of debt that we’d landed ourselves in, & retrospectively, I can still say I’m glad I just about killed myself on nights.  Because we’re debt free now, apart from the obvious stock standard mortgage.  And we’re debt free because I simply refused to add years to the already shocking financial situation we were in in 2010 by remaining on one income for any longer.

Dave worked.  I worked.  I worked nights in hospitals all over Melbourne, while Dave tended to Max overnight on his own.  As a couple, we were like ships in the night.  And at the time, I worried it would be forever.

We continued to work.  We didn’t buy anything.  We did everything on the cheap.  We absolutely smashed our debt.  In record time, might I add.  We sold our house.  We profited from that.  We searched for houses closer to the city.  We couldn’t afford anything in the areas that we wanted, so we crossed into neighbouring suburbs, … & then neighbouring suburbs again.  And it’s there that we found our new, very old home.  Dave was promoted, & then promoted again.  We invested money.  Those investments have been good.  I returned to work (from home) four weeks post Frankie.  We’ve been stupid.  We’ve been smart.  We’ve made mistakes.  We’ve learnt from them.  We’ve cut up all credit cards.

We aren’t flat broke any more.

I still remember flat broke like it was yesterday, & try not to make the same mistakes that we used to that landed us in flat broke territory.  But at the same time, I enjoy everything that our newfound comfortable-but-not-cashed-up life affords.  Y’know, like swimming lessons for Max, & art classes, & swiping my ATM card at the supermarket to pay for my groceries & not worrying about if it will decline, & haircuts, & spontaneous trips to the zoo, & weekend adventures, & family holidays to Queensland, & new linen, & takeaway nights when I’m solo parenting.

Just life, y’know? Without the stress.  Or at least, financial stress.

This year Dave & I actually gifted each other birthday presents.  It’s the first time in a long time, years even, that we’ve been able to.  And my God, it felt good.  I picked Dave’s present out, & I wrapped it up, & I wrote him a card from the kids & I, & then I put the present on our bed & photographed it.  I don’t know why? Probably because I’m female.  And because I’m a blogger.  But it just looked pretty, & our bedroom looked pretty, & I guess I just had this moment where I realised that all of the pretty we now have in our daily lives? Well, it’s thanks to the blood, sweat, tears, & throwing of meat pies that Dave & I did way back when we were flat broke.

~

In case you’re wondering, that ridiculously cute cake banner was purchased here.

And now just in case you’re also wondering if what I just said there is sponsored, it isn’t.  I bought that sweet banner with my own moolah.

Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    YAY for you!! You totally deserve it. As the old saying goes..good things come to those who wait and god damn you have waited long enough hehe :) xox

  2. I feel like our times of money struggles have definitely made me stronger & wiser! But it’s so so crap when your going through it! I’m so glad you’re comfortable! Thanks for sharing your story! Credit Cards grrrrrr!! My husband had 5 in high school, but that’s America for you!

  3. Bloody awesome story thanks for sharing similar to us so love hearing this we still have a little to go but so much better. Glad your comfortable best feeling ever. I loved the shopping praying it not to decline we have all been there xo

  4. Oh how this resonates with me. We are a young family, with a partner who went BACK to uni after our first was born to complete his masters in Chiropractic. We have been endlessly broke now for the best part of 5 years but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    We have made TOUGH decisions, lived in the most derelict of housing, he worked full time on a part time basis whilst completing full time uni, I worked three days a week to enable a better income whilst still being there for our daughter. We made the decision last year to move 10 hours away from our family and friends for a cheaper but better lifestyle. One we have wanted for a VERY long time. We are still struggling as his business is starting to blossom but I have now been gifted the ability to be a SAHM with our second child for 18 months now. Whilst, the second income would make a major difference in our life I am struggling to find work in our small beach side town so it seems our debt years will reign for a little while longer, but I know that we will be able live our ‘comfortable’ very soon.

    I know a lot of people are in similar situations but no one openly talks about their situation so it’s nice to ‘know’ there are other people in the same situation or heading out of the tunnel!

  5. _mrs_matthews_ says:

    My husband I are coming out of financial hell, too. He’s in real estate, and the whole GFC has not been fun nor kind to the real estate market. At times, my husband’s determination to succeed amazes me. When so many others gave up, he didn’t.

    So I know the feeling of “comfortable” you speak of. And you’re right. Boy, is it nice?!!

    Wonderful to hear that you guys are winning, are winning comfortably, and that you made this winning happen by yourselves. Enjoy it. You both completely deserve to!!

  6. Oh Cherie…. I’m so very glad that there’s a happy ending to this story…. You guys have obviously worked damn hard to be where you are now, and you deserve all the happiness in the world. I don’t know you personally but I bet you’re not a bitch now, I bet you’re just cautious of letting people walk all over you…. We were flat broke ourselves a year ago, when we finished building this house, and thankfully it was only for the shortest time and we managed to get back our feet now, so I have some understanding of the satisfaction of having ‘won’…. Life will always throw curve balls at us, and I think those experiences do shape who we are… You should be so proud of yourselves… xx

  7. You young lady have the BEST work ethic of anyone I know, you are still that kind person with a massive heart you just have a radar for who not to bless it upon.

    You are a proud family who don’t ask for anything and yet survive on the true love that you hold in your hearts for each other.

    I am so frigging happy to see the person you are today, knowing the person you had become from all those sleepless nights and ridiculous working hours.

    You deserve the best you really, really do, mwah x

  8. Wow – just wow! What a story, what a journey. And you came out the other side, still alive and still standing. You think that I inspire you (I know right!) but you’ve inspired me with this so thank you! All credit to you, the hard work and horrible times have all paid off!! xxx

  9. Well done Cherie, I love the real honest truths you speak about. I know there is a taboo with finances and debts, but sometimes it’s not worth it and we should speak out! Especially just between our partners, some choose to bury their heads in the sand, whilst others are proactive, what ever the case, thank you for your honest truths xx Well done to you and Dave on your hard work, it’s obviously paid off & now life can be a little more relaxed (well as much as it can be with kids & all)

  10. Dianne Whittle says:

    Congratulations to both you and Dave. It is wonderful, not to read and know your struggle, but to know that instead of sticking your heads in the sand and ignoring that debt and ending up in an even bigger hole, that you both took responsibility and worked really hard to fix it. I have been reading your blog for a few years now so have walked alongside you, if only in spirit. You know how hard it was but you also know it was the best thing you guys could have done for yourself. I am sure that I am like so many of your readers in wanting, through those really hard times, to help you out. I found myself on so many occasions wishing that I lived around the corner so that I could come clean your house, cook you a meal, or look after Max while you slept. So many times I read your blog posts and saw your pain and felt utterly helpless that there was nothing I could do to help you.
    I really do understand what you’re saying about being the one to be there for others. I’m a lot like you, though a little older and my kids are grown, but I spent 40 odd years of my life pretty much always doing the right thing – being the one to ring or visit family or friends who needed help or who had suffered a crisis, always remembering birthdays, making gorgeous handmade quilts for new babies or special birthdays or celebrations, just generally making sure I was there for others and that I was being a good person – you know, honest, caring, decent, the treat-people-how-you-would-like-to-be-treated person. It turns out though, that as with you, that’s only ever been a one way street and when it came to a head, it left me devastated that when I needed it no one could do the same for me. And it changed me too, I am a little harder because of it, it’s funny because I also say I am a complete bitch now, and though I try to forgive, I can’t forget and I hold a grudge too. I am learning that I have to let go though, because I am not willing to let myself go completely over to the dark side and not care about people – I am just more selective about who I do it for, and I only put myself out for people who I know care as much for me as I do for them – it’s not that I only do things if I know I will get something back, but it’s nice not to be taken for granted. It hit home just recently when my son turned 21 – I have 6 brothers and sisters and nearly 30 nieces and nephews, hubby is one of 4 , but my son got 3 cards for his 21st, one from us, one from his sister, one from my brother. After years of sending cards to all of them for years, my son gets 3 cards for his 21st, and only one Facebook message from any of them. I wonder why I’m bitter?

  11. First up happy birthday to that man of yours, he’s a good egg that one and definitely a keeper! Secondly, some times we go through hard times, and beyond hard times, we scrap away at nothing in order to rebuild but in the end come out the victors with many life lessons learnt along the way! You my dear are a victor, so do a big victory dance and enjoy your new found position.

    It’s sad that I didn’t know you back then, because I was and still am the giving kind of person (but as you said often don’t get the same in return), I just know I could’ve helped you somehow. x

  12. I’m so happy for you guys!!! It’s wonderful when those things happen to people like you and you really deserve it after doing everything that you did. We’re currently in the flat broke stage and I can’t wait to get out of it. I have no idea how long it will take but I’m sure it won’t be too long.

  13. Reannon says:

    I grew up flat broke & I always swore I would never be like that once I had a family. While we have never been completly broke we do seem to live in a cycle where we are doing great & then not so great. I blame our credit card ( or us using our credit card). Now that I wont be going back to work any time soon I am trying so damn hard to budget like a demon.People often think that FIFO families are rolling in cash & yeah, the money is better than what we’d earn if Tim was working local but it’s not like we are cashed up & we are making HUGE sacrifices as a family so that we can keep pushing forward financially Some weeks I succeed, some weeks I dont. If you have any great tips or resources Cherie I’d love to hear from you!

  14. Chrissie says:

    Yay! Well done!
    We are just entering this stage. I’m 29 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child. We rent and have just signed contracts to build our own house. All the while I’m I’m trying to pay off a bucketload of credit card debt and car loans. And I start maternity leave in 2 months! I don’t work night shift though, so I take my hat off to you. I don’t know how you did that. I would’ve lost my mind!

  15. Oh Cherie! I’ve been following your story since I began blogging and Max was young. I remember reading about your struggles, no sleep and having to eat two minute noodles for dinner! This post spoke to me, yelled in fact!
    I can relate to the lack of help at times from those around me. My husband worked interstate five days a week for seven years until recently. I raised our girls, now 3.5yrs & 19months as a solo parent five days a week. I was responsible for every part of their lives and EVERYTHING I did was with my girls.
    In many ways I feel lucky to have been there for my girls and haven’t missed things like my husband but at the same time it has been isolating, lonely at times and exhausting.
    I am a very independent person, because I have to be and it was hard over those seven years watching family and friends receive help when they were co-parenting in the morning and again from 5pm onwards whilst I still had days to wait for my husband to come home, was sleep deprived and yes I cried often too.
    Hubby has now been promoted and works 45mins away but is gone before our girls wake and home after they’ve gone to bed at night. So I still solo parent five days/nights a week but I have my man home with me each night!
    I can relate to this post in so many ways. Sorry for my essay comment! I’m so glad you guys are in a better place now and that you’re so much happier! Take care of yourself and those gorgeous kidlets of yours and here’s to many more cake banners and photos of presents on beds xx

  16. That sleepless exhaustion is one of those things I can’t forget from one time in our life. I tried to cut back to part time work this year, but already two people can’t live well on my part time job alone. Thankfully there may be an opportunity for me to be full time, so I’m hoping (and not hoping) that it comes about. Why must life cost money? I was hoping this year that, for once in my life (please) I didn’t have to work so damn hard. But to move forward, to meet goals (including financing working from home) a sacrifice of working full time to get set up must sadly happen…

  17. You did that. You worked your butt off and you dug your way out. You deserve comfortable, Cheri. You deserve it hugely. x

    • Raising Master Max says:

      Thanks Bron,

      We’ve been basking in ‘comfortable’ ever since. And it’s a damn beautiful place to be.

      Hard work, eh? Not to be underestimated ;)

      x

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