You might wonder, “Wendi, how didn’t you know that your husband hadn’t been working for two months? How didn’t you notice that the bills weren’t getting paid?”
I’ll tell you, because I did what so many other women…and men do, we leave the finances, bank accounts, saving and bill paying up to our partners. Why? Because we trust them.
For me, I started letting him take over the bills when I got cancer. I just couldn’t deal with it. It was too stressful and I had convinced myself I wasn’t smart enough to handle a budget. There were just too many things going on in my life and I was on overload. So I handed over the pocket-book. A lot of people make this same choice, too many hands in the cookie jar can make for a….something, I can’t honestly remember how that metaphor goes.
When I found out that my ex husband hadn’t been contributing to our finances for two months and we had been living off my income, I was furious! Then I was embarrassed. Then I was ashamed. Horribly ashamed of myself. I had been quietly working it out in my head for a few days before it finally all imploded, I knew I was ready to leave before I ever found out about the employment lies, there had been too many lies about so many other things. I had made a list of all the bills I would have, rent, electricity, cell phone, internet (no cable), groceries, water, savings and insurance. I put it all out on paper, calculated the worst possible check I could get with no overtime and no frills, just my hourly wage and then did the math. You know what? It worked out! It would be tight, but my daughter and I could do it. We could make it work.
I’d planned to wait to kick him out until after Thanksgiving, but it didn’t work out that way. Once I found out on November 18th that he’d been lying to me for so long I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t spend another night in the same bed with him. He had to go.
Like I’ve explained in my previous blog, before I went home and laid the hammer down, I went to our bank. I explained the situation and cried to the bank representative and opened my own account, my fingers shaking, trying to figure out a PIN number he wouldn’t be able to guess, making sure it could only be accessed by me, and signing all the papers hastily because I had to do this TODAY while I was still angry! It was then I found out he’d also gone through every dollar of our savings – even leaving it a few dollars in the red!
What I haven’t explained in previous blogs is how my work family came through for me. I left the office in tears, telling my coworkers what I was about to do at around 9:00 am. By noon that same day, my coworkers had raised almost $600 for me. They knew I would need money to set up new utilities in my name, to live on for the next few days and file for divorce. God knew what He was doing, of course, because the amount they raised was exactly what I needed to set up everything, including paying the filing fee to file my divorce papers just 10 days later.
I moved into a slightly smaller, yet cuter and better equipped apartment in the same complex which saved me $200 a month. I managed to call for new utilities, arrange renters insurance and set up new cell service with a new number for both my daughter and I within the week. Then the real work began. I sat down with a calendar, every bill and when they would be due and assigned each paycheck for the next four months to which bills would come out of that paycheck. I knew if I stuck to my budget and didn’t over spend, put a little away in savings, I would be ok. So I put it in practice. I never knew how organized I could be! I kind of amazed myself. I downloaded an app on my phone that has helped me remember what bills are due and when, and alerts me when a bill is due within that week. Its been 8 months now and every month, each bill has been paid early, rent is paid at least a week before it’s due, and I’ve been able to keep food in the freezer, making trips to the grocery store only on my payday weekends. I buy produce and meats in family size and then split and freeze them. We have a basic meal plan for the week, including every Sunday is Ramen Sunday. I make a big batch of spicy chicken broth with Thai chili’s, Bok Choy, leeks, chicken breast or thighs, then the cheap, packaged ramen (without the poison packet) added at the very end. We look forward to Ramen Sunday so much! My daughter and I top each of our bowls with heaps of cilantro and it’s our favorite day of the week. I will reserve and freeze two quart size containers of just the broth so I can make each batch stretch for several Sundays.
I also meal prep for lunches. That has saved a bunch of money, and it allows me to control what I eat and ensure I’m only putting good food in my belly. I wish I could say that has shown in my waistline, but alas, I fell down the comfort food rabbit hole a few too many times and also quit going to the gym out of depression and admittedly sank into the wine bottle way too much! But that is about to change. The drinking has already changed – that should probably be a blog post all of its own, and the gym is about to be a regular part of my life again. I’m lucky to work for an employer who reimburses my gym membership if I go at least 15 times a month. I can do that, and my body needs it. My mental health needs it!
I can’t express how good it feels knowing that I am a success at budgeting and keeping my credit score healthy. One blessing of having my hack of an ex manage the bills is he put everything in his name, so when it all went belly up, the bills went with him, and not me. My credit stayed in tact and with my punctual bill paying plan, it will stay that way and only get better.
So many of us living with a narcissist, manipulator, or addict are convinced we can’t do it on our own. They have made it seem SO HARD! Way too hard for our measly brains. Is that a perfect example of ‘Gaslighting’ or what? (note to self: gaslighting needs to be a future blog) What we need to remember, is we are smart, capable people! We can do almost anything if we put our minds to it and work hard for it. We are survivors and we won’t be kept in the dark any longer.
I swear I hear the music for the movie Norma Rae playing in the background. Those of you youngin’s who don’t know what movie I’m referring to, google it, watch it. You’re welcome.