Four Letter Word

First, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who weighed in on my infrequent posting dilemma. I truly appreciate the support and suggestions. You guys — er, ladies and guy, are great.

As I suspected would happen, one of the suggestions was to get a laptop — or a cleaning lady. Another of the suggestions pointed out that a photo and a line of text counted as a post. (I remember how easy Photo Friday was for me last year!)

Unfortunately for me, Monkey accidentally trashed our digital camera, so I’m in a bit of a bind there. And though both DearDR and I can justify buying laptops at this stage in our careers (we could probably write them off, too), we don’t actually have the $$ to buy laptops. Or a new digital camera. Or replace the CD player in my 2002 Camry.

We are a household deep (and I mean deep) in D-E-B-T.

I’ve done some research, and I strongly suspect that we are not the only ones. This country is a country run (disasterously as it turns out!) on credit.

The average household credit card debt in 2004 (the latest year for which I could find numbers) is $8,000. I suspect that number is shooting up astronomically these days.

DearDR and I are above average. Now when it comes to things like height and intelligence, above average can be good. But obviously, not when it comes to things like credit card debt.

Granted, this is the direct result of some… I hesitate to call it bad decision-making per se. Dumb decision-making. Kind of cross-my-fingers decision making. “Things will get better so I can do this right now” decision-making.

And we didn’t run up our credit cards on fancy shoes, jewelry, or, I don’t know, a boat. We ran up our credit cards on gasoline, food, diapers and other baby stuff, decent clothes, car repairs.

We ran our credit cards up when I took a year off to be a stay-at-home mom and DearDR dropped some hours to study for his license exam. Should I have gone back to work when Bun was six weeks old? We wouldn’t be in this mess if I had — or at least, it would be less of a mess. I second-guess that decision all. the. time. But I can’t go back and do it differently. I have to live with the consequences.

Our mortgage is probably below average — we bought this house directly from the owner, and that keeps costs down, yo. We haven’t missed a payment in 3 years; I pay a little bit over the minimum.

I don’t even want to talk about DearDR’s student loans.

And of course, although I went back to work in February, it turns out that prices of just about everything went up at the same time. We saw our weekly gas budget go from about $40 to $120. Monkey started preschool and a new (more expensive) daycare. We considered not sending her this year. Or not sending her to the Catholic school pre-K program we wanted to. But in the end, we knew it was time, and St. J’s was the right place.

The bills, including those heinous credit card bills, are getting paid. On time. And I don’t just pay the minimum due on the cards. I want those suckers to go away, and I throw as much money as I can every month at ’em.

We’re not in danger of losing anything. Or of having to sell organs on the black market.

We don’t use credit cards any more. It’s a struggle, but we live within our tight budget. I am taking out a consolidation loan, cosigned by Nonna, to reduce the interest — taking it down to a quarter or a third of what I am paying now. I’ll still be sending the same amount of money, but most of it will go to principle instead of evil finance charges.

This isn’t a pity party, but I gotta tell someone how it is. Because I stress out about this every single day, and if I don’t get to talk about it, I’ll explode.

We are sheltered, fed, and clothed. We have great health care coverage through my employer. We even get treats (the occasional date, a beer with friends, Eat ‘n’ Park dinners once or twice a month with the kids). We just don’t have the disposable income for digital cameras and laptops. Cry me a river, I know. Some people can’t eat, for goodness sake.

And if I had the cash, I would hope that I remember them before I buy that laptop. Someday, I hope to be able to do both without thinking — or stressing — about it.

You know, my mom was right. I should have been a pharmacist.