But as I wrote out the check, I found my heart was filled with gratitude. You see, I made a realization yesterday: I had enough money. I had to let that sink in. I could pay a $618 bill with money that I had in my bank account. Even after paying for new stairs last month (for which I'd saved for a few years), I had enough.
This was huge, really huge. And I'm so grateful to be at this point in my life. As a single parent with an ex who didn't pay his child support, times were very, very tough while my daughter was growing up. I paid cash for everything; no cash = no purchase. Over time, things got better, and I finally bought my small 1225 square foot townhome 10 years ago after my daughter had left home to begin her adult life as a wife and mother.
But I still had to stick to a budget, there wasn't enough for extras, clothes shopping was a rare event, no money for "real" jewelry, and I was very frugal with every purchase. I now had a mortgage to pay. My family sometimes jokes that I don't replace things until they're broken or worn out. I'm not a wasteful person; I wring every bit of value that I can from an item before I'll replace it. I don't buy what I don't need. Last year, I went without a DVD player for 8 months after mine broke until my daughter gave me a new one as a Mother's Day gift.
I've been working a lot so I've only vaguely been aware of the upheaval in the financial markets. I always thought I should learn something about investing, so I could better manage my 401K investments. But I never had the time, interest or inclination. Plus, it feels like betting and I'm not a risk-taker when it comes to my hard-earned money. It seems like so many of the financial vehicles (credit default swaps, anyone?) are like trading air: creative made-up bets and gambles.
Despite my ignorance about stock, bonds, investments - and despite two layoffs in the last 7 years - I've managed to get myself into a decent place financially. What a sense of peace and relief that is! I have a couple of 401Ks, an IRA, money in my regular bank savings account and money in a online account that pays a bit more. Nothing fancy, no big returns, but also low risk. My mortgage will be paid off before I retire. I won't get rich this way, but I'm also less likely to be wiped out financially. Probably not a very smart investment strategy, but it's one I'm comfortable with.
As I wrote that check for the garage door repair, I found myself abundantly grateful. I've gone through some challenging times. But I have a job that pays a decent salary, I have no debt, few needs. There are many Americans who are going through their own challenging times and experiencing their own financial struggles as a result of the current economy. I lift them all in prayer and pray that some day, they'll find themselves with a grateful heart when they realize that they've come through the worst of it and they can write a check, knowing the money's in the bank. Having enough is a pretty great thing.