Bad stuff happens but I tend to believe it always happens for a reason; to teach us something or lead us down a particular path that will ultimately benefit us in some way. Often we can't see the silver lining until we have the opportunity to step back and reflect on the events of the past.
So, we've had a rough few years. At first I thought it was just one year, then one stretched into two and soon it'll be three years. Each month has offered new challenges from illness and operations to moving house to unemployment, to death of a close family member and so on and so forth.
Steadily, things have become more and more dire until this point in time, where one notice to vacate will see us homeless. We had a fright late last week when a middle-aged man and his young companion (daughter or girlfriend) parked in our driveway to nowhere and the man got out and basically inspected our property. The man and his daughter were Chinese. Our landlords are Chinese, but we know they live in Sydney. So, we figure either they were sent by the owners to make sure we had cut the grass back as promised (council deadline being today), or they were checking the property perhaps to buy it or move in.
You see, this happened to us at our last place. One day we looked out our front window to see a young man and an elderly couple standing just inside our front gate and looking at our rented property. About a month later we received a letter to vacate and when we did vacate the elderly couple (parents of the owners) moved in.
So, we're one letter away from homelessness. And why are we one letter away from homelessness? Well, because we have no savings whatsoever. We have no job (when you have four children you need a job to secure a rental property in an owner's market). The GOM has been working hard for months to secure a job but obstacle after obstacle has been thrown in his way.
BUT HERE IS THE DISCOVERY I HAVE MADE OVERNIGHT!
Have you ever had that conversation where you scoffed at your parents trying to tell you to learn to save for a rainy day? If you haven't you're wiser than me (or you're lying, but I'll leave you with your conscience on that score).
I haven't had that conversation recently but between ten and twenty years ago, it would crop up every so often and go something like,
'You know, I never did understand what they were on about 'saving for a rainy day'...'
'Oh, me either, what's the point of having money just sitting in the bank and putting off enjoying it until you're too old and dried out to make the most of it?'
'Totally! And if I need to buy a washing machine in a hurry or the car breaks down, I can always just get a credit card to cover the emergency and then pay it off later.'
Yep, I had the conversation with countless friends.
Of course, this was before I had kids and before my husband hit that age where people feel they can discriminate simply because his was born in the 50s. That was before the rental market became so tight. That was before banks woke up to themselves and stopped offering credit cards and personal loans to people who couldn't afford to repay them.
Also, that was before I realised that 'A Rainy Day' is not, in fact, a single day. Don't laugh, but when I thought of a rainy day, I thought of a one off emergency event. I never considered that it could be one drama after another and that that could go on for several YEARS in one run!
Right now the GOM needs a job. The job offer he had in September was rescinded for no apparent reason and we're fighting it through the anti-discrimination commission but the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly. We haven't even had a conciliation meeting yet. We doubt very much he'll be offered the job again, which means we either let it go or pursue it through VCAT. We'll probably do the latter on principle, however, that will not pay the bills in the meantime and the GOM really needs to work.
His other avenue of work is through an agency, for which he needs to be able to drive because he'll be sent to different facilities here and there throughout the eastern and south-eastern suburbs. He has been having trouble passing his driving tests because he stalls the car during the test. He never stalls it outside the test so we're thinking it's nerves. He's had hypnotherapy but that didn't seem to help at all.
So, we've been thinking for his next test he should do it in an automatic. The problem with that is his instructor doesn't have an automatic. He could get a different instructor but the last time he did that, the new instructor was completely unprofessional and rude to him. So, he's not keen to go that route again. So, we have to buy a car. A cheap hatchback (which won't fit all of us but is a stopgap for passing the test and getting a job - we can trade it in for a people mover once we're eligible for finance) is the go. To buy a cheap automatic we need at least $3000.
Ah, yes, this is where I finally gained some wisdom. We had $3000 earlier this year. I spent it. At the time I thought the GOM would have a job in just a couple of weeks. I thought he'd pass his next test. I thought I needed a reliable computer more than we needed savings in the bank. I thought the boys deserved an iPod and I deserved an iPad - after all, I had waited 18 months while most people I knew bought one, well everyone who actually wanted one anyway.
Yes, I've been pretty good with money. I always budget our rent and bills before food and fun, but I have also lived under the presumption that I had a right to have fun right now. I had a right to buy stuff I wanted whenever I perceived there to be 'extra money'. Even through the hard times of the last nearly three years, I haven't clued in that I needed to be a lot more careful with our finances.
'Saving for a Rainy Day' means saving for that time when everything goes wrong, not just once, not just for one day, but for weeks, months and even years on end. It means being aware that one day you won't be footloose and fancy free and one day you won't be able to just 'put in a little more effort' and make things go your way financially. One day, everything you touch may turn to shit and that is when having a little something put away will save you from the stress of anticipating homelessness with four children.