Seems to be the American way for many right now...
I don't have "bad" debt -- I have monthly payments for a car loan (I believe the car will outlive the loan) and some tax debt (which will not be repeated, once it's gone). I make payments to my kids' orthodontist and I pay rent in a situation where I'm actually accruing some equity toward eventual purchase of the house. I have payment plans for the kids' activities as well. I haven't used a credit card in...over two years, I believe. I don't have a credit card.
So yay! Debt isn't my issue!*
But I have zero savings (hoping this year to come up with at least 1/2 month's pay, or maybe a whole month's pay -- I'm starting with what I *can* do and not worrying about what I *can't* do.)
Every month is a game of trying to fit everything inside the current paycheck. I feel like every month I can just get things to squeak through, and there is nothing left over.
I'm always asking for financial aid, payment plans, etc. for anything the kids want to do. Or saying no. Sometimes leapfrogging bills to keep everyone happy enough that they don't bug me.
There is enough (just enough) and we have what we need to be comfortable. I am very, very grateful for that degree of security.
I'm very grateful that the kids do get to have some activities, but it's through the generous graces of the donors that subsidize the financial aid. I can hope that one day I can do that for someone else's kids, right?
But it feels precarious and it feels like I'm going to be "just balancing" for the rest of my life.
I guess once the car loan is up (in 3 years) and the tax debt (2 years), that will ease things...but in that time, I'm expecting inflation and cost of living to rise...and the oldest to reach college age...
I've been working on frugal living for years now, and I'm at the point of just fine-tuning things minutely, because I made the major adjustments long ago. I learned to have a budget and live within it. I learned to trim the fat (learned what the fat was). I adjusted my expectations and my kids' expectations. I learned to stretch the limits of my creativity. I learned how to make and repair and repurpose things instead of buying them.
Half of me is very proud that I'm not "in the hole" -- and the other half is so frustrated to be constantly "just balancing."
I'm working on feeling at peace with this. It could be so much worse, so much scarier, so much harder. I am not ungrateful. But it is stressful trying to make it work.
Can anyone relate to this? Feeling proud to have come so far --- and yet frustrated to be sort of mired where you are?
*(Just a note, I said in another thread that I just went through bankruptcy, and that is true, but it wasn't because of consumer debt, it was to dissolve a mortgage on a house that had to be foreclosed on because the divorce laws required all joint property to be dissolved and neither of us could buy the other out. So it's not really a "fresh start" -- I wasn't in debt other than the mortgage, and the taxes which were not dischargable, and the car loan which I chose to keep.)