Wide Open Wallet

An honest look at family finances

Archive for the ‘Group Writing Project’ Category

It’s that time of the month again.  Time for the PF Bloggers Group Writing Project.  This month we are writing about the poorest time in our lives.

The poorest time in my life was when my daughter, now 7, was a baby.   I went to school and worked part time at a fast food restaurant.  Her father worked at a printing press for $9.00 an hour.  And don’t forget… we had a new baby.

So how did we survive?  First off, we lived in Section 8 housing.  For those that don’t know:  Section 8 housing is housing based on your income, and the rest of your rent is subsidized by the state.  Which is a blast, I’m tellin’ ya.  But we paid $175 a month for a two bedroom apartment, and utilities were included.  So hey, you can’t beat it.  It was worth putting up with the neighbors.  Me and my daughter both had insurance through the state, which was free.  I don’t specifically remember but I think my ex had insurance though his job.  Either that or he didn’t have insurance at all.

Of course, we couldn’t afford daycare so we worked opposite shifts.   My ex worked 7:00 to 3:00, and I worked 6:00 to 10:00.  Which worked out nice, since we only had one car anyways. I drove him to work and picked him up.   I also took all my classes online to avoid daycare costs.  So I spent my days taking care of our daughter and doing school work.

We didn’t have cable, or a car payment, or cell phones.  A friend of mine had a little girl about a year older than my daughter and she gave me all her outgrown clothes.  So my daughter was clothed for free until she was about 2 years old.  Which was nice.

The key to our survival was the budget.  Knowing how much you have to spend in each category, and knowing, for fact, that if you follow the plan all your bills will be paid is a huge stress relief.  I wish I still had those budgets, I would be very interested in seeing them.  I don’t remember how much we paid for gas, car insurance, or groceries.  But I’m sure it wasn’t a lot.

What strikes me the most when I think back on that time was that I didn’t feel poor.   I felt lucky to only work part time, and go to school.  I was so glad that my daughter didn’t have to go to daycare (not that there is anything wrong with daycare, I was just glad to be home with her).  I liked my job well enough and I knew we could pay our bills.  Sure, we didn’t have a lot extra but we had everything we needed.

But that doesn’t mean I was happy.  I wasn’t, and it had nothing to do with money.  It had to do with love.  I was living with a man out of obligation.  Not out of love.  We fought constantly.  If I had to be poor now with my husband, a man I love immensely, I could still be happy.  Even if it meant living in the worst part of town, and driving him to and from work every day.  I could do it.  I would be happy to. (ok, maybe that last part is overstating it a bit.)


About the PF Bloggers Group Writing Project

The Personal Finance Bloggers Network currently consists of 7 active personal finance and frugal living blogs. The Group Writing Project is a monthly project wherein each blog will write a post on a pre-determined topic and publish it on the same day of each month. Be sure to visit the PF Bloggers Group Writing Project page for the others!

Extended Group Writing Project Invitation

If you are a blogger, we would like to invite you to write your own post on this topic and submit it for listing with our entries on our Group Writing Project pages. Please visit the following page for details on how to participate in our Extended Group Writing Project

Pic by: dabawenya

Blog Action Day: Poverty

As part of the Blog Action Day and the PF Bloggers Group Writing Project today’s topic will be about poverty.

For our family of 4 the poverty line is $21,200.  That is very little, no doubt.  It works out to just over $400 a week, or $10 an hour.  It would be tough to support a family on $10 an hour, but it is possible.  I’ve written out a bare bones budget which came out to be $1,450 a month.  So yeah, it’s possible.  I would even have a little money left over.   What about taxes?  Well, I’m not a tax expert by any means, but I know when I was poor I didn’t pay any taxes.   I got a return for everything I paid, and then some.  When I hear the word “poverty” I don’t think a family, living in an apartment in a decent part of town, with health care, food, clean water, education for the children, ect. Granted, this is the “richest” you could be and still be considered in poverty.

Here is Wikipedia’s definition of PovertyPoverty (also called penury) is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens.

I don’t think the situation I described above would qualify as “poverty”.  Poor, sure.  But poverty?  Not according to official definitions.  I understand they have to put the cut off at some point.  They need to say these people are in poverty and these people are not.  And the cut off is as good as any.   But clearly the word poverty means different things here in America than it does in other countries.

India has the world’s largest number of poor people in a single country.  Thirty to forty percent of people are living under the poverty level.  And we are talking real poverty here.  They spend more than 80% of their income on food and many, if not most, are illiterate.  Because of the caste system many of the poor are denied access to opportunities to improve their situation.   Government programs have been initiated to help the impoverished but they have yet to improve the situation in rural India.

Today is the Group Writing Project for the PF Bloggers.  We are writing about personal experience with loans.  If you would like to participate please do so and submit the link to your article here.  There is also a graphic on that page you are welcome to use.

When asked to write about personal experience with loans the first thing that comes to mind is when I co-signed on a car for my boyfriend.  (Do I even need to write the rest of the post?  I think you already know how this ended.)  I was 18 or 19 at the time.  We had been living together for about a year, everything was going great, really.  He desperately needed a new car and we had spent lots of time looking for the perfect car for him.

We sat at the salesman’s desk, all excited.  They came back and forth with different papers, you know how it goes.  Typical used car buying experience.  Then the guy came over and said that the only way we could get the loan was if I signed too.  He said if I just signed on the the line the car was ours.  So I did.  I had NO CLUE what I was doing.  I really didn’t know that by signing I was agreeing to pay back the loan if for some reason my boyfriend didn’t.  I don’t know what I thought.  Honestly, even if they had explained it, I probably would have still signed, but in my opinion they acted unethically to not tell me exactly what I was I getting myself into.  They made it seem so easy.  You sign here and your boyfriend can buy this car.  Simple.  What could go wrong?

I wish I remember the details of the loan.  I think we borrowed $12,000 for a 1994 Pathfinder.  I think.  I do remember our payment was $350 a month and the interest rate was outrageous.  Like 15% or something.  We didn’t even ask what the rate was.  I didn’t know to ask.  I didn’t know how loans worked.  It was the very first loan I had ever taken out.   When I saw the interest rate on the loan months and months later I knew that it was high.  But nothing I could do about it by that point.

So here’s the part you’ve been waiting for… We broke up and he stopped making payments on the loan.  (Shocking!)  About six months after we broke up I got a letter saying I owed some amount.  $1,500 or something.  I went and talked to him about it, he said he would pay it.  I for sure wasn’t going to pay it.  Then like 6 months after that I got a call saying they were going to repossess the car in two days unless I gave them something like $2,500.  I told the guy there was no way I’m going to do that.  I didn’t care if my ex boyfriend’s car is repo’ed.  I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay for his car.  This is really the first time it dawned on me what I had signed.

The guy said that if they repossess it I can pay the past due amounts and take possession of the car.  Then I would have to make the payments myself from that point forward.  I said I would do that.  He said he would call me in a few days and tell me where I could pick up the car.

He never called.  I never heard from anyone ever again about it.  It was on my credit as a repo and fell off almost 2 years ago.  My credit score jumped about 50 points when it fell off.

This month’s theme is rich people gone broke. I’ve decided to write about Zsa Zsa Gabor. If you would like to participate in our group writing project please submit your post here.


Zsa Zsa Gabor was born in Hugary in about 1917 (no one knows for sure). She isn’t really famous for anything, except maybe her high profile lovers. She was married to a Turkish foreign affairs minister and had an affair with the President of Turkey. Then, shortly after coming to the US, she married Conrad Hilton, of Hilton Hotels, in 1942. Yup, she’s related to Paris. (Conrad is Paris’s great grandfather) Very fitting when you consider she was only famous for being famous. Creating drama and spending money seem to her most developed skills.

Conrad Hilton was frustrated by Zsa Zsa’s overspending and put her on a budget of $250 a month. Zsa Zsa found this unacceptable and divorced him in 1946. Zsa Zsa went on to have 7 other marriages. One of which was to Fredric von Anhalt, aka Robert Lichtenburg. In 2007 Fredric claimed to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter Dannielynn. Wow, ties to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith? I suppose I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Zsa Zsa may be best known for getting into fights. She brought a lawsuit (and then dropped it) against an English aristocrat, claiming the woman pushed her and her daughter on a plane. She slapped a bell boy in London. She was removed from a plane for smuggling clothing. She held a press conference claiming someone was trying to kill her. And, of course, she slapped a cop in 1989 when she was pulled over for driving on an expired license.

Zsa Zsa’s love for drama finally got her sued in 1993 for libel by actress Elke Sommer. The fight started when Elke Sommer said that Zsa Zsa had a big butt. Zsa Zsa retorted with a comment about Elke’s career being washed up. The lawsuit came when Zsa Zsa made some disparaging comments about Elke Sommer to a German reporter. (I was unable to find out what she said exactly. If anyone knows, please tell me.) The courts found in Elke’s favor and Zsa Zsa was forced to pay between 1 million and 3.3 million dollars. This forced Zsa Zsa to claim bankruptcy in 1994.

In 2002 Zsa Zsa was in a terrible car accident that left her partially paralyzed and wheelchair bound. She has not spoken to the press since the accident.



Vintage Culture

The PF Bloggers have decided to do a monthly group writing project. We decided to start off with our personal financial histories. We thought it would be a good way for our readers to get to know us a little bit better.

I’ve written several posts about things in my financial past that made me the way I am. You can read about my first financial memories and the money lessons I learned from my parents. This writing assignment had me scratching my head thinking about what else I could possibly say about my financial history. So I’ve decided to just talk facts.

My first job was at McDonalds. I was 17 and making $4.25 an hour. I remember working 41 hours and my check was $104. I was pretty excited about that! haha. But considering my monthly bills totaled $140 a month, it really wasn’t a bad paycheck.

For the sake of the article my next job was at a coffee shop. (I bounced around a bit between jobs, nothing worth mentioning) By this time I had moved out on my own and had about $4,000 in savings. At the coffee shop I worked for tips and brought home an average of $10 an hour. I honestly don’t remember much about my bills during that time. They were minimal. My rent was $425 and I didn’t have any debt whatsoever. Over the next 5 years I was able to bring my savings up to about $15,000. I was 23.

This is where it starts to go downhill. I would like to skip over the next three years but what can you do, that’s how life goes. I got pregnant with my daughter and looking back, the only time her dad and I got along was when we were spending money. I compromised what I knew was right in order to try to keep my daughter’s family in tact. Of course that couldn’t possibly ever work out. I started working at a bank earning about $30,000 a year. Our bills were still fairly reasonable but our spending was out of control. I kept quiet about things I disagreed with in order to keep the peace. When we finally separated my savings account was drained and I had $3,000 in credit card debt. Once I was on my own I was able to pay off the credit cards in about 6 months and began to rebuild my savings. I’m sure I will write a whole post about this time in my life someday.

It didn’t take long for my life to really turn around. Once I got my act together I got married, bought a house, and now have a good sized savings account. I was able to quit my job and become a stay at home mom.

Make sure you check out all the other PF Bloggers to learn about their financial history.

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds

Living Almost Large

Master Your Card

No Debt Plan

Our Fourpence Worth


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