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The Great Big Juggle

In a land long ago, back when I was 19 years old, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches almost everyday in order to save up for an apartment of my very own. At that time, I lived with my then boyfriend and his family. It was awful and I had to get out. It took me about 6-10 months to save enough money for a decent security deposit, first and last months rent. It was the most money that I'd ever had in my natural born life and I earned it on my own. After a lot of footwork and a money order for the amount of $1875, I was awarded a cute little place on the Upper West Side. However, I did this with no real adult skills and ended up living from paycheck to paycheck monthly, with the constant threat of being without electricity or potential eviction. Needless to say, anxiety became my best friend around every thirty days or so. After being on my own for a few months, I got comfortably uncomfortable with my then great big juggle of work, school and promoting/clubbing (which I stopped shortly after I started). It was a hustle that brought in no money, but allowed me to party for free, except for food and dranks. I thought that this was real life. It took me almost a year and personal lessons to learn that it wasn't.

I was a little reckless in my youth. One thing I did was ruin my credit with the help of one Mandee's credit card. I received a pre-approved letter in the mail for about $200 worth of credit. I was in college and didn't realize that credit card companies targeted students. I thought to myself, "Free Money, cool!" I filled out the application and mailed it in and within a couple of short weeks I had a shiny new Mandee's card with my name embossed on it. It excited me and I decided to take myself shopping that weekend. I deserved it. I was an adult. I spent the entire $200 on fuzzy pillows, picture frames and silly clothes that I couldn't wear to work or school. Then a few weeks later when the bill showed up in my mailbox, I stared at it for a short while and kept it moving. Paper statements became calls and calls became threats. I didn't mind and neither did it. It was now a part of my CREDIT HISTORY. In fact, it was the only thing on there for years. Which looked terrible, because surely, almost anyone can pay off $200 worth of credit. Alas, I did not until I needed good credit for things such as actual life and I just couldn't do it because no one with good sense would trust me. At that point, I had no choice but to clean it up just so I could start from square one.

The first time that I realized I needed credit, was when everyone was getting cellphones. It wasn't necessary before, but in 1999 or 2000 it kinda was and if you didn't have one you were lame. I didn't want to be that. So, I went to Sprint and said, "I'd like to get a phone". I was given the standard phone contract and an application which I filled out and was quickly DENIED. I was sad. However, they did offer me a prepaid option. I took it, but went home and started the process of paying Mandee's which required me to get my credit report. This was back in the day, when I couldn't just magically get it for free online. I had to call Experian and speak with a representative (while feeling ashamed) in order to receive a report in the mail. The anxiety of waiting on it was huge for some reason, at the time it could only be compared with waiting on a Pap Smear to come back from the doctor. About a week or so later, I had it. There wasn't much, just all my information a credit score of about 500 and Mandee's. Long story short, I paid it and learned through the grapevine that it would take seven years for it to disappear. I decided not to check my credit for the next seven years. It was a silly way of handling the situation. However, I can only tell you what I did. I decided not to accrue anymore credit and therefore, debt. If cash couldn't buy it, I wouldn't have it. That worked for me. I missed out on a lot.

Fast forward some odd years later, I got up the nerve to check and it was still there. I was told that I would have to call or write an apology letter to Mandee's and they'd in turn ask the credit bureaus to remove it off my record. THEY DID! I was so pleased. I vowed never to make that mistake again and I didn't. I now check my score regularly.

What does this have to do with juggling Jas?

I'm getting there peeps.

The thing about life, is that it keeps right on happening. So during those years of waiting for my credit to clear...I went to and dropped out of school, luckily I never took out any loans. Therefore, there was nothing to pay back. I always had a very decent job that I was pretty good at and loyal to, in return I continued to receive my salary. I also met Sir, had a child, he bought a house and we got married. My credit bounced back with good behavior, but all the while there were schedules and bills. Constant bills. Oddly enough we both worked in finance. Sir as an executive and I as an assistant. Yet, we still couldn't get it together. He made lots of money and spent lots of money. This did not apply to me, because I made far less and spent accordingly. Two polar opposite lifestyles under one roof. Odd, I know. We always shared the bills even though we didn't have any joint accounts. He handled the mortgage, his car note, his cards, dry cleaning and his lifestyle. While I took care of all household expenses, my car, my cards and my lack of a lifestyle. Never the two shall meet - except paying the nanny, which I needed in order to go to work. I literally rushed there and rushed back in order to take care of our boy daily. I didn't miss a beat and didn't miss a day. This was far, far, far tougher than it sounds. People hear nanny and think, "Please, that bitch ain't got my worries." I assure you I did and still do. There are levels to everything. Also, I didn't want to send our son to day care until he was able to audibly tell me everything in words that made sense to adult humans and I shouldn't have to if my then husband was making six figures.

Through it all, I was always good at sitting down and writing EVERYTHING out. Every month, I'd take pen to pad and write down a list of the expenses that needed to be paid. Every single one, even the big bills that scared me (e.i.: taxes). I learned from a very good friend of mine when I was pretty young, to split my pay into four - pay myself first, pay bills next, save some and then keep a small amount for entertainment. It's been a while, but I think those were the rules that I abide by.

To keep it a hundred percent honest, there were plenty of times that I wasn't able to pay myself nor save a dollar of what I made. Most of it went to bills. Entertainment was scarce after a while, unless Sir was treating. And I've never been the type of girl that had to have my hair and nails done. I could do it myself for as long as it took to remain in the nice stride of the great juggle. In addition to paying bills such as gas, electric, phone, cable, ADP, car note, insurance and my share of child care; I also had to worry about things like daily transportation, gas for my truck, laundry, groceries (keep in mind we were young, Sir was popular and we always had guests and or parties that I rarely spearheaded), and to top it all off there was baby stuff. This included frequent trips to Babies R Us for formula, diapers (I was so happy when he was out of pull-ups at 3.5), clothing and sometimes toys. Add to the list we usually had other people's children at our house. So you multiply one baby by about six. Yes, I shopped for an army weekly. Sir had a lifestyle that I did not. He could afford it, but I couldn't. So I always had to be cognizant of that and put myself on restraints and boundaries. It was hard for our friends to understand, but as long as I did, I didn't care what others thought. There were many trips that I didn't go on because I couldn't afford it. Forget trips, there were many parties that I missed out on, because that meant spending extra money on a sitter that I just didn't have. And if you know me, you know I'm not asking. I didn't mind staying home most of the time so it was a win...well, kind of, not really. But I got to spend a lot of time with my son and that was all good.

The juggle would stay the same for years at a time and then switch up to the point where it would almost throw me off completely. Things would happen to cause a monkey wrench in my routine, like parking tickets, baby showers, 10,000 kiddie parties, weddings, deaths, moving, divorce...L I F E.

After spending twenty-two whopping years in the juggle of life, I now have an easy stride and with it, I've implemented some rules so I don't have a mild or major breakdown at any given point in time. Although, I've had many adult tantrums along the way, I try to stay the course with these ten self instructions.

1. Make sure your home is in order. Clean it daily. If I'm going to worry about a hundred things, the least I can do is give myself a healthy clean environment to do it in. If I wanted to throw an adult tantrum, the floors would need to be clean enough for me to adequately roll around on them and cry.

2. Keep a journal of your bills. In a world of electronics, this task has become easier for many. I'm sure there's an app for it, but I like to see AND feel things. I'm old school, I keep a bullet journal with pages, I also keep an electronic calendar for when things have to be paid.

3. Pay everything on time! Or as close to it as humanly possible. I break my payments up bi-monthly. I pay the heavy hitters on the first and all the mild things on the 15th.

Heavy hitters: Rent, car payment, lights... Mild things: credit card accounts, cable, my son's allowance.

4. Save money. I started out by saving all my change one year. Then I graduated to saving a dollar a day another year. Then I started saving according to the week in another year, $1 for the first week, $2 for the second, $3 for the third...$52 for the fifty-second week. This upcoming year I'm doing something more special that I'm not prepared to speak on. My son caught on to the saving bug as well. It's a great feeling. Also, if you borrow from yourself, pay that shit back! Keep a 401k and MAX it out if you can afford to. If not a 401k, try a Roth IRA or something equivalent.

5. Save on entertainment and look for inexpensive or free activities. There has been plenty of times that I've had to cancel vacation plans because it is just not affordable. IT'S OKAY! There is plenty of time in the future to plan something spectacular. This will be a little hard when you see friends going on family vacations to just about anywhere. Just remember that you can do it. Sometimes it pays to chill for a bit. Also, if you have any rewards points on travel...this is where it comes in handy. Otherwise, you are not missing out. The world can wait.

6. Stop over splurging on the little things. Don't be afraid to bring your own breakfast, lunch, or dinner to work. Even if it's coffee. If you enjoy getting a mani and pedi once a month, save your coins for that.

7. Keep in mind that as your kids get older, they are more expensive. They will need things that you are not even thinking about, so save money for them as well. While we are on the topic, think about saving for your children's future. Open a 529 savings account. This will help you save for their college. If you can afford to, aim for setting up a trust for each of them. This has been on my goal sheet for the past eight years and I KNOW I will do this for my boy soon.

8. Don't wait until the last minute for A N Y T H I N G. Nothing! Pay for it when you get it. Work on it when you receive it. Read it thoroughly and sign it whether it's a school trip permission slip, picture day form, or a contract. Read that book now. Don't wait. You may need information from it. Do yourself a favor and save yourself the headache of waiting.

9. When the big bombs come along, try to remain calm. Remember that this too shall pass. I know that's so cliche, but it's true. At some point it will be time to go to bed. Don't ruin things on the way there. If you receive a bill from the IRS (aka Big Papa Pump) in the mail when everything is going right, telling you that you owe $1000, panic and then chill. Call them in the morning and work out a schedule that is comfortable for you. Slow and steady wins the race. Don't think of the problem in a whole. Think of it in steps. Take one at a time until the problem is over and you've accomplished completion. This can be applied for other things as well. Insert problem and tackle in very small easy steps.

10. Reward yourself. While you are busy being a good human, people will not always be there to pat you on your back. Know within yourself that you are doing an excellent job. Whether you are only able to reward yourself with a trip to the movies or a trip across the seven seas, do it. You deserve it.

Keep juggling...soon you'll be able to set all of your objects down and marvel at what you were able to do. Be good to yourself, so you can be good to others. Also, teach what you know to your kids, to friends and family. Help make a more stable juggling environment for you.


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