New Reality Television Show: Paycheck to Paycheck (P2P)
Seriously. If you see this on Bravo or Discovery Channel in the next few months, you let me know. Because this is totally my idea.
Here's the premise: focus on a couple different families every week. And you know what? Make one of them a financially comfy family, the other one a family that knows how to do the paycheck-to-paycheck two-step. Give them a paycheck to live on. I guess I haven't really thought out the details because I have no idea how much to pay them. But give them the paycheck, give them bills to pay for and kids to spend money on and groceries and gas to buy.
Basic rules are: You don't have credit to fall back on when you run out of money. You must pay for all essential items: housing, utilities, food, etc. Extra points or credit (haven't thought of a scoring system yet, either) for creativity...stretching the budget, finding a way to raise extra cash, etc.
I would dominate on this show.
I'm finally getting to the point, financially, where I have a few good weeks here and there, when I'm left with a little sumpin' sumpin' in the checking account at the end of the day. But I don't let it go to my head. I don't have a savings account, I don't have a retirement account or a 401k or anything fancy like that. Those are things I lost in my divorce, and those are things I hope to have again, someday. Until then, I am the Queen of the P2P (what all the cool people call living paycheck-to-paycheck).
I have been in pure survival mode since October 2008, and although I've become used to it, I pray the day never comes when I am comfortable with it. Being in this mode, this "we just have to get through the next month, the next week...the next day" mode, it is a scary way to live.
Scary, yes...but damn if I haven't honed my survival skills to a razor-sharp point.
I have a few friends who have danced to the P2P music, of course I will never share their names but suffice it to say, that old adage of misery loving company is true. I knew I loved one of these friends when she laid the truth on me one afternoon: "Paper towels are a luxury item". We cackled as only people who understand that sentence can.
Not to say that living the P2P lifestyle is one of misery: it's not all that bad. One good thing about living like this is you become almost hyper-aware of the absolute GOOD in life. There's nothing like circling the drain to make one appreciate the little things. And I mean the little things, trust me.
Living like this has taught me how to be flexible, how to make sure the essentials are covered. It's almost like managing to use that last tiny chunk of butter in the dish to cover your toast. Is that toast going to taste as awesome as it would with a big ol' slab of buttery goodness? Nope. But by God, it's buttered.
I have learned which bills can be paid a few days (or weeks) late with little to no consequence: AT&T will just send you gentle reminders for 17 days. After day 17 though? You pick up your phone to gab one day and find yourself sans service. I always pay the biggies right on time, though: the rent, the electric bill, the gas bill, the internet bill. Most of those I have taken directly out of my checking account so there's no possibility of forgetting or taking my chances. My garbage hauler will let me coast for a month. The water bill from the city, they'll let me have an extra month or two as well. The same friend who spoke the gospel about paper towels also turned me on to the fact that if you use your Target RedCard (I have the debit version, which takes the money right out of my checking account), it takes a few days to go through. Which comes in handy when it's the 13th and the cupboards are bare.
I can hear some whispering: "But Jenny, you are damaging your credit by paying anything late, don't you know that??". Dude, I declared bankruptcy. It doesn't get much worse than that. I'm probably not doing myself any favors by paying a few things late here and there, but that's how it goes.
Today is the 14th. I get paid tomorrow, and it's coming just in the nick of time. I got an email telling me that two of my kids need money in their lunch accounts. Henry has a retreat at church this upcoming weekend that isn't free. AT&T just sent me another friendly text, reminding me "your bill is ready". I want to text back, "My checkbook isn't."
But back to the reality show. Doesn't that sound like a doozy of a show? It would be kind of like that show where people live like Laura Ingalls Wilder for a while. Only P2P is a condition that exists today, and it is something that millions of your fellow citizens experience every day.
I mean really, in a country where we tune in to watch an entire family of vapid brunettes who are famous for being famous, a gaggle of pretentious botoxed and siliconed middle aged ladies bitch about everything and everyone, and where we have made knocked up teenagers celebrities, wouldn't a show like this almost feel like a breath of fresh air?
I also thought about a show called "46 and Definitely Not Pregnant" but I don't think that would fly. And although "Keeping up with The Hausfrau" has a nice ring to it, I doubt the sight of me going through my Netflix queue and refreshing Facebook on any given weekend would be very riveting.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go pay my phone bill. Because I'm sure the people from Bravo are going to be calling soon.
Posted by the_happy_hausfrau at 3:50 PM