Today’s excerpt is from the fictional tale: Financing Your Life—The Story of Four Families Taking Their Financial Lives Out of the Red and Into the Black. In this excerpt, we see tension mount for a young couple, Blake and Christine, who are trying to save money to buy a home—but aren’t doing a great job of it.
Blake and Christine
Buy Now, Pay Later
By the time Christine got home from the mall, she’d decided it was best not to mention her purchases to Blake. I’ll just deal with it when the American Express bill comes in.
As Blake drove home from sporting goods store, he had the same thought. He left his bags in the car, deciding to take his purchases up to the apartment another day.
The following month when the American Express bill arrived, Blake was the one who opened it. “Four hundred and fifty dollars? What the heck?” Blake felt his stomach twist as his eyes frantically scanned the page to see how the balance had gotten so much higher than he’d anticipated. “Davis Sporting Goods, okay. That’s right. And … Stargate Plaza? I never went to Stargate—Christine!”
Christine ran from the kitchen into the living room, concerned about the tone of Blake’s voice and thinking maybe he’d hurt himself. When she saw him sitting on the couch with a copy of the American Express bill, her legs felt weak. Her words came out rushed and almost fearful. “I just needed some new stuff for work. I went in to get some pants and they were having a sale, so I thought it would be a good idea to stock up … I was going to need them anyway.”
Blake barely glanced up from the bill clutched tightly in his hand. “This is practically all of what we have in savings. This wipes out a month and a half of work.”
Christine walked forward and grabbed for the bill. “What do you mean, all of our savings? I only spent, like, $200. Four hundred and fifty dollars? Where did this—the sports store? What were you doing there?”
Now it was Blake’s turn to talk fast. “I needed new running shoes and they were having a sale so … I stocked up.”
Christine and Blake stared at each other. Each was angry at the other, but before they allowed the waves of anger to wash over them, they reminded themselves that this wasn’t so much righteous indignation as it was a hypocritical anger, since they’d each done the same thing as the other.
Christine handed the bill back to Blake. “Well, I guess we don’t have a choice here. We have to move the money over from savings and pay the bill.”
“It’s going to take us months to put that money back, just to get to the same place as we were. This feels useless.”
Christine sat down next to Blake. “It isn’t useless. Look at our debts. With the exception of this American Express bill, all of our credit card balances have gone down pretty significantly over the past four months. That’s a good thing.”
Blake threw his hands up in the air and clapped them against his thighs. “Please—we just barely paid off the expenses from your friend’s wedding. And what’s going to happen in another two months when we get tired of trying really hard? Are we going to ruin that by splurging? How are we going to avoid having this happen again?”
“I don’t know, Blake. I guess we just have to make sure that it doesn’t.”
Blake rose and paced around the small living room. “But that’s what we were supposed to have been doing this time around already.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say. It just started to feel like I had no freedom. Like I wasn’t even an adult. It’s not fair that I have to work so hard and I can’t even go get a cup of coffee. I feel like we should be able to buy things. Like, how come all of our friends can go out and buy cars and homes and have babies and we have to live in this crappy apartment with this old furniture? We can’t even go out for a cup of coffee?” Christine’s face reddened. Tears threatened to slip over her lower lid and cascade down her face.