Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fixing the Family Budget

As an adult, I've never really enjoyed writing fiction. I only feel confident writing what I know, thus the birth of this blog.  But today, I want to give fiction a shot. Meet the Patrick family:

Somehow, the Patrick family found themselves steep in debt.  A big house payment is about to come up, and they have no way of paying it.  The leaders of the family feel financial ruin on their fingertips.

Each parent has been avoiding the problem for years.  Awhile back, Mama Patrick tried to stop her husband from applying for a new credit card, but he shook his finger at her and told her, her frugal efforts were ruining the family image.  He needed the card to purchase an alarm system to protect the house they couldn't afford, how dare she try and stop him.  In essence, she was jeopardizing their safety. The blame was more than she could bare; she lost the courage. Even worse, a year or so later she herself took out a new credit card.  She used hers to buy some of their less popular children new clothes and other things she felt would help them find part time jobs.  Maybe if they could stand up on their own feet, the family situation would brighten.

But now it's come to a point where the problem must be solved.  The bills must be paid.  So husband and wife join each other at the kitchen table, ready to talk about possible solutions.

"Susie has enough of her own money saved up to pay for her cheer team expenses.  Maybe we should stop helping her and let her pay for it herself?"  Mama Patrick suggests.

Her husband responds with a fierce "No!"  He explains his rationale,  "When she began cheer we told Susie we would help her, and even though she has the money to be on her own we need to keep helping her.  After all, having a daughter as head cheerleader reflects well on my image with our wealthier neighbors.  We must continue to support her."

Mrs Patrick expected this much from her husband.  She knows Susie is his favorite child. Reluctantly, she concedes.  There are other things she can get Mr Patrick to agree on.  Reading her mind, he asks, "How else can we cut back?"

"Maybe we could stop eating out as much.  Or we could stop letting our leftovers go to waste, instead we could pack them for our lunches the next day."  She pauses, to think of more wasteful spending.  "We really only need one vacation, not two.  We could cut back there." Her husband seems satisfied, but she knows she needs to offer up more sacrifices.   "Well, Thomas didn't grow at all this last year.  I suppose he doesn't really need new school clothes.  He can wear the same ones he wore last year.  And I don't need to visit the Dr anymore.  My breast cancer is all cleared.  I'm sure it won't flare back up.  We can save if I stop going to the Dr for my check ups.  Vanessa doesn't really need braces.  Her smile is just fine the way it is.  I'm sure there are other sacrifices we could make.  Timmy could wait till he's 20 to go to college.  He doesn't need to go right at 18."  

Mr Patrick likes what he is hearing, he's felt for a long time that some of the more burdensome members of his family could cut back on their excess living.  They don't need to live like he and Susie do.  "Well, when can we get all this started?" he asks.

Mrs Patrick hesitates,  "Well, I'm willing, and the kids are willing, to make these sacrifices honey.  It's just that,"  she stumbles a bit, knowing this next part will upset her husband, "Well, ever since you stopped working 40 hours a week we've . . .  you see, we just don't think your working 30 hours a week is financially sound.  We think you should go back to 40 hour work weeks.  We lived better off your 40 hours."  At the sound of this, her husband stands up and begins to leave the room.  She quickly grabs his hand.  Desperately hoping he'll listen to her rationale.

"If we have more money coming in we could use it to pay off debts.  We just need the same amount of money we had coming in a few years ago, before all this debt trouble started.  Look we'll all agree to stop spending so much, but we want to know you'll make your own sacrifices.  We need to work on this together."

But it's of no use.  Mr Patrick has already walked out of the room.  He promised himself, and his country club buddies, he'd never work 40 hours a week again. He intends to keep that promise, no matter the damage it inflicts on his family.

The problem is, he doesn't have a good back up plan.  He doesn't know how to hide everything he owns from the repo man.  He'll just leave the whole sticky situation up to his wife.  He knows she'll do anything necessary to save the family, even if it ruins her life.  As long as it doesn't ruin his, he could care less.

Mr Patrick has until Aug 2nd to prove what kind of family man he really is.  

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