February has not been a good month for me. Between loss of wages and dealing with unexpected expenses, I have been struggling a lot. I haven’t wanted to sit down and write this, because it’s been causing me a lot of stress. But I’ve shared my financial wins with you, so it only seems fair to share my losses too.
My first challenge has been that I work in retail. Everyone in this industry knows that the winter months are slow. Our belts tightened and hours reduced a bit across the board. I didn’t feel the impact of this change too deeply, because up until fairly recently I was only working 4 days/week. Going back to 32 hours for a month or two was expected, and my budget was based on that income level to begin with. What I couldn’t plan for was having a snow day nearly once per week so far this year. The snow is falling once again, and there is a real possibility my employer will decide to close tomorrow if it gets bad again.
While I appreciate their concern for safety, these are unpaid days for retail employees. And this winter has delivered exceptionally bad weather here in Nova Scotia. Missing so many days while already on a reduced schedule has eaten up all of the buffer in my cashflow. I am now officially living pay cheque to pay cheque once again.
I know we are all feeling the crunch right now. We are experiencing inflation – especially at the grocery store and gas station it seems. At the same time, most of us spend a lot more in the winter months to heat our homes, which is no less true for me this season. Such a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.
Despite some challenges, I was staying on top of things for the most part. I never fell behind on a bill, although I did have to pull out my credit card to gas up before pay day. As I always preach, keeping my core expenses low makes it possible to stay ahead when things get tough. I was keeping a very optimistic mindset, knowing that I would have more work in March and I would get ahead of my expenses once again.
Then, on my day off last week, my family got ready to run an errand in the car. I managed to get out of my parking spot with no trouble (after having gotten stuck on more than one previous occasion) and pulled on to the plowed road. Something immediately felt off. I couldn’t accelerate past 20 km/h and the car felt stiff. I turned at the next corner to get off the main road and out of the way of traffic. This side road was still snow packed and the car started to feel normal again, until I made another turn. Now, I’m still a new driver, but my experience has been a bit of sliding or jerking on ice, and immediately regaining control. But not this time.
With my partner next to me and my 3 year old daughter in her car seat behind me, the car spun 180 degrees and my heart leapt in to my throat. What a terrifying moment! We exited the car to assess the situation, and saw clearly in the snow that the rear passenger wheel was dragging along while the other wheels turned. I drove back and forth a few feet while hubby watched and sure enough, that wheel wasn’t moving. The brake had seized.
Luckily there is a garage right near where we were, so we left the car with them and walked home. It was easy enough for them to unseize it, but the rear breaks would need replacing. Once it was raised up, the rear axel revealed rusting beyond repair and would also need replacing. We’re talking about over $2000 out of nowhere. It felt like a punch to the gut.
To be fair, our car is an ’08 and was gifted to us. I had every expectation that we would have to put some money in to it’s maintenance and repair. It just really sucks that it is so much money at such a bad time for me.
While we wait for the part to come in, I have been taking the bus to work and back. My commute was on public transit for many years and I never complained. But now my spoiled self hates every second of it. It takes twice as long, only runs every other hour and makes me feel car sick. But at least I can still get to work. I feel inconvenienced, but not screwed at least.
In terms of the money for the repairs, I’ll make it work. I will pay for it all with my credit card, get some cash back, and pay it off within a few months. It’s not ideal, but at least I have the ability to cover it. This is what credit cards are for and why I will always have them available. I can make an emergency purchase that I can’t really afford today, and prioritize paying it off as quickly as possible, without putting the rest of my household expenses in jeopardy. Had this happened two years ago, when I had no available credit, I would have been completely out of luck.
I still feel satisfied with using my credit card as an emergency fund in these circumstances. A small amount of interest will accrue for a couple months until it’s paid off. And I’ll still be ready for the next emergency. Such is life. Dealing with unexpected expenses will always be part of it, but having a plan and funds available allows me to keep my head above water at the worst of times. I’d love to read your positive comments below to help ease my pain.