Chapter 5: Open Your Eyes Before Your Wallet

To say that Red fought having to deal with her family finances is a huge understatement. But she finally summoned up the courage to start looking at their financial situation (well, maybe not so much courage as it was surrendering to Black's insistence) and slowly starts working her way through Black's six step "Where Is Your Money Going" checklist. As she prepares to tackle Step 4: Develop A Realistic Budget, Red gets to break some surprising news to Black about a fond childhood memory.

P.S. – Red rarely gets the "upper hand" in terms of her older sister, Black, and for it to be related to money makes it even sweeter. Yet, she'll admit that for all the enjoyment of getting to "break the news" to Black, she'd have been better off having the same childhood "punishment" as Black.


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io




OK. I'm ready to tackle Step 4. Is this something we can do via e-mail or do I need to come over and see how you do your budget?


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Here is where I have to say, "Do as I say, not as I do," because I have not done a personal budget in years. But I can remember my first one.


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You remember your first budget? You have a strange collection of fond memories!


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It was when Mom put me on a clothing budget. She gave me an amount I could spend every year and wrote it on a big manila envelope. Every time I bought something, I would deduct that amount from the total and put the receipt in the envelope. I always knew how much was left in my budget, so I never had to ask if I could buy something. Mom was brilliant!


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[Silence for 5 seconds, followed by a burst of laughter.] You're kidding, right?


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No, it was brilliant.


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No, it was a punishment! It wasn't Mommy's way of teaching you about money; it was her way of controlling you. She was tired of you constantly wanting to buy clothing, and so she did it to shut you up.


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Are you sure?


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io




Very. Mommy told me the story many times. You loved expensive clothing, so she came up with a number that was less than she was willing to spend and told you that was your "budget." I only liked cheap stuff, so she never gave me a budget.


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Then she did you a huge disservice, because whatever the ulterior motive, it was brilliant. Besides teaching me how to budget, it taught me to save for future purchases and motivated me to get part-time jobs in high school so I would have more money. Which all probably contributed towards making me feel comfortable with finances. I ended up being one of the few women in graduate school majoring in finance and spent the first half of my corporate career in financial planning and budgets.


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Fine. You live a charmed life! You're the only person I know who could turn a punishment into a career.


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But remember, I had no idea it was a punishment. Until today.


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Which I find hilarious. Especially since everything is usually so damn obvious to you.

Chapter 7: My Husband Gets In Hot Water – I Want To Make Soup!

When Red was in the midst of her crisis and trying to deal with seemingly every aspect of her life, it quickly became obvious that she had been living in an old-fashioned sitcom where life appeared to be perfect. Adjusting to reality wouldn't be easy (now, that could be a sitcom!), especially when one of the biggest adjustments had to do with what she viewed as one of her strong suits – people skills. More specifically, her relationship with her husband because Red's expectations of her husband and her marriage definitely weren't related to reality.

P.S. – Since then, Red has learned about how important it is to have realistic expectations in any relationship, but when it comes to spouses/partners, it's essential. And Black has (finally) gotten her to realize that you need to be honest with yourself (ideally about both you and your partner), so that you set your relationship up for success, not failure. But Red will add a warning … understanding the logic of this mindset and approach is much easier than accepting and implementing it. Although she'll agree with Black that it's worth the effort if it results in a more successful relationship.

E-mail From: Black
Subject: Perception vs. Reality
Sent: Saturday, February 7

Not really, or at least nothing that I know of. But our marriage is not paradise. I went into it knowing I had made trade-offs and compromises. And that is OK. I had no false expectations. But at times I have to stop and ask myself if either of us has changed or whether I have merely forgotten to adjust my thinking for changing circumstances. I always thought Larry and I had the potential to be great together. Not because we were a perfect couple, but because we were an imperfect couple that appreciated our differences.

But when it comes to you and Nick … the two of you need to face reality. Together. As a team.

By the way, how is your house-hunting going? That is a perfect place to start working together. And a lot more productive than wasting the afternoon online with me.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I found Black's comment about having a great marriage very interesting since I didn't think it existed in real life. However, her comment got me thinking that maybe my expectations of marriage needed to be adjusted to be more realistic. I guess I was thinking a great or even really good marriage was one where two people were perfect for one another. One where there were never any major issues that tested the relationship. One where problems had obvious and easy answers. One that ran on automatic and didn't require any special effort. OK, so I was living in a fantasy world. Nothing new there!

Chapter 7: My Husband Gets In Hot Water – I Want To Make Soup!

One of the hardest lessons Red had to learn during her crisis (partially because she was adamantly resisting it) was one that Black couldn't believe she didn't already know – that marriage (and relationships) isn't all flowers and romantic dinners, but is about teamwork, with an emphasis on work. As well as realizing that life isn't fair, which means teamwork can be 50-50 one day and 90-10 the next.

P.S. – Over the years, Red learned that the concept of teamwork applies to families, not just marriages. Although she sometimes gets so focused on the challenges of being a single mom that she forgets Black's analogy about teamwork. So, falls back into the habit of acting (remember, she was a theater major) the martyr rather than being part of a team that works together.



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… Stop complaining that your life is no longer perfect. Shut up, suck it up and work at it.


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Thanks for the sugar coating! And for the record, I don't mind the work. What I mind is that I feel like I'm the only one working.


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That is because you are doing more than you are used to doing and you do not think Nick is doing anything extra.


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True. And I don't think it's fair!


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Yes, it is. It all averages out. The first few years I was racing the Ferrari, my crew did not have to do much to the car on race weekends. Basically "nut and bolt" her, fill her with fuel, and clean the windshield. The car was new, I kept my nose clean and stayed out of accidents and away from the walls. Then late one afternoon I had a minor "sharing of paint" with someone, and they needed to stay late and work on the car. I apologized to the crew. My crew chief, Scott, explained that was their job. The fact that it had been easy up until then was fine, but they were always prepared to do whatever it took to keep my car racing. A marriage is no different.

Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I don't think you can compare racing a Ferrari to a marriage. One is an expensive hobby, and one is your life!
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Chapter 8: It's Time To Take Charge Of The Charge Cards

Red, the straight-A student who loves history, would normally love to engage in a conversation about history. But in the midst of her crisis, preoccupied with trying to deal with her family's financial situation, she didn't have the desire nor see the point in getting a history lesson. And from her sister, no less, who hates history. But that should have been Red's first clue that it would be very pragmatic, highly relevant, and "instantly translatable" to her situation and daily life.

P.S. – Black's history lesson would change how Red looked at credit cards, not only then but to this day. And based on feedback from others (men and women of all ages, and even students), something as unexpected as understanding the original purpose of those little plastic cards (and now mobile wallets, although we both still do it the old-fashioned way) can dramatically change one's perspective on how to use them.



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Quick call. I think it be might be helpful for you to understand the history of credit cards.


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What ever happened to "Hello?" I'm trying to come to grips with our own personal credit card history, and even that's more than I want to know. I don't think knowing the history of credit cards is going to help me deal with our personal dilemma. I'm not sure anything will help.


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I know you feel overwhelmed, and I have no desire to continually look backwards, but sometimes understanding history helps you. It did when we looked at the history of your spending habits.


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


It doesn't sound like you're going to drop this, so can you at least make it quick?
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