I just did the math. This household pulls in about 126% of the U.S. poverty level for a family of this size.
In Southern California.
So, no, I can't come to the lake to celebrate summer with you. I'd love to, you're good friends, and all of my other friends will be there. But I can't pretend that it's even possible for me to keep up with that and still pay the bills that need to be paid. Yes, I know it's only $20 to get in, plus the $30-$40 worth of gas (the van is a gas hog, and that's why it stays parked most of the time these days), plus the food and drink for the barbeque - that's easily between $80 and $100 total for a day out. I'd love to go. It hurts that I can't. I hate having to see that look in the Banshees' eyes when they realize they are going to get left out again. But I have lived with the aftermath of living up to and a little bit over each paycheck, hoping to get caught up with everything on the next paycheck, and I have to say that being on a first-name basis with bill collectors is not worth it. I can't lie to myself. Nothing will get better if I do.
So no, I'm not being a cheapskate. Yes, it really is that bad. EB is having a birthday soon and I'm facing up to probably not being able to get her a present, or if I can, it will be a little token present and nothing like what she really wants. That hurts even worse than not being able to get to a picnic by the lake. She's trying to give me the money she got for Christmas. She wants to help. That makes me want to cry. She shouldn't have to worry about this.
There will be food on the table. The bills will be paid and the lights will stay on. It's just that there isn't anything left over for - well, for anything.
And if I think about it, if I let myself think about it even a little bit, every once in a while - it hurts.