Writing my last post for Almost Frugal was one of the more difficult things I’ve done in the last few months. For the most part, the AF community was supportive and encouraging, and I want to thank you for that. It’s not easy to hang yourself out there and lay your personal failures open for all to peruse and pass judgment.
But I knew I couldn’t get off scott-free. Abigail over at I Pick Up Pennies picked my post, and pretty much eviscerated it on her post: A bankruptcy story… redux. I hope you don’t mind if I do some clarification and rebuttals here. Go ahead, read her post. I’ll wait. 🙂
True confession: my first thought after reading Abigail’s post was “Woman, who peed in your coffee?!?!?” I was steamed. After about an hour of “I can’t believe she said that!” and thinking of interesting ways to get revenge, I understood. I’ve been in her shoes. Passing judgment on people’s financial mistakes, grouching about how I was forced to pay a higher interest rate on my credit cards because of people like them.
What she was saying wasn’t anything I hadn’t said about someone else.
When we bought our first store and got the mortgage for our house, we truly couldn’t have had better credit scores. Our decision to purchase the second store when the first store was sliding a bit wasn’t a good decision. True. However, there aren’t many opportunities to purchase D.omino’s franchises, the store was in an adjacent town, the price was low. It seemed too good to be true. In hindsight, it was.
When you make a business decision like that, it’s almost always a step of faith. Yes, there are no guarantees. Abigail, the nonchalance you intuit in my post is there. I’m married to a very headstrong man, I was saying the same things you said to him, but his focus was only on the store, he was going to make this store succeed at all costs. After a year of arguing bitterly about the personal credit card checks he was writing to cover the payroll and rent and other store expenses, I threw up my hands. I love him dearly, and married him for better or worse, but I had no control over his drive.
(In hindsight, I’m very glad he did. Our flagship store is doing okay, and our future with D.omino’s looks moderately bright despite the crappy economy and the complete saturation of pizza joints in our town. We may only ever be owner/operators with one store to our names, but we have our health and sanity, praise God.)
I guess my comments about the trustee having nothing to liquidate and my wistfulness for at least a happy memory of a vacation with my family was out of line. Not that we’ve ever been extravagant, but once we saw that we were sliding down the slope towards bankruptcy, we were especially vigilant about our purchases. I’m grateful I can look back and be glad I don’t have unnecessary purchases to feel guilty for. I never would have taken that vacation, anyone that knows me would be able to vouch for that.
Harassment by collections. Yes, Abigail, I stand by that terminology. Harassment. Collections agents are the jackals of the financial world, and they will stop at nothing (including complete disregard of their rules and regs). I’ve been called at all hours, belittled, called names and cussed at, made to feel just this side of suicidal. In the beginning, I tried to explain. We had no income. The store was barely staying afloat. Blood from a stone, and all that. There was no talking to them. Nothing like being called a “deadbeat” when I can’t afford to buy groceries, let alone pay back what should rightfully be a business debt and come out of the business account. I DID try, in the beginning. Then I just stopped answering the phone. Yes, I’m a coward.
A few words about the credit counseling class. I don’t ever want to “sneer” at the chance to learn something new. And I thought, and still think, the class is a great idea, covering the basics so hopefully the individual can pinpoint their mistake(s) and never go there again. But it was very one-size-fits-all, winding its way from “what is a checking account?” and “what kind of life insurance should I have?” all the way through the importance of emergency funds and how to rebuild your credit (?!?!?!?). No, my chief complaint was that we had to sit through this 2-hour PowerPoint presentation covering mostly basics, and my husband and I were the only ones in the classroom. When I explained our situation to the teacher? proctor? (she certainly wasn’t doing anything but reading the slides for us, as if we were too stupid to even put consonants and vowels together to form words), she just gave me a blank look and continued to read. Like an automaton. Then we started feeling a little patronized.
And, as a final point, Abigail mentions my “glib” attitude about our whole financial history. I don’t want to pull the dead baby card, but it’s relevant here. Once you lose a child, things that would at one time put you into full-blown crisis mode tend to roll off. Very little of what you might experience that would have previously knocked you under, i.e. bankruptcy, foreclosure, business failure, will ever compare to that pain. Ergo, I am glib.
Abigail, I’m assuming you’ve never walked the hell that is financial meltdown. I pray that you never do. Bankruptcy was our last and only option. Yes, absolutely, we took on all the risks involved in buying a small business. However, we never expected to crash and burn this badly. Yes. I choose to look at my future with rose colored glasses. It’s not like I can look back at my past and be proud of what happened. The most that I can do is learn from my mistakes so that I do not repeat them, and share them with you all so that hopefully you never have to tread down this path.
And, as promised on Abigail’s blog, stay tuned for future posts where I walk you through my personal hell for your entertainment and pleasure, and hopefully for your education (here’s to praying this isn’t something you’ve already experienced firsthand).
Kelly says: I asked Emily to become a full part of the Almost Frugal team in part because of her having lived through a bankruptcy. Her story is so different from mine in so many ways that I really draw inspiration from it.
And one more note from Emily: If you’re considering saying something derogatory about Abigail or her opinions, please think first. She is entitled to her say as much as you or I or anyone else. She was expressing her opinions based on a lack of information and a perceived poor attitude in my original post. I am grateful for her post, if not for it I never would have thought to clarify or quantify my words otherwise. I hope you’ll take a moment to thank her for stepping up and saying what’s in her heart. That takes courage.