Weathering the Storm Together

Another hurricane thunders across the Atlantic toward our little fishing town in South Carolina. Most everybody else’s immediate concerns include the shelves empty of bottled water, the limited number of sand bags, and the price of plywood. But I can’t help but think about our finances.

How much work will we miss?  Is the gas going to skyrocket?  How can we afford to buy extra supplies when we are already maxing out our weekly budget?

And then my husband calls me and asks me to add batteries to the list of hurricane supplies.

“Really?” I retort.  “Do you know how much batteries cost?”  Not only is there a storm brewing in the ocean, there also seems to be one brewing in our home.  “We have candles,” I reply with frugal resolve.  “People lived for centuries with candle light.  I’m sure we can make do with candles.”

Here’s where my husband and I differ. I see it as unwise to spend extra money on a storm that just might destroy everything we buy in the first place.  But my husband sees it as a necessary investment for the wellbeing of our family.  I can see his side.  I honestly can.  But I cringe nonetheless as the receipts stack up for extra water, canned goods, medicine, gas, and, yes, even batteries.

Now it’s true that we both are very careful and attentive about our finances.  I wouldn’t say that either of us are big spenders or even frivolous spenders. But the contrast in our approaches is enough to get some high winds blowing in our relationship.

Last year it was Hurricane Matthew.  I remember that dreaded feeling of anxiety as our family slept together in the hallway of our house, the wind stomping the roof above us like a drunken monster.  Victor and I didn’t sleep a wink, as we watched the doors to the bedrooms, wondering if we had done enough to secure the windows.  Our two children slept like angels between us, convinced that this was the best “camp out” ever.

I worried about more than the windows that night.  I worried about paying off the new bill I had just created on the credit card—a bill I wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t purchased D batteries and a generator.  I had already been out of work for a week prior to the hurricane because of flooding.  Of course, Victor was aware of all this as well.  But there was no use in bringing it up.  Why conjure a relational storm when we already had our hands full with the real deal? The fact was, Victor was right.  There are just some things you have to buy to prepare for a storm like that, whether you can afford them or not. 

I think the coastal storms and our attitudes toward finances have a lot in common. Everyone knows the basic make up of a hurricane.  You have these massive whirling walls of storm on the outside and the peaceful eye on the inside.  I remember thinking about all this as Hurricane Matthew swept by us.

In the middle of the night, we experienced the outer wall of the storm.  It was long, dark, loud, and scary.  But the eye passed over us just as morning came.  It was surreal.  There was blue sky again.  A gentle breeze.  And life felt safe and happy.  But it was brief and then reality hit again with that last outer wall.

Our dealings with money are a lot like a hurricane. Worrying about finances can feel like a foreboding storm. If we let it, the stress of it could break things, including the people we care about most.  Like the storm, my outer wall was whirling and churning and getting dark and scary as I focused on my concerns about our finances.  I could have made it a lot worse by arguing with my husband about the spending.  Lashing out like a rogue wind would have hurt him, not helped the situation.  But since we didn’t argue about it, we were able to experience a little reprieve in the eye of the storm.

Sure, Victor understood as well as I did that we did not need to be taking on these extra expenses right now.  But he saw the bigger picture of necessity.  Those extra expenses were doing a pretty good job of keeping us safe that night.  Sure, the last outer wall was bound to pass over us again when the credit card statements rolled in a few weeks later.  But thank goodness that there are kind hearts in this world. Nearly everyone that was expecting money from us allowed extra grace periods for those of us struggling to recover from the storm.

As I write this, my husband is boarding up the windows again.  This year’s version of oceanic terror is called Irma.  We’ll see what kind of fury she brings us.  I spent more than I wanted to preparing for her.  I’m not happy about that, but Victor seems to be.  But I’m not going to make a fuss about it like I have in the past.  I trust my husband’s judgement about how we need to use our finances to keep our family safe.

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