Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Great Christmas Cotastrophe of 2008

Every year near Christmas time, something magical happens. I'm not referring to Jolly Ol' St. Nick or his eight tiny reindeer - I'm referring to the financial crisis that occurs every holiday season just as we begin to buy gifts for people and each other.

Last year, the cost of heating oil was shooting up and up. I was forced to get a second job and pay for oil a hundred gallons at a time, because we had no money to prebuy and oil companies were refusing to do budget plans. My car needed several repairs and we had very little money to spend on Christmas. We persevered, however, and although it put us further in debt, gave each other the very best Christmas we could.

This year is a little different, in that Bear is taking care of the heating bill this winter. We're still buying a hundred gallons at a time, but the cost is less per gallon and still going down. We may sign up to do a budget plan at a later date. No, this year, we got a letter from the town saying that we haven't paid our taxes from 2006. 2006! The letter said we have until December 15th to come up with $1,200 dollars to pay the bill or they are going to take our house.

I didn't even know they could do that!

Our home is paid for - there is no mortgage. Our annual tax bill is around $900. Since we didn't pay it, fees and interest brought the bill to the $1,200 we now owe. I just about fell down when I read the letter. Normally I wouldn't open a letter addressed solely to my husband, but this time I did. I was glad I did. I was sorry I did.

You see, I leave it to my husband to pay all the bills from the town - taxes, sewer, and water. These bills are some of "his" bills. I tend to pretend they do not exist. He doesn't pay my credit card bills, cell phone bill, or internet bill - we divide and conquer. I have a terrible tendency to ignore what he is and isn't paying until I cannot any longer (like the time the Satellite Dish was shut off for nonpayment, or the time we got a letter from the town telling us they were going to shut our water off in 24 hours if we didn't pay immediately). Is this tax bill Bear's fault? Yes. He chose not to pay it (for very good reasons, I am sure). But is it also my fault for ignoring bills that affect me, too? Yes again. I should have checked, asked, investigated ... and I didn't.

We paid what money we had on us, and are now left with a bill for $850. All the money that was going to go to Christmas gifts for Bear and I will go to this bill, as well as money usually spent other places. We're getting rid of the satellite dish (what good is a dish with no house to put it on?) We have just under a month to scrounge up the rest of the money. We can do it, but it's going to be tight. I am so pissed at the both of us - Bear for not paying this bill and myself for not asking him about it, that I'm ready to say a big "fuck you" to Christmas this year. Seriously - what's the point if there are no presents to give? We will of course be taking care of our extended families, but for us, there will be no presents under the tree. And maybe that's the way it should be; maybe we need to see the bare, uncovered tree skirt, and allow it to remind us that presents are only good if you have a house to open them in.


Anonymous said...

That sucks! I can't believe they threatened to take the house, just like that. Seems a bit extreme. There is no way they would work with you, a payment plan? Wow, I'm so sorry.
Don't blame yourself. I tend to do the same thing with bills. I let David handle them, but when I notice the basket filling up, I have to step in. It makes me so mad when he just doesn't do it. Having said that, I definately don't want to take it over.
I hope you find a way to make this work. Christmas presents, even little ones, will keep you in the spirit. Plus, knowing you and Bear, you will find a way. I just wish you didn't have to deal with the stress of it all around this time of the year!
Take care of yourself.
P.S. Loved the dog link!!!! Made me smile.

Fox In Detox said...

Wow...that really stinks. I feel for you. I have similar cash crunches at the end of every year, but since I live alone, I always have at least one present under the tree for myself. Even if I have to make it with my own two hands...which sometimes ends up being better than anything I could have bought myself.

Heather said...

Cheryl - That's what really sucks - the town flat out refused to make any kind of payment plan, as the foreclosure in an automated computer thing. If we had asked to do that a few months ago, it wouldn't have been a problem. And why send notices right before Christmas? We are in an extremely economically depressed area, they KNOW how tight money is for people this time of year. It sucks, all around. Thanks for the support - you AND Fox!

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Taxes suck no matter how pays them or when they get paid. Hate that you guys have to deal with this during this time of year.

Hang in there.


Alice said...

Oh, honey, I'm so,so sorry. This just stinks. I wish I had an easy answer for you. I know it doesn't make you feel any better, but since I took my job at a non-profit, I haven't had money to buy Christmas presents for my family. And it really sucked. But you know what? I've learned Christmas is really about just being together - and like Cheryl said - even the little gifts mean something. Don't beat yourself up over this. We've all been there before. Trust me, some of us more than once. I know y'all will figure this out. Try to take care of yourself in the meantime and know that you've got a group of people out here who care about you and are praying that it all works out for you.