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Friday, March 1, 2013

Sequester, SeqWEster

Today, at some undetermined time, President Obama will formally notify federal agencies to get their sequestration on. That means they'll have to figure out how to do business in the face of massive, across-the-board budget cuts that are going into effect because Washington, D.C. couldn't find the time or the energy to work out a compromise. No one really seems to understand what cuts are going to happen when, but everyone seems to understand that the sword Congress put over its own neck is hacking away.

And you know what, Congress? I get it. I totally do.

Just eight weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated the New Year with some fermented grape juice and imitation crab meat. As we shredded bank statements and played pin-the-tail-on-the-mortgage-rate, we agreed that we should try to get our financial house in order. I mean, we have two young children, and it's only a matter of time before we'll be deciding which organs to sell so that they can go to community college and graduate without job prospects.

I thought the best way to add some good cholesterol to our nest egg was for my husband to ask for a raise. That would mean a bigger paycheck, and we all know what a bigger paycheck means: more taxes! But also, maybe, a couple extra bucks to call our own every pay period.

He was opposed to the idea. "No way am I going back to ask for more money!" he said, first in English, then in Spanish as if to reinforce his point (or punto). He kept on talking about "living within our means" and "doing less with less."

It didn't sound fun to me. I didn't like his idea about grocery shopping in our neighbors refrigerators, as I'm pretty sure they taught us in law school that that equals "stealing." I also wasn't 100% behind his suggestion that we turn off the heat completely and just wear more sweaters. We already live in a permanent state of hypothermia.

We were at a stalemate.

We got tired of going around and around the same conversation. We both had important things to deal with in our own lives. He had to do research on raising rabbits; I had to finish a book that was coming due at the library. We agreed it was time to put ourselves first, our family second or somewhere behind second.

To ensure that, at some point, we start thinking in family terms again, we agreed that on Valentine's Day we'd circle up and get down to budgeting. If February 15th dawned with no family budget, we agreed, then we would take drastic measures. We would go to, print a screen shot of our online bill payments, and let our preschooler cut a snowflake chain out of it. Whatever bills were legible on those snowflakes would be the ones we'd pay. The rest we wouldn't pay, and would therefore have to do without.

Well, let's just say we were busy. In addition to rabbit breeding, my husband had to learn how to trap a skunk in winter and how to shovel out from four feet of snow using a frying pan. I had to clean up my iTunes playlists and learn the words to every Grammy-nominated song. February 14th came and went.

Which means now I'm doing things like laundering our clothes in the ocean and bathing my children in the creek bordering our property (the water bill landed on the floor, and not the paper snowflake). Sadly, my credit card bill suffered a similar fate. My apologies to Amazon and its pending bankruptcy. Also, to my children and their pending iron poisoning, since all my husband buys at the market near his office is steak.

Life has taken on new challenges, and my chores have taken on a very "Laura Ingalls Wilder" tone. I believe we'll get used to it, though, and probably emerge the better for it. Or not. Whatever. It'll mostly be the kids who have to deal with it, and they already owe us big time for being born and stuff.

Plus, I know every syllable of every song from Miranda Lambert's Grammy-nominated album For The Record. It totally irritates my husband that he doesn't even know one word from "Home" OR "Over You." No one will ever be able to take that in-your-face, one-upsmanship triumph away from me. How do you like "less with less NOW, honey?!?"

Others may not understand what you've gone and done, Congress, but I read you loud and clear. I just hope the sequester doesn't touch YOUR federal salary, because you might be the only thing that's right - and hard-working - in government these days. Carry. On!

Image via The Daily Beast.

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