I find it difficult to budget our finances when we are living hand to mouth on a week-by-week basis. Since we've been living this way for the past 25 years, I have become an expert on how to accept what the realities of our situation. One thing that happens when living hand-to-mouth is that we eventually fall behind on our bills and someone's going to get paid late. We even factor in which bills get paid late based on whether they report our delinquency to credit agencies and how much the reconnection fee is. I know we are in deep when we pay our bill based on when they cut us off, not when it is due. That is the reality of living from paycheck to paycheck with nothing extra left over, ever. It is not a bad life though, so don't mistake my pragmatism for whining. I'm not whining, I'm just saying.
And therein lay the hidden burden of late fees and stupidity charges. For instance, I misread the parking-amnesty policy in my home town of Oak Park. I missed the part about how while it is okay to park overnight without getting tickets, that the policy does not apply to permitted routes, which is where I parked that one fateful night. It also happened to be the same night I borrowed my mom's car, and got a ticket on hers as well. That is a stupidity charge that I can't afford, but must. I usually forget about parking tickets for just long enough that they double in cost, I call that a Double Stupidity charge. My other Stupidity Charge already this year was from an online product order gone awry from gogopillow.com. On Dec. 17th we ordered what we thought was two of these items for a total of $40, which I was against, but I ordered them anyway. The website did not give me a summary page to tell me how much the shipping was, but it turned out I ordered 2 each of 2 models and paid $40 shipping in the process without any option to review the order before it was placed. They were supposed to arrive before xmas but came in a week after xmas. When we went to return them, they said they don't return the cost of shipping charges nor do they cover the cost of return shipping, which we argued and they said they will escalate it to management. But no guarantees. So we expect they will reject our claim for full refund and we will be out about $60 in shipping costs. I believe they intentionally design their website like that and then intentionally charge $20 shipping because they know people will return them and they still make $17 per order even if returned. The gogopillow.com website is intentionally misleading and I cannot be the first to go down this rabbit hole.
A late fee is a late fee, and I hate to estimate how much we paid in late fees last year, but it is likely well north of $1,000. My point is that between stupid things I do, online scams I fall prey to and late fees that I have no choice but to pay, I bleed money. Already this year, assuming this gogopillow nightmare doesn't resolve itself, and remind you we are only 1 week into 2014 and I have already laid out $120 in Stupidity and Late fees.
I can't escape the realities of today's economy, so I accept them. If it is this bad for my family to stay just above water, what must it be like for the truly poor. I can't wait to see how this works out in 2014, oh that's right... I can wait. It will happen. Stupidity and late charges are both good explanations of why we are always behind on our bills and at the same time, they are the punishment.
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