In my last post, I responded to a question I saw in a Shabbat leaflet. It dealt with a woman whose husband opposed her buying a new dress for her sister’s wedding. I raised my concerns over the potential red flags of such a situation – namely, financial helplessness and covert abuse – and one reader suggested that I might respond to the woman by writing to the newsletter.
Well, I did it. I wrote to the editor, and today I received a response, along with a copy of this week’s leaflet, in which my comment (abridged for reasons of space) and their answer appeared. I’m copying and pasting their answer here.
“Thank you for your comments! Financial abuse is not only extremely harmful, but can be used as a tool to trap a victim in an abusive relationship. As with emotional abuse, financial abuse is generally not about a specific situation. In most relationships, there are periods of financial stress wherein the couple must reduce their spending or make other decisions and adjustments.
However, with financial abuse, the abuser usually wants to control, manipulate, trap and dominate the other person. Some examples involve controlling the victim’s acquisition and use of money and assets, preventing the victim from working, putting the victim into large debt and/or ruining their credit, creating legal issues for the victim, controlling all the spending, refusing to work, withholding basic needs and hiding assets. Even if they are only using one of these tactics, their behavior may still be financially abuse.
While there may be indications of possible abuse in the woman’s question, it might also be simply a tight financial period. A good idea, as you mention, would be for the woman to know the finances. Her husband not agreeing would be a red flag. However, assuming he agrees, she should also participate in financial decisions, hopefully lessening her resentment.
Shalom Bayit (for my non-Jewish readers: this refers to marital relationships, literally “peace in the home”) counseling is delicate. The goal is to bring the couple closer while also being attuned to the individual needs and vulnerabilities of husband and wife. Before introducing a label such as emotional, verbal or financial abuse, it is important to gather as much information as possible.
Targeted questions, involving the subjects mentioned above, will enable both the counselor and the counselee to understand whether it is abuse or not. If a person feels their situation might be abusive, they should speak with a professional who can help them assess their situation and move forward with a healthy, successful and normal life.”
I have just a few words to say in conclusion. First, I appreciate the editor’s attention to my concerns, and I am thankful they chose to give space to the subject of financial abuse, often subtle and not enough recognized in Orthodox Jewish circles. I also agree that it is impossible to find out, just on the basis of what we know, whether the writer of the original question is going through financial abuse or just a period of financial strain and faulty communication.
However, there is one thing I just wanted to note: “If a person feels their situation might be abusive” may be hard to pinpoint. Many people live in a financially abusive situation for years without being aware of it. They might feel it’s normal, or it may happen so gradually that they look back one day and realize they have given up all their financial freedom and capability.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just that I hope people will gain more awareness of financial abuse. A couple of years ago, a few Israeli Knesset members tried to pass a law that would protect victims of domestic financial abuse. I am sorry to say that Orthodox and right-wing PMs were the ones who stopped this law from passing. They ridiculed the suggestion of giving more legal protection to financial abuse victims and claimed this law “interferes in family dynamics.” I found a brilliant article that discusses it here.
Also, for whoever is curious, the leaflet that prompted me to write these last two posts is Living Jewish.
A question that appeared in one of the Shabbat leaflets I read: “My sister is getting married. I want a new dress for the weddin, but my husband says we can’t afford it. He manages all our finances so I kind of don’t know if it’s true. What should I do?”
The answer (in many more words) was approximately, “Try to explain to him how important this is to you, but if he still says no, submit to his opinion.”
Oh boy. So much to unpack here. I see at least two big problems with the situation above.
I don’t know the financial situation of this family and I don’t know what type of dress she wants to buy. If it’s a super expensive designer dress, then maybe “can’t afford it” is a thing. But if she just wants something new to wear, she can find cute dresses at about $50.
And if she has to ask permission to spend $50, then, Houston, we have a problem.
Whether she works and earns money or not, if she and her husband are on a footing of a daddy and his teenage girl who’s begging for some spending money, it’s not a real marriage partnership. When two adults are married and manage a household together, neither of them should beg and plead to buy a dress or a pair of shoes.
Does this husband, I wonder, consult his wife when he buys a new toolbox or a gadget for his car? Somehow my guess is that he doesn’t. So that’s the first problem.
The second, and perhaps more serious one, is that she has no idea what goes on with their finances. She doesn’t know how much money they have or how much is too much to spend.
Maybe she entered this arrangement willingly because she doesn’t like to handle money, finds bills and taxes tedious, etc. Entirely understandable. But this, again, puts her in a childlike position, depending on Daddy’s discretion.
The other possibility is even more sinister. This woman may have been manipulated and gaslit to such a degree that she no longer trusts her judgment regarding whether their budget can support a new dress.
Either way, I think the advice she got was stupid and dangerous. It confirms her situation of dependence, and it ignores the very real possibility of something bad going on.
If I could speak to this woman, here’s what I would say: it’s totally normal to have role division. It’s normal for one spouse to do the lion’s share of bills and bank account statements. But since you are an adult, you should still have at least some idea of your finances and how much money you have in the bank. Otherwise, you are making yourself extremely vulnerable in an event that, say, the husband gets sick and can no longer handle the finances.
Second, if you can’t spend $50 at your discretion, raise a giant alarm, because something here isn’t right.
This sure has been a crazy summer so far. Between tons of work and lots of projects around the house, I also try to do fun stuff with the kids and work on my own projects (specifically the upcoming sixth and final volume of Frozen World). And, by and by, I watch everything get more (and more, and MORE) expensive.
I mean literally everything. Electricity, food, public transportation, gas. I know it’s like that all around the world. Though I had taken on extra clients and more work, it’s not enough to compensate for the absolutely outrageous costs of living (and by living, I literally mean just that: a roof over your head, food to eat, keep the lights on).
Sometimes, I feel like shaking a fist at Global Economy and saying, “You ain’t getting my hard-earned money!”
Luckily, I have lived through Shoestring Budget Bootcamp which involved zero income, young kids, and limited access to basic facilities. I figure that, for many of us, it’s time to get back to basics and tighten those belts.
It starts with nonessentials. While I have argued that being too frugal can actually keep you stuck in poverty, when retailers and service providers are literally trying to rob you, it’s time to examine what you can live without. I believe in the consumer’s power. If we buy less, prices will drop, or corporations will go out of business.
My favorite way to cut discretionary expenses is to avoid going into stores. I know that all my willpower fails when I face a great deal on craft supplies, so I just dodge the temptation. Same goes for online stores (sorry, Woolstack!).
You can also save on:
Food: Cut the prepackaged foods and go with what’s basic, cheap, and healthy. Mix meat with beans and rice to stretch it. Try growing your own vegetables, stock up on long-keeping goods when you expect prices to rise, and consider keeping some chickens if your local regulations allow it.
Electricity: This one is tough. We live in Israel, and summers are hot. However, I try to be extra mindful of any AC units working needlessly (this usually involves peeking into any room my kids have exited). There are also long stretches in the afternoon when it’s not that hot outside anymore but the house radiates accumulated heat. Spending these hours out of doors helps cut electricity costs.
Transportation: We now pay an arm and a leg for gas, and local public transportation is undergoing a “reform” which essentially means you pay more unless your whole family uses buses and trains often enough to justify a monthly plan (spoiler: few kids do). So we’re falling back more and more on the old-fashioned form of transportation called walking. I try to merge several errands in one trip to save both time and money.
Second-hand: I love hand-me-downs and thrift stores. You can find excellent quality clothes, furniture, and household items for a fraction of the cost. Of course, it’s a matter of luck and it’s not as convenient as hopping online and just ordering whatever you need.
Entertainment: Luckily, no one has yet tried to make us pay for walks, local hikes, hanging out with friends, making dinner a picnic, or borrowing extra books from the library.
I’d love to hear how everyone is coping with the rising prices and what strategies you have adopted to live well during tough times.
It’s summer! Time for lemonade, popsicles, and crochet with warm-weather yarns like cotton and silk.
My latest creation, this spider stitch crochet bolero, was made following the charts here, but with a simple shell border. The beauty in crochet charts is that, if you read them, you can totally transcend all language barriers for so many gorgeous patterns.
This was my first time making a clothing item that isn’t worked top-down. This pattern calls for making the individual pieces (back, front, sleeves) and sewing them together. It was intimidating for me at first, but I was so pleased with the fit that now I want to make another one! It’s perfect for wearing over summer tops and dresses, and the pattern works up super quick.
I used Elegant Metallic Cotton by Ice Yarns, in light blue. My daughter chose this yarn for its pretty metallic sheen, but let me tell you, many times throughout the project, I was ready to throw down my hook in frustration. This yarn has a unique texture, almost braided-looking, and the individual threads kept snagging and pulling. It also has practically zero stretch and works up pretty stiff.
If I had to do it again, I’d recommend this yarn for projects like bags and totes, and use another type of cotton yarn for this pattern, like Camilla Cotton Magic.
Ironically, right after my last post, which talked about how to use stretches of low-intensity time productively, a heap of Things landed on the top of my head. Tons of work. New clients. Sick kids. A house in shambles.
So let’s flip the coin. How do you cope when there simply aren’t enough hours in a day? Everyone has their tricks, but here are mine:
#1. I get up early. And I mean, really early, like when it’s still dark and the roosters are crowing. I know, I know, I’m not really THAT much of a morning person either, but I figured out my day is a lot more productive if I get the most difficult tasks of the way before the kids are even up. Which brings me to…
#2 Save your productive time for the important stuff. If you know that your energy and concentration ebb in the afternoon, don’t plan anything big for that time of the day. Complete the large tasks (whether it’s major work assignments or cleaning out the refrigerator) in the morning. I allot time in the afternoon mostly for mindless stuff like picking up around the house and maybe some admin tasks.
#3. Get the most out of your time. We all know what this means, right? Set the phone aside. No quick peeks at social media. No glimpses of the latest yarn arrivals at Woolstack (guilty here). And no hopping between tasks – if I’m writing an article, I don’t stop in the middle to answer an email (unless I’m convinced it really can’t keep an hour!). I don’t answer most phone calls, either, because an interruption of even a couple of seconds gets me out of the loop and makes me spend more time on whatever I’m doing.
#4. Get enough sleep. I don’t always follow that rule to the T, I admit. I used to work nights after the kids were in bed, but I don’t do that anymore, because I realized my health and sanity pay the price. If you overdraft on your “sleep batteries”, your brain becomes sluggish, everything takes more time, and eventually, you have to take a nap. I’m typically in bed by 10 p.m., which allows me to feel rested and ready for another day by 5:30 or 6 a.m.
#5. Reevaluate. How much of the strain is temporary and unavoidable, and how much is because of choices? I had to let go of clients and pare down some other commitments because they didn’t work into my schedule. Living under constant stress is unsustainable and not worth it.
Every freelance writer knows that workflows can (and will) shift. One day, you have a steady trickle of work. Then you’re buried in an avalanche of projects that looks like it will keep you busy until next year. And a month later, you sit around wondering where your next gig is coming from.
I’ve been a content writer and editor for several years now, and I’ve mostly been very, very lucky to find extremely steady, reliable, and reasonable clients. Still, like everyone else, I get my highs and lows. Sometimes I put my foot down and say my work-at-home-mom schedule is as full as I’d like it to be, and sometimes I apply to new job listings.
When you’re sending applications and work/money isn’t coming in as fast as you’d like it to, and the electricity bill is due this week and your kids have outgrown all their shoes, it’s easy to panic. So here are my top five tips for those slow days/weeks.
#1. Don’t panic. Remember the time when you started from scratch? It was probably more difficult than whatever you’re facing now. If now you have a portfolio of work and some experience under your belt, you’re ahead already. Jobs are out there. You just need to land the right ones.
#2. Budget. It’s tempting to splurge when you’ve made a bundle on a big project, but if you have an unstable income, the smart move is to lay aside as much money as you can every month. You can also implement two types of monthly budgets: one for lean months, and one for periods when you can allow yourself some more financial leeway.
#3. Do useful stuff. Brush up on your resume. Make or update a spreadsheet of your earnings over the past months. Set your office in order or even give your house the nice deep clean it has been desperately needing. Vacuum your car. Take care of all the little things you never have time for.
#4. Expand your knowledge. Niche writers are in high demand. If you take the time to dive deep into a specific topic (whether it’s cryptocurrency or herbal remedies), you may gain an edge over your competitors. There are free courses you can take to learn more about interesting stuff you’ve always wanted to explore.
#5. Do your thing. Enjoy some peace and quiet while you can. Go on a hike or a picnic with your kids. Dig into personal projects, like getting your garden in shape or repainting your kitchen cabinets. During my latest slower period, I was able to finish editing and (finally!) publish my new historical fiction novel, Queen of Ophir.
Finally, it may be time to sit down for a re-evaluation. If waiting for work and juggling clients is too stressful, maybe you should look into a position that is less flexible but more secure. But that’s probably a topic for another post.