Christmas of 2009 was bleak.
There’s no other way to describe it. We were newly bankrupt, having lost every single cent we’d ever earned. The loss had started the year before when the Global Financial Crisis destroyed the property market. My husband was just starting out as a property developer. Like most developers starting out he’d used our home as a personal guarantee to secure the loan to fund the development.
When property prices crashed, we lost the development and then very quickly our home, forcing us to move closer to where my family lived out in the ‘burbs in what we dubbed our “crappy rental”. We were in purgatory, victims of an economic crisis we had done nothing to create. We were sore and sad. We were jaded.
However when you have children, you can’t be sore, sad and jaded for long, particularly when Christmas is approaching.
At the time our children were aged five, 22-months and six-months. It was my five-year-old who forced us to celebrate Christmas. He was aware of what Christmas was all about, he knew Santa would bring gifts and he had absolutely no idea what had happened to us. All he knew was that we had moved so we could live closer to his cousins. He was happy to be living in a house, after having lived in adjoining units previously.
Money was incredibly tight but I was proud. We were both working by then, earning as much as we could, but we were weighed down by joint personal debts that didn’t form part of my husband’s bankruptcy and they had to be paid. I used to sit down and review our finances a minimum of once a day. Everything had to be budgeted for and accounted for. Every dollar had to be stretched.
It was hard.
My family would visit, bringing bags of groceries I was so ashamed to accept but too desperate to reject.
May 15, 2009 was our first official day of bankruptcy. I was determined to celebrate Christmas that year and put away as much money as I could, even putting away food items I knew I could use that Christmas.