Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crack in the Dam

As I shared a few weeks ago (has it been that long already? No wonder I can't keep houseplants alive!), Tom will start a "Real Job" in mid June at L3 Communications in Salt Lake City. The anticipation of a much larger income for the last half of this year is having a strange effect on me. We've long had a "wish list" that we write down the things we would like to own, replace, or repair, and note an estimated date for acquiring/doing that thing. For the last 4 1/2 years of limited student income (which has been adequate for our needs but didn't allow a lot of extras), we've amassed quite a long list.

The first item on the list: a commuting car. Tom's 1997 Ford Ranger pickup has 90,000 miles on it, and driving 100 miles round trip per day will drive that trusty little truck into the ground pretty quick. And since this gardener needs a way to haul her manure, that just cannot be allowed to happen. So, last weekend, we went car shopping. At a Toyota dealership. Because Tom has his heart set on a Prius - Toyota's sexy little enviro-hybrid car that gets 50-60 mpg. Since he'll be driving 100 miles round trip, it seems justifiable. Having the analysts mind that he does, he spent hours entering data into a spreadsheet comparing several vehicles as to purchase price, miles/gallon, an other costs.

Now I really detest new car shopping. I don't know many people who enjoy it. So for Friday's date we went to test drive a Prius. We walked in the sparkling glass doors, and no less than five 20-something heads turned and looked at hungrily at us, like jackals stalking a lame wildebeest. There was a bit of a rugby-like tussle as they contested for the honor of serving us. The winner had dollar signs in his eyes as he walked over with arm outstretched, smiling stupidly while welcoming us. We asked for a test drive, and he all but skipped as he went off to fetch the car.

We managed to escape Prius-less. Since we don't actually have any money to make payments just now, it was easy to withstand the hard sell. It was actually kind of fun to watch the poor boy deflate when we told him we didn't have any money and wouldn't until July. Hee hee! We've decided to make test driving new cars one of our date options. I think we'll try a Hummer next.

Also on the list is an upright piano, water softener system, water heater, new sofa set, upgrade the computer, upgrade & redecorate bathrooms, fix house siding, replace the broken garage door opener... you get the idea.

Now, none of these things is a "need". We have an okay electronic casio keyboard. The kids have learned to play on it, haven't they? We've lived without a functioning garage door opener for 10 months now. It's no big deal when I have one of the kids with me. Whoever sits shotgun gets the honor of opening and closing the door. They think it's fun. (At least some of them do.) We've made do with the ugly circa 1970 hide-a-bed couch given to us by my parents for the family room; it is so uncomfortable that it is actually a disincentive to television watching, which I think is a good thing. I worry that once we replace it with some overstuffed recliner capable sectional that we'll all turn into couch potatoes or some other brainless vegetable. Besides, I hate furniture shopping almost as much as I hate car shopping. And the water softener -- how important is it, really, to have baby soft clothes and uber-white socks? Soap scum comes off with a little vinegar and elbow grease, doesn't it?

So why are these things on the list? Wouldn't it be prudent to save that money rather than sink it into "stuff"? After nearly five years of pinching pennies, it's kinda hard to stop clutching the purse, you know?

I think I'm afraid to start spending money, because I may never stop. Already, just knowing that more income is on the horizon, the purse strings have loosened. I don't check prices as closely as I used to. If the kids want cookies at the store I'm more likely to say yes. I worry that I'll spend up a big chunk of the "extra" income and we won't have much left over after I'm done. It's a balancing act, and I'm not real confident in my equilibrium just yet.


  1. You will have to make Tom's spreadsheet available to the rest of us who will need to purchase another car in the coming year but don't have the skill set or desire to put in the time and calculation that he has. :) Is that cheating? :)

    Good luck with the extra income issue. I think it is one we all face. I know that I do. I wish I knew a solution though.

    By the way, I love it when you post!

  2. Thanks Jen, you are very kind.

    Dealing with extra income -- some trial huh? :)

    I am thinking of having the extra money auto deposited into a limited access savings so that the checking balance doesn't get too big. That will help a lot with the temptation... I hope.