So I play this fun little game every month. It’s called “Budget.” I try to see how I can stretch our dollars to pay our bills while leaving enough on the side for incidentals– you know– food, shampoo, toilet paper, gas for the car, and the occasional pair of shoes for the girls’ feet that never stop growing (I swear to God, this is getting a little ridiculous already!)
I sit down with my calculator, a blank piece of paper, and I strategize.
Okay, if I pay the car bill on the first instead of the eighth, I can push-off the annuities until the eighth and have a little extra spending money that week. Oh wait!
I forgot about Target. Damn Christmas– I used the Target card (or should I say I overused the Target card. It’s going to be a couple of months until I pay off this doozy of a bill).
Crapola— the car insurance is due in February. Okay, so if I push-off the electric bill a week, I can pay the car insurance there, and then the kids’ tuition on time.
Crap Damn It! I always seem to forget about Tom’s student loan. How do I always forget about a $393.00 bill? You’d think it would be at the forefront of my thoughts, but somehow, I always forget to write it down.
I erase. I cross out. I crumble up paper; I start anew. What I have found is that I never really can make this budget balance. Something pops up every single month that makes me postpone a payment here by a day or two, or pay bill there less than I intended.
I am expecting the water bill and the bill for the Emergency Room visit Lizzie had last month. Those will impact March. Heck, I don’t need to think about March yet. That’s like eons away!
“Mom, my dance convention is $200.00,” Carson says wincing. “I don’t have to go if you don’t want me, too.” She bats her eyes.
Crappity Crap Crap. For the last two years I have promised that she could attend Tremaine. I am not going to say no and break her little heart.
At this point in our story I hear my Dad’s voice: You spoil these kids. They have to learn about disappointment. They can’t get everything. It’s good for them to understand setbacks and life’s obstacles.
Hey Dad– You’re dead! Why don’t you let me parent the way I want? They are not spoiled. They are experiencing life. Not that I have to justify it to you, but they do know that no is no, but when I can manipulate no into yes, I see it as a win-win! Oh, and don’t you remember that you and mom handed me a car at sixteen and let me basically do whatever I wanted?
You know who was spoiled? ME
“Umm, the competition fee for March is $78.00. Oh, and the costume is going to be close to a $100.00.” This time, she does not wait for a response. She throws the grenade and exits the kitchen before I have a chance to explode.
I feel the blood racing in my veins. I feel my head popping off of my body and my limbs and intestines splattering all over the freshly cleaned floors. Am I dead?
How did I let her get so involved in such an expensive activity? But I cannot stop it– she is good, really good, and she loves it so much! She gets good grades, helps around the house, and watches her sisters. It’s not her responsibility to think about her sister’s basketball camp and the Girls Scout cookies and the field trips in May.
I take a deep breath. It’s just money. I said when I first had children that my goal was always going to be to make them well-rounded people. If that means taking three months to pay off Christmas so that they get to experience life, then so be it.
I can manipulate a budget with the best of ’em. Everything gets paid (most of the time on time).
FYI: I don’t know if you know this, but the electric, gas, and water companies do not charge late fees if your bill arrives a couple of days late. They’re not money-grubbing whores like the credit card companies. They don’t want to bleed you dry and then demand an extra pint from your next of kin. Nope. The utility companies are actually pretty cool– they put the needs of the people first!