September 22, 2014

poor man's mantre

Whoever said, 'Money can't buy happiness,' was poor.  No other way around it.  I grew up comfortable.  There was very little we did without, unless you count our lack of high end clothing and expensive vacations.  We didn't eat out much either, or drive fancy cars.  My sisters were older than me, so I wore their ill-fitting, out of style hand me downs.  We traveled to some great places, but never sprung for an additional room.  Three kids slept on the floor of a crammed hotel room.  We had no problem sleeping because we were so happy to be out of our 1976 bright red, Chevy Impala station wagon, which we drove to our vacation spots.  Flying wasn't typically in the cards for us, nor was eating out at restaurants.  Our family was on the larger side, and my folks were savers.  We certainly weren't living pay check to pay check, but my parents were also very careful to remind us that money didn't grow on trees.

Coach and I do a decent job of providing for our kids.  He was a full time student when we got married.  Paying off my small, one bedroom condo shortly after we were hitched worked in our favor.  We consumed lots of pasta.  I shopped at the local Hostess outlet store.  My boss at the bank where I worked for awhile was stunned to learn that I purchased a loaf of bread for $.25.  He was on board to follow my shopping trend until he realized the product I was so proudly purchasing had reached its expiration date. Coach still caddied on weekends and juggled a part time job at Best Buy while I worked full time at crappy paying jobs to make ends meet and pay his tuition without requiring a loan.  I stayed home with Laddie when he arrived six months shy of Coach's graduation.  Those were lean days.  I became familiar with the garage sale circuit when Laddie was a baby.  Boasting of my weekend's finds became common place conversation with my close friends and my parents.  Moving out of the condo after Laddie turned one, we relied heavily on Coach's handy man expertise to fix the place up.  I appreciated the extra cash that I could make babysitting and dragging Laddie along with me.  Medical bills presented problems when Coach's student health insurance proved lousy at best.  Once he landed his 'real' physical therapy job, he added more hours at another hospital as a registry employee and worked weekends and holidays.  Bit by bit we became accustomed to being able to go out to dinner once in a blue moon.  Following in my family's footsteps, we piled into one hotel room despite the addition of more kids.  I potty trained the kids typically before they were two, and saved a bundle on diapers.  We finally had cable installed a few years ago.  I've mastered the art of cutting boys hair, and let's just say the girls' cuts are improving.  None of the kids have ever paid for a haircut, and Coach became my most regular customer shortly after we wed.  We scrimped and saved and sent the kids to Catholic grade school until about three years ago when we realized that we couldn't afford that luxury.  Despite Coach's salary improvements over the years, I completely avoid purchasing full cost clothing items when I shop.

Years ago, Coach was offered the opportunity to become a partner in the business.  We borrowed the money and invested in the partnership.  We paid off the loan in no time flat, and extended the partnership again.  These little incremental movements up the partnership ladder helped us to feel less like penniless adults with a houseful of kids to feed and more like a driven couple making sacrifices to improve their situation.  After years of decent dividends, eventually the partnership struggled to supply us with a great return on our investment.  This is when the kids switched to public schools, and I accepted a part time job.  Chalk it up to the many changes in health care in addition to adjustments in how insurance was paying claims.  Our quarterly disbursements became drops in a bottomless bucket rather than the constant answer to our prayers.  For a time a large expense surfaced, but the quarterly disbursement check bailed us out regularly.  Suddenly we could no longer depend on those checks.  We were far from splurging on expensive vacations, fancy cars, and full price clothes but between the house, the kids, and everything in between we were struggling.

When the owner of Coach's company recently accepted a deal for the majority shares of the business, Coach received a substantial check.  His portion of this business deal delivered us from the stressful life we were living.  How can you put a price on the ability to relax after 18 years of consistent financial strain and frustration?  What a relief to not constantly study the check book balance, or to periodically refer to the credit card statement online in hopes that it wasn't as high as last month.  Attempting to tune out climbing college costs didn't make the upcoming reality any easier to face either. 

Do you have a sniffer that senses something at times and you are transported to a different time and place?  There are smells now that remind me of my childhood.  I recall sucking in the air back around the time when I was learning to ride a bicycle.  These wafts of wonderfulness have taken me by surprise.  It was hard to put a finger on it at first.  What am I remembering?  It's a feeling.  Then one day I realized what it was . . . not having a care in the world.  That is the smell.  It isn't continuous, but it is present from time to time.  Now don't get me wrong.  I am not in a constant state of bliss.  I am the mother of six active children.  I am responsible for moving them from point A to point B, and feeding them before, after, and sometimes in between A & B.  Toss in heaps of dirty laundry, meal preparation, and a day that constantly fails to supply me with the hours necessary to get it all done and you will understand that life is hardly a walk in the park.  Still it's a walk I'd rather take without checks bouncing along behind me.  Life is full of chaos, but my mind is at rest more frequently now that our bank account isn't relying on an uncertain future of rubbing two pennies together.

So I have come to the conclusion that money does buy some degree of happiness.  Perhaps the person who coined the phrase was referring to millions of dollars causing life to run a muck.  That is a sum of money that I cannot comment on.  I may not have a million dollars, but I think my happiness still stems from  feeling compelled to search for a great deal at the mall verses sending someone else to purchase my clothes for me because I am too busy rolling around in my own piles of cash.  After all, some habits are hard to break.  Day old bread . . . now that, I don't miss.   

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