One of my great joys in life is paying bills. For a man that is just this side of Amish, rejecting smart-phones, tablets, cable TV, and the like, I do it the old-fashioned way with a ledger, a checkbook, and a lot of stamps. At the beginning of each month, Beth and I make and agree upon a budget, spending all of our money on paper first. Then we work the plan.
While getting such a joy out of paying bills suggests that I’m a bit nerdy (true) and don’t get out much (also true), I’ve got some good reasons. Allow me to employ my persuasive essay writing skills from high-school with the following three well-thought-out supporting paragraphs…
First, it’s all about pride. It’s nice to be able to provide for my family and not have to rely on a government program to do it for me. When I pay the bills, I see the physical needs of my family being addressed, and as a man, that brings a lot of fulfillment.
Secondly, I have a healthy fear of debt. It’s no surprise that our adoption came with expenses with which we couldn’t keep pace. We got in the red a bit on that one, and we’ve not given ourselves permission to have too much fun until that gets cleaned up. When I pay those bills, I feel like we are getting ahead and moving closer to our goal. The thought of not owing anyone except the mortgage company is a bliss that can only be topped by not owing anyone including the mortgage company. Take it from someone who enjoyed that status from 2010 to 2012!
Lastly… errr… I guess I only have two well-thought-out supporting paragraphs. Sorry.
So it’s true. We work hard to pay our bills, to have integrity, and to get on more firm financial footing each month. We try to always keep our “eye on the ball.”
Back on track with my story… September started out like most any month. We planned our budget and Beth reminded me to budget for her adoption conference and our youngest son’s birthday. Aside from that, we didn’t have too many curve-balls that we could see.
Then the curve-balls started coming.
1. Beth went on her adoption conference, but at the last minute, her arrangement to stay with a friend fell through, and we had to pony up a good chunk of money for her to stay at a hotel. No biggie. That’s what an emergency fund is for, right?
2. The kitchen sink started leaking. As I was replacing the faucet, I noticed that the valves under the sink had bad O-rings, and I decided to replace them too. Emergency fund got pretty low, but still OK!
3. My Tacoma had a “low tire pressure” light come on. I, with my knowledge of the ideal gas law (PV=nRT), assumed that it’s just because it is getting cold outside, and cold air has less pressure. I aired my tires up, but it came back on again. The friendly people at Discount Tire told me that the tire sensor is going out and needs to be replaced. Withdrawal another $75 from the emergency fund.
4. (Before I say the next thing, I don’t want you to think less of Tacoma. She has worked hard for almost 7 years, and aside from oil, brakes, and tires, this is the first thing I’ve had to do to her for over 125K miles.) Tacoma started riding really rough towards the end of the month. My dad and I crawled under Tacoma and found out that he had a bad U-joint. After dropping it, borrowing my father’s truck, taking it to a dealer, and replacing all of the U-joints on the drive shaft, I had used all of the emergency fund and most of the pay-extra-on debt money.
5. Between all of the running around that occurred while we were putting out other fires, both Beth and I went over budget on gas, and the rest of our pay-extra-on debt money went out the window.
By the time we got to the end of the month, I was lamenting how everything went down. Since misery loves company, I stopped paying bills for a second and talked to Beth. Something I have clearly not learned in five years of marriage is that Beth is one of the worst people to have a pity-party with!
Here was my opening statement:
I get sick of doing the right thing. I haven’t bought anything for myself in over a year, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been to a restaurant over the past two months, and the highlight of my week is when I have enough loose change at the end to get a Mt. Dew out of the vending machines at work. We kicked our butts this month, and all we did was tread water. We didn’t get ahead at all. The only thing that happened is time passed, and we’ve got nothing to show for it.
To which, Beth gave her big rebuttal (pun intended to all my Sir Mix-a-lot fans out there):
Are you kidding?!? Your youngest son turned five. We were barely on U.S. soil when he turned four. We got to celebrate one year in the U.S. with our kids on Sept. 20. Our middle son accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and is getting baptized next week. The kids are doing well in school, we grew as a family, and we are blessed enough to be able to tread water. Some people can’t do that.
I started to return the volley, but she shot me down in mid-sentence with, “No Tyler. That stuff counts. That’s getting ahead too.”
I walked away mad because she party pooped my pity-party (re-read it slowly. It makes sense), but I realized she’s right. Obviously, this thing called life is what goes on while we are busy keeping our “eye on the ball.” Maybe that’s why Ferris Bueller said during one of his talk-at-the-camera moments, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Dang. Wisdom can be found in weird places: coming-of-age films from the 80’s and wives. Maybe that’s why God gave us both.
At the dinnermesa,