Sitting here in my livingroom this afternoon, on my comfortable couch (purchased at tax-return time at Ashley Furniture Home Store, a discounted floor model), and watching “Say Yes To The Dress” on my wall mounted flat screen (can’t remember the exact measurements, but it was another splurge that we made at tax time), I started contemplating money again.
Yes…money…they say it is the root of all evil (whoever they are). On “Say Yes To The Dress,” clients regularly spend several thousand dollars on one dress. One dress they will wear one day in their entire lives. Some of the brides featured on the show are on their second or third marriages, or are renewing their vows. Some have bought expensive dresses for their Quinceañera or for their engagement party. Some want one dress for the ceremony and one for the reception. Some even want three dresses!
I did not have a wedding dress. I did not even have a wedding. In 2004, then-boyfriend-now-husband and I had planned a wedding. Family purchased a corseted medieval style wedding gown on Ebay. We planned for black roses for the bouquets and costumery for everyone. I think he even wanted a kilt or something. We had a venue picked out, a party place in Altus, Oklahoma. But, again with the Robert Burns and mouse curse, because it didn’t happen. In fact, we ended up breaking up back then. And on other occasions too. We have been together on and off since 2003.
By 2007, I’d popped out a kid and caught him being unfaithful. Although, in his eyes, this rather corpulent African-American female was his “friend,” as was I, and neither of us women were his girlfriend, just as he’d justified quite a few other relationships he’d had with other women over the years I’d been with him. I’d had enough.
I gave him an ultimatum. Either he married me and settled down and we raised our child as a family, or he moved out of my apartment, got a bachelor pad, and was free to screw whoever he damn well pleased but never touch me again. If he chose the bachelor life, I wanted him to know that Luna would still be in his life. This was in August of 2007.
By October 31, I was thoroughly confused. He had seemed to waffle on whether he’d stay with me or leave me. He had even ordered some wedding rings off of an Irish website. Imported, silver, hand-made wedding rings, with a Gaelic hash-alphabet phrase meaning “love forever” inscribed on the top of the bands. But he was still talking to persons that I wished he wouldn’t talk to. And he was still acting the way he’d been acting…I wasn’t exactly being tough about my ultimatum.
A friend and former Job Corps classmate had moved into the apartment temporarily from New Mexico. That day, we took him downtown to, according to then-boyfriend-now-husband, show him the architecture. For some reason we ended up in the courthouse, to get out of the heat then-boyfriend-now-husband had said. In a blur I found myself walking with then-boyfriend-now-husband into an office in the courthouse, and him telling me to give the lady my driver’s license. I was wearing a pair of black maternity slacks, black flip flops, and a black t-shirt with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton torso on the front (a recent gift from then-boyfriend-now-husband). And I was getting married. And it was the most perfect way that it could have happened.
I didn’t buy a $3000+ wedding dress from Kleinfeld. I didn’t spend an equally extravagant amount of money on a venue. I didn’t plan anything. The only money exchanged was to pay the retired Methodist minister who performed the ceremony (this man hangs out at the courthouse waiting to perform ceremonies) and to pay for the marriage license. Add to that the low price of the rings, and we were married for well under $300. Our couch and TVs cost more than our wedding did. Our house cost much much more ($62,500 but worth $65,000, although with mortgage interest rates it’ll be well over $100,000 if it takes us the full thirty years to pay it off).
Honestly, I feel guilty when I make large purchases. I think of all the little things I might need in the future that the money could be going towards. I sometimes agonize after making a purchase. I’ve been known to return clothing, even if I needed it, because I felt that I couldn’t justify the expense. The couch was a necessity, but we could have purchased a used one. It was just that neither of us had ever owned a new one, not counting the futon we had purchased the year before which hadn’t taken long to look quite used. The TV was not a necessity, but in some ways it was a safety measure. Small children and easily accessible TVs don’t always get along with one another.
And really, the cost of all the electronic devices and furniture we have purchased in the last year is less than most of the dresses featured on that show. And these are items we are using on a regular basis. Sometimes I get upset with husband when it comes to money. When he tells me that we don’t have the money for that I want or need and he says that we would be able to afford it if I would get off my ass and get a job, I argue with him about why he felt the need to purchase certain things before that which were not needed and could be money in the bank towards the things I’ve brought up. I’ve pointed out to him, and to my imaginary internet friends, that my returning to work is not cost effective.
One thing that is both an asset and a problem in our relationship is that he lives in the moment and I am constantly dwelling on the past and planning for the future. If, on one payday, he has enough money after paying the bills, he will make unnecessary purchases that he hadn’t planned ahead for. Sometimes on himself, but also sometimes to be romantic and surprise me with something I’ve been wanting or be a sweet Daddy and surprise Luna with something. Then, another payday will come along where he has little to no money after paying bills, and he will argue with me about why I do not have a job.
I want to go to graduate school, but have yet to fully dedicate myself to this cause. I am torn between wanting to be with my children while they are young and wanting to avoid avoiding grad school. I know that, on some level, I am still young and likely have plenty of time for both child-rearing and education and career. But, on another level, I never can predict the future. If I don’t do it now, will I ever do it?
I know that with graduate school completed, I will be far more likely to bring in income sufficient enough to cover the costs accrued by going back to work. It is possible that I could bring in enough income now. Maybe I’m scared to try, or maybe I’m just being practical by considering the job market in my current community, a community to which we are bound because of our 10-year commitment to HUD for the down-payment assistance on the house.
The house is shelter, it is home, it is symbolic and real–it is an investment and a costly one. We will, over time, be able to renovate it. But right now I’m looking at flooring that breaks apart in the kitchen and hall bathroom, at carpeting that is covered with so many unidentifiable stains that I am beginning to think the plywood beneath it would be far more attractive, at a sliding glass back door that needs to be replaced (frame and all) for energy-conservation reasons…there are more repairs but I’d bore you to list them.
We are waiting on the IRS to contact us again regarding the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit we should have received last year. As it turns out, errors on their end have repeatedly delayed our paperwork. But it has been a week or two since they’ve received our most recent resubmitted documents via certified mail. Still no news. If they ever get around to cutting us the check, we are looking at $6,500 (10% of the value of our home).
There are things that we need to repair immediately and things we can wait to do, being of a cosmetic nature. But home repairs aren’t the only things weighing heavy on our fiscal shoulders. We have two vehicles that are just waiting for the wrong moment to break again. My ’94 Buick Skylark is the most likely contender this time around, since the engine block has been randomly shaking and there is a distinct odor when the car is just turned on or just turned off or is idling. Not to mention the need for both heater and air conditioning repairs (although I suppose I just did mention it).
When I discuss these concerns with various friends and family members, I often get the suggestions that I should take some of the more valuable items in my home and sell them to earn some quick cash. Or take them to pawn shop as collateral. The problem with both of these suggestions is that I am highly unlikely to recieve back the same amount of money that I had spent on them in the first place. And I would still want the items back in the long run. I cannot justify selling something that is new at an extremely depreciated value just because I’m currently strapped for cash, nor can I justify later paying twice for the same item.
I have been earning a very small and infrequent income for freelance work, but it is barely enough to meet my bank’s transaction requirements while buying small amounts of groceries or treating us to small luxuries like $0.50 candy bars on occasion. I am not complaining about the pay–I know I am just starting out and am not likely to earn a great deal anytime soon. But I can’t count it as a job that is going to help pay the bills or repair the house.
It might help if my bank wasn’t planning on charging me $5 for every month that I make less than 15 transactions without having direct deposit, but I refuse to pay for the privilege of using my own money. I wish penny candy was still a penny. I would go to the gas station on the corner and buy 15 penny candies one at a time to meet the transaction quota and spend no other money unless I needed gas in the car. But, alas, in most gas stations the cheapest thing one might find is individually wrapped gum for $0.25 or more.
Part of me wishes that I felt lucky enough to justify purchasing lottery tickets as one of my 15 monthly transactions. But I’m not prone to winning contests and would probably feel guilty for buying the tickets, especially if I didn’t even win the amount I spent on them. I could tell myself that I am supporting Arkansas’ college students through the scholarship program, especially since a relative recently received one of those scholarships, but I feel like I’d be doing more good if I just handed the money directly to a random college student or tried to convince one of the ladies in the UAFS business office to apply my money to a random student account that still had a negative balance.
Even though we need to fix the house, fix or replace the vehicles, put money back for later, and buy other necessities, I wish I could take some of the tax money and just do something completely irresponsible but totally fun with it. Something I’d likely agonize over for quite a while, knowing my nature, but would enjoy while doing it. So, today I looked on Expedia.com. Evidently, I could take me, husband, Luna, and the newborn to Dublin from Oct 23-Nov 7 for the low low price of just $3,034.01 (not counting passports and other international travel requirements)!
That seems like such an extravagant amount of money to spend on an unnecessary trip. And is unrealistic, given the ages of our children and the nature of husband’s job. For him to be gone that long he’d have to be on some sore of unpaid leave since he wouldn’t have anymore vacation time by that point. And sometimes Hell-Mart refuses vacations or leave of any sort during the “Holiday Season.” But, if we could do it, it would be awesome. I’ve never left the United States of America. Neither has husband. Which of course means neither has Luna or the baby that is yet to be born.
My real planish dreamy type thing is to attempt to set things in motion so that, come Oct 31, 2017, husband and I can be celebrating our ten year anniversary in Ireland. By then, Luna will be ten (gasp!) and the unnamed one will be seven (gasp!) and prices will have likely become super-inflated, so the trip would probably cost quite a bit more. But it would be a memorable experience.
In the meanwhile, I am going to try to stop myself from feeling guilty about the things on which we have already spent money and try to stop dwelling so much on money in general. husband will likely continue to spend money as he sees fit, but the bills will get paid. He hasn’t demanded that I hand over my freelancing income, but I would like to start earning enough with it that I could help out if need be, even if it’s just supplementing our grocery budget more. I am seriously considering making one of my 15 purchases at one of the Angel Food Ministries locations in Fort Smith. But I’m not sure which of the packages they offer I would prefer to get. And the pricing of the packages would mean that I’d have very little left to spend on other things. So I have to carefully consider my potential budget.
I suppose if I am going to make a living off of my writing I should spend more time writing, so I shall attempt to churn out new entries on a more regular basis as well as submitting other writing to other venues for cash flow. Thank you, imaginary internet friends, for taking the time to read and comment on my blog entries. I get a natural high each time I’m notified that I’ve received another follower or comment. I even enjoy responding to the obvious spam commentary. It is kind of funny to tell an anonymous comment-poster that I do not need Viagra, being that I am a woman, and that my husband performs quite well unassisted by such things.
Alan Jackson–They married young like folks did then, not a penny to their name, but they believe the one you vow to love should always stay that same[…]They made their house from a tool-shed Grandaddy rolled down on two logs, and they built walls all around it, and they made that house a home. They taught us ’bout good living. They taught is right and wrong. Lord, there’ll never be another place in this world I’ll call home.