I have probably heard that phrase about a million times.
And not once have I agreed with it.
Oh, okay. To a small extent. I believe that it is more important to have love and good health than to have money. But money helps. A lot. A fucking lot.
I grew up on a working farm. We always had enough. I never had to go hungry or wear clothes from Goodwill. (If I didn't want to...my mother did believe that Goodwill was just a store to get really good bargains and I agree with her sentiment. One of my favorite Mary Quant dresses was purchased for six dollars at Goodwill.)
When I went on to college, things were fine until I came out to my mother. And then she stopped paying for college, for everything. I was disowned. I lost my inheritance and my family until she died when I was in my thirties and then my sisters and I decided that we didn't want to be without each other anymore.
But during that time from when I was 23 until I started my career, I knew what it was like to go hungry. When I finally finished school and was able to get my first paying job at the age of 28, I was hip deep in student loans, owed nearly 30 thousand dollars. I had lived in an apartment that had iffy heat, a hole in the kitchen floor that looked down into the apartment below me, and windows that I could not open because as the landlord told me, "They'll fall right out in the yard, sugar."
I worked in the hospital cafeteria every morning and could eat breakfast there and then I would steal anything usable from the trays that came back: uneaten rolls, unopened cereal boxes, carrot sticks. I also pocketed apples and oranges from the fruit basket whenever I could. That was my lunch and even my dinner if I could swing it. I had always been sort of scrawny. Now I was just scrawnier.
Literally ALL of my clothes were either scrubs or from Goodwill. I owned one pair of jeans. One pair of sneakers. It was not uncommon for me to just wear scrubs all of the time unless I was going out on a date or someplace special. My friends were usually in the medical field too, so we all went everywhere in our scrubs and it was not a big deal.
I worked weekends doing tarot cards in a restaurant. This enabled me to actually get a clientele of fairly wealthy older women and Daddy's little girls who paid me well to read their tarot cards privately. I was never sure if I believed in the cards or not, I just knew that I had a talent for reading them well. At the restaurant where I worked, the owners gave me this Stevie Nicks get up to wear so I didn't have to worry about wearing my scrubs to read cards.
I got by. By the skin of my teeth sometimes. I remember well that I had to give up lots of concerts and movies because I simply could not afford them. This enabled me to bone up on my flirting skills. If I had a date, he or she would usually pay and I admit to occasionally dating someone whom I didn't like that much just because they took me to nice restaurants and movies. I often volunteered to take tickets at the door of college concerts and would then get to see some absolutely terrific college bands for free. For the larger concerts, I was on a waiting list to usher and if a regular usher got sick, they would call me. I got to see Bon Jovi, Counting Crows, Poison and Bruce Springsteen this way. I actually got to meet Jon Bon Jovi, who not only shared his tuna salad sandwich with me, but helped me shove a bottle of wine into my big hippie purse to drink later. And he kissed my cheek. Twice. Not bad for a pauper girl.
Eventually, money became less and less of a problem. I was able to pay off my student loans. I bought my first house. I not only had money in the bank, I even had an IRA. And a savings account. By the time Liv was born, I was doing just fine. Her college fund was started when she was still enroute via womb.
Now, I can't complain. Bing and I both have steady jobs although I make much more than she does and that seems almost unbelievable to me since the truth is that she works much harder than I do, much longer hours. But, she is a teacher. Enough said. She supplements her income by playing as many music gigs as she can. She has a reggae band, a jazz band that she plays with regularly and she occasionally plays with the symphony if their regular percussionist can't do a gig. She does lots of church gigs, weddings and local musicals at the playhouse.
The rest of our money is pooled together in one account. We share. The topic of whether to have our own accounts has been debated more than once. I tend to spend more on clothes than Bing does. I admit to liking my Ferragamo shoes, my Chanel suits and my cashmere. But, since I contribute more, she doesn't have much whimpering room. Aside from clothing, we both are pretty good at penny pinching, although Bing is slightly better at it than I am. If I want to go see David Sedaris (and I did) and the tickets are 60 bucks a pop, I just buy them. I'm not going to quibble. We are talking about David Sedaris here, dudes. He's worth every dime. Our checks have both of our names on them.
Bing jokingly told me once that when she was growing up she thought if she hooked up with a doctor, she would be set for life. That was back then. This is now. The now that we live in is a place where while we can pay our bills and splurge on nice vacations now and then, we aren't sitting pretty. We worry that there won't be enough for Liv to get through college, for us to be able to retire until we are both in our seventies.
But, we can't complain. I can go to Whole Foods and buy my goat milk yogurt and my goat milk soap. Bing can go to a seminar and stay an extra couple of days to hook up with an old friend. If Lee DeWyze ever gives a concert in our city, I am so there. (But...good hell, his new single SUCKS the big one....all I can hope is that his record label made him do it because dudes, this auto tuned guy singing about Sweet Serendipity is NOT him, I swear it. Listen to his other stuff instead: Only Dreaming, Predicament, A Song I Wrote For You or Annabelle.)
My daughter goes to a Montessori school and I pay the big bucks to keep her there.
We aren't starving. But we ARE careful with our money. At the grocery store this week, Bing noticed that ham was on sale, so we are having ham and cheese quiche for dinner tonight, but when I was at Whole Foods buying my special goat milk yogurt today, I picked up some french rolls to have with it which probably made the ham sale not as dear. (I also picked up some blood orange cake for dessert which was not cheap, let me tell you....)
I am smart enough to know that having money is not everything. Having a wife whom I am still madly in love with and a daughter who I adore is much more important than money to buy Ferragamos. And being healthy and well is nothing to sneeze at. But, keep in mind that my health insurance and Bing's health insurance are necessary for that. If we weren't working, we would not have all of my drugs for my rheumatoid arthritis paid for and they are not cheap. I still think that Obama's health plan is our best bet in long term care.
Now that I am getting older, money is taking on more importance to me. When I was in my mid thirties and my mother died, she left me out of her will. I lost an inheritance of nearly 200 thousand dollars. When I was younger, it seemed sad but not devastating. I was working by then and earning a good living. Now, I look back in anger, I truly do. All that money. Wow. I could have put it in Liv's college fund, taken us all on a great vacation and still had lots of pretty pennies left over.
I still have bag lady nightmares. We have some money invested and I watch it with a careful eye. I am not one to take many chances with investments. I am frugal and cautious.
And Bing points out periodically that if an apocalypse occurs, well....money won't matter. I tell her that she watches too many disaster movies but the truth is that we all live with the threat of nuclear disaster sitting right next to us and in the hands of a lunatic, we are all dead. Or just as well.
And if something like that happens, I want to be right next to Bing. She is a survivor, that one. I know that she would find a way to protect Liv and me and she would think nothing of breaking into a pharmacy and getting enough medication to keep us all going for years. She's like the Bruce Willis in our family. She would be the one patrolling the grounds with a rifle to make sure that no one steals our goat. Because she knows how much I like my goat milk soap and yogurt.....
I think that money can buy a helluva lot of happiness, don't you? I mean...REALLY...c'mon, don't you?
But having two successful careers and a savings account isn't the nest egg that it used to be. Bing and I are both professionals in our fields and our house is not yet paid for. And our house is elderly. She is like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. She has good bones and she is pretty feisty, but she still needs some work. The sink in the bathroom off our bedroom periodically leaks and no plumber yet has been able to fix it for good. We are getting a new roof soon and just had some window people come out who specialize in old Victorian homes to give an estimate on how much it would cost to replace the windows in Liv's bedroom, our kitchen and our office.
I nearly swallowed my tongue when I saw the cost. Boy Howdy. Home repairs do not come cheap.
But, no. I'm no longer living in an apartment where I get to hear the everyday kitchen conversations (and fights) of the couple who live below me. I do wonder sometimes if they are still together and if he was ever able to fix that problem he had with pre-mature ejaculation. That bugged the hell out of her, I remember. Oh, and her mother. They fought a lot about her.
My daughter keeps growing and soon she will be able to play professional basketball at the rate that she is shooting up. She is not picky about her clothes, yet. She pretty much lives in jeans and sweatshirts and will occasionally agree to a sweater and skirt set for special occasions, but she shows no predilection for designer gear.
My friends with teenagers snicker when I say that. They tell me that it is coming. It is coming.
Having a child is expensive. Liv has so much more gear than I ever did. She has her own cell phone and her own computer. She is going through a phase where she wants to be an astronomer, so her birthday and Christmas lists all have pricey telescopes on them.
Even our dog costs more than the ones I had as a child. When I was a kid, we had no indoor dogs. The two dogs that we had, Sunny and Penny, lived in our barn. They ate table scraps and I don't ever remember them going to a vet. Ever. They both hunted in the fields around our home to supplement their table scrap diet and they both lived to a ripe old age.
Our dog, Socks, is in good health. But. I no longer give him baths in the sink like I did when he was young. I take him to the groomer once a month where he is bathed and blown dry and returned to us with a dapper little bandanna around his neck. He promptly removes this within ten minutes of getting home as he finds it embarrassing. He fancies himself as an Indiana Jones dog not a Nathan Lane dog. He is nobody's priss. He has all of his shots and when he got sick with a stomach virus last year, I took him to the vet. The dogs of my youth would have just endured throwing up in the fields for a few days. But, since it was my HOME that was being puked in, I took Socks in to the vet and then spent the next few days feeding him hamburger and rice and shoving little red pills down his throat. The only line that I have drawn with him is that I have not has his teeth cleaned. But if his breath gets any worse, I may give in and just do it.
Money seems to go fast around here, what is it like in your neck of the woods? Do you feel as if your emergency fund is constantly being dipped into as ours is?
Is your life better or worse than your parent's life was? Why?
Has money bought you any measure of happiness?