Money and freedom

Our concrete contractor arrived this morning at 7:30 to get started on our yards. He was supposed to be here midday yesterday, but it was windy and he had to protect some wet cement at another location and push us back. M was fine with it – gave M more prep time to finish moving yard stuff and clean the pool more thoroughly. But today is the day and we are cautiously excited about it. Or I was, until the sledghammering started at 8 a.m. and basically shook the house. At that point I could not escape to the office quickly enough. Destruction should be complete tomorrow, so hopefully the actual pouring and such is quieter.

Thus far this week, my mind is in the personal finance realm. Yesterday I was involved in conversations was about the economics of girl scout cookies and an online discussion about credit card interest, balance transfers. I was also shredding paper copies of old tax returns (I have scanned the documents onto a backup drive) and marveling at the income increases in the last 15 years. Today I was reading something about income disparity inspired by a Michigan college student’s op-ed on the subject.

My mother was a money hoarder. This is not necessarily a bad trait, but she died with high 6 figures in bank savings accounts and lived in a tiny little house that could needed so much work. However, in order to accomplish a lot of the maintenance repairs she would have enjoyed, the amount of “stuff” she acquired and kept through the years would have to be dealt with as well. That little house was stuffed floor to ceiling with stuff, most of it neatly boxed, labeled, and tucked away for more than 20 years, never again opened, touched, or considered once it was put away. It was unpleasant to have to be the one to go through all that crap and essentially throw out about 70% of it, give away or sell 29%, and keep approximately 1% of it. I grieved more for the limitations and boundaries mom set upon herself than I did for the woman herself, if that makes any sense. The bitter, unhappy woman I knew … I do believe she would have been so much more pleasant and enjoyed more of her life if she could have just let go of the chains that weighed her down. She derived no pleasure from having it, yet she seemed incapable of letting it go.

I know that my own unsentimental attachment is in direct correlation to what I grew up with, what I observed, what I knew as a child. Our efforts to update and enhance our living space is related to my own upbringing where I lived with moldy showers, peeling paint, ugly interiors behind piles of boxes of brand new things that were “too good” or “too nice” to use. I do not have fine china or crystal because it would be impractical for my life, but I know if I did, I would use it every single day. Just because.

Sometime in the next 5 to 7 years we will remodel again and have the kitchen we both desire. It will not be especially frou-frou – granite countertops is about the fanciest thing we envision right now – but it will update our space and be more useful for the way M and I live our lives. M is pretty handy and does a lot of the little stuff himself, but this blog is full of examples of my desire to hire someone to do some of the bigger projects in order to get them done. Again, I can draw a direct line between my parents and my own attitude toward money and hiring help to get my goals accomplished.

Working as much as I do to earn steady incomes is so we have opportunities and choices in our future. I am concerned that something will impair my full-time job in the next few years, but it has been an ongoing concern for the last 5 years. The firm continues to shrink and there may be a point where I work less than full-time, make less money, and I am as realistic about that possibility as I can be without worrying myself into an ongoing panic. My part-time jobs are lucrative enough and I enjoy the work, but they also allow us to build safe haven in the event of emergency AND fund the installation of our concrete jungle and eventually our dream kitchen.

My point here is that I earn enough money so M and I have more freedom and more choices in our lives. I do not believe money buys happiness, but I do feel it smooths out a lot of edges and can fund experiences and bring things that enhance life. M is far more a packrat and saver of things than I will ever be, but we negotiate and we compromise, balancing his desire to have inventory for future projects only imagined with my need for open, empty space. With money he is more frugal than I am, although neither of us are especially frugal people. We have a budget and generally stick to it, with clearly defined savings goals and funding for our older and grayer years. We feel fortunate to have balance in our emotional and mental health to utilize and enjoy our earning, saving, spending habits. For whatever reason, their own upbringings, the instability of jobs and moving far from all they knew when very young, my folks were rather paralyzed in finding emotional balance. Dad drank, mom hoarded – money and whatever “stuff” she acquired. In M’s family, his mother was chronically ill and in and out of the hospital throughout his life, and his father was constantly worried about money from the huge medical bills. Our parents financial habits left an imprint on both of us and directly manifests in our own complicated relationships with money and stuff.

I am thinking these thoughts knowing there are laborors slinging sledgehammers and running jackhammers at my home today, picking up blocks of concrete and wheelbarrowing them to the trailer for disposal. They work hard for the money they will each earn from this job, and our supplying them bottled water, Mexican coke, cans of rock star is a small thing for us, but a well-received perk for them. I also made cookies and brownies that M will provide when they break for lunch. Yeah, we are really weird clients.

2 thoughts on “Money and freedom

  1. We’ve always offered laborer’s working at our place something to drink – pop, water or lemonade. Maybe because DH comes from a labor worker background, it’s just known that they appreciate it.

    Hope the project is going well! It’s always fun to get something updated, isn’t it.

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