Pocket Full of Change
Total Black: $16.79
Total Red: $269,947.64
Ever since I was a lad, I kept my loose change in a container or piggy bank of some sort. Not sure why. Perhaps because males don’t get purses and wallets don’t typically have space for coins. It’s come in handy many times. Once, for example, when I was a boy, I counted and rolled all my spare change and came up with nearly fifty dollars worth. I turned it all over to my mother and father because they had been going through some tough times. Maybe one had been in the hospital. I don’t recall now. But I do remember how grown-up I felt to be able to give such a large amount to them. Fifty dollars is no small beer even now and in the 1980s it was certainly worth more. That habit has helped get me out of quite a few jams.
I’m feeling the growing pains of budgeting. I’ve still got my training wheels on but the app discussed in What a Mint! is helping. It will take some getting used to. Today I paid the auto loan. It’s $478.83 a month. I paid $480.00. And just as in Paying Ahead, Falling Behind, that dollar and change will get rolled over into next month’s payment, reducing it accordingly. I was tempted to quibble about that point, to inquire whether my dollar extra could go on the principal. Or even to ask for my change back—though the clerk didn’t look like she wanted to make change. But I figured to let it go. I may need that cushion in the future if I keep paying a bit more each month. I might even free up one entire payment enabling me to double-up on another debt.
What also crossed my mind was that I could have used that dollar for something else. But I resisted. That’s a mindset of poverty and lack and not one of wealth and abundance. If one dollar really would break me, I’m not doing well. On the drive back to the court, I stopped at the gas station to add five dollars worth of gasoline to the Jeep. That left me with nothing in the wallet. I’ve got about twenty dollars available in the local bank account, I thought. I could stop at the bank on the way home and make a withdrawal. But, frankly, I was embarrassed. Who stops at the bank to withdraw twenty dollars? ATM card hasn’t arrived yet. I kept driving. I had that jar of coins at home. And maybe there was something I could make at home.
Of course, once I got home, I remembered that there really wasn’t anything in those ol’ cupboards. Dinner could have been a can of corn. Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or both (yuck!). I had made spaghetti sauce over the weekend but didn’t have pasta. So I turned to that jar of coins and opened it on the bed and set to counting it. Reminded me of days back in New York, like in Change to Spare?, counting my pocket change to scrounge up enough for a meal. And voila, I came up with twenty dollars just in quarters alone.
So into my pocket all those quarters went. And into the car I hopped. And down the road to the restaurant that also has a small market I went. But I also took a fifty dollar bill out of the envelope that held rent money. Lord & Lady haven’t been around in about a week so I still haven’t paid them the rent yet though the money’s been off to the side for days.
Hunger is very motivating. Just ask ol’ Jean Valjean. I was debating getting an order of the delicious fried chicken that restaurant makes so well—probably at a cost of $12.00 before tip and drink. Or just picking up a box of pasta. Angel and Devil were battling it out on my shoulders. Or maybe gluttony and frugality. What also factored in though was the pocket full of change I had. I find it embarrassing to have to pay with spare change. I guess it reminds me of the poor people who used to come to buy some random item at the supermarket where I worked during high school. Dimes and nickels and pennies to buy a pack of the cheapest, most generic cigarettes available, for example. And so I profusely apologized when I put my box of pasta on the counter and handed over $3.50 in quarters. And I got too excited when the cashier appreciated the quarters, noting that I had a lot more. Got to swap five dollars worth of quarters for five dollar bills. Still got ten more in quarters in my pocket.
This is temporary. And it’s always about food. I wonder why that is? Nearly all of my excessive spending occurs on meals. At least today I successfully resisted the urge to spend a lot just one meal. Instead, the pasta will now provide at least three. I’ll need to stretch those five dollar bills for a while though. Ten dollars in quarters will get me enough gasoline to last at least until Thursday when the next paycheck arrives. I learned my lesson way back in A Cold Blustery Walk Home—and I ain’t backpedaling down that path again. I can go a few days without food, but I’m not about to call off work because I don’t have money for gasoline. Walking really is not an option.
Next week will be the first paycheck of this first month on a quasi-budget. I say quasi as a few kinks exists; gotta still work out the details. I don’t know yet, for example, how much I should allocate for fuel for the month, for example, or for groceries. Budgets, I’m seeing, are really a work-in-progress. Budget too much and you’ll have extra unallocated income that could be better allocated to increase a credit card payment. Budget too less and . . . well, today is an example of that result. I wasn’t too smart last month with a portion of the extra funds I had. At least I sent good portion to the canceled Visa credit card.
Slowly but surely I’m getting there. If ever so slowly. Only took a year to get me on a budget.