A Movie, a Book, and an Announcement

I’m not pregnant.

Let’s just get that out out of the way right now, because apparently that’s the only news a married Mormon woman in her 20s or 30s can have, but that’s not my news.

Moving on.

I watched “the Pursuit of Happyness” last night.  It wasn’t my first time through but I found that I was bothered by the same thing this time that bothered me on my first watching (That isn’t always the case you know, sometimes those things don’t bother you the second time through or sometimes you realize that you missed something the first time or…) first of all, it’s one of the more depressing movies ever made.  A single father with his kid spending the night on the floor of the subway bathroom, give me a break!  But that’s not my real problem with the movie.  The thing is, he doesn’t spend the movie pursuing happiness, or even happyness, he spends the movie pursuing money.

Now I get that while we all know that money doesn’t buy happiness it does actually contribute greatly to it when you’re to the living in the bathroom in the subway station kind of poverty.  But well, they wouldn’t have been living in the bathroom in the subway station if he’d have g gotten a job.  I’m pretty sure that McDonalds was hiring, even in the 80s.

Of course then we couldn’t have all the touchy feely follow your dreams lessons that we get from the movie, never mind that it would be a really crappy boring movie, but a lot of me thinks that when you have a kid to feed and clothe and protect from pedophiles, maybe your dreams aren’t quite as important as all that.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that he meets this guy who drives a nice car and that’s all he knows about him.  He doesn’t know if he’s happy, he doesn’t know if his wife just left him because he was sleeping with his secretary, he doesn’t know if he’s contemplating suicide (rich people do you know) all he knows is that he drives a nice car.  So he puts himself and his son through hell so that he can too.  Doesn’t that make you all warm and fuzzy?

Speaking of money-

I recently finished reading “How To Debt-Proof Your Marriage” by Mary Hunt.  I loved loved loved it for the first three quarters of the book.

The first third of the book is really a lot more about marriage than it is about money and while it wasn’t information that I particularly needed (a lot of her suggestions were things that I was already doing (Dangit, I’m a good wife!)) it was pretty good and she made some really good points.  (Why is it that we’re more comfortable talking about anything, ANYTHING in our society than we are money?) Seriously, sex v. money, which would you rather discuss?

After the marriage advice she started talking about how to manage your money.

First- Give away 10%. Oo, I like this.  It sounds sort of… familiar.  Now she’s not Mormon, the book was written from a non-denominational point of view (if I had to guess, I’d say some sort of protestant, not quite praise Jesus enough to be baptist, maybe episcopalian)  but she does say that the first 10% belongs to the Lord and so you ought to give it back, not necessarily to a church but to some sort of charity or worthwhile cause.  I can get behind that, I thought, go on.

Second- Save 10%. She says that we should have saved somewhere in a fairly liquid account, enough money to live on for 3 (it should be 6) months.  This one’s a little harder for me.  It’s advice I’ve heard millions of times (including in the sealing room just before I was married (and from a really rich guy, no less))  and it’s even advice that I follow.  Sort of.  Unfortunately, the money that I save for two months inevitably goes to covering the power bill in the third month.  Still, hearing it again and seeing her put a number on it (she says $10,000 although the book was a bit dated and I don’t think that is very reflective of 3 months income for most families today) helped me to rededicate myself to this idea and resolve that I WILL DO IT!

Third- Bills. You’re supposed to compile all your bills.  Regular monthly bills like water and power are easy, irregular bills like car repairs and home improvement expenses are harder.  Monthly bills should be reduced if possible but then paid as usual.  A separate bank account should be opened for irregular bills (she calls it a freedom account and while that’s fairly descriptive, I also think it’s pretty lame so I’m going to call it … something cool) and then money should be regularly deposited into that account for those things.  Figure out how much you spent on car repairs last year, add a few dollars (your car is another year older after all) and divide by 12.  That’s how much you should put aside for car repairs.  The same goes for clothing, gifts, Christmas, whatever.  Ingenious.

Yes, I know it’s obvious but some of us need it spelled out in a little different way.  Shut up.

There’s also a plan in there for paying down debt, pay exactly what you’re paying now on all cards regardless of how the minimum payment go down and once you have one paid off apply that amount to the next card and so on, you’ve heard it before.  It’s a good plan.

This is the point where the book sort of fell apart for me.  Part of it, of course, is that I had unrealistic desires.  What I wanted, what I think everybody who picks up a book like this wants, is for her to give me some magic formula for spending less money without my actually having to, you know, spend less money.  Instead she talks about reducing spending.  WHAT?! I’ve got to say, at this point I was not much of a fan of Ms. Hunt’s.

Luckily I stuck with her long enough to read that we should not over-pay our taxes.

Again, this is something that I’ve heard countless times before.  And I flatly ignored it.  I viewed income tax as my involuntary savings plan.  And it worked, sort of.  Every year when I do the taxes we get money back.  A lot of money back. and that money nearly always goes to paying off a credit card that we had to use because we had to have the car fixed a month earlier.  (Maybe I should have mentioned up-front that we really don’t carry much debt, it’s just the unexpected car problems or plumbing bill that isn’t a part of our normal spending that we end up putting on credit cards. And we usually pay it off within a few months.)  She also made a big point throughout the book of telling you that you do not need to make more money, you just need to live within your means.  Whatever?!

The final chapter is called something like “finding money you didn’t know you had” but it really should be called “just don’t read this chapter because it will turn you off to my whole system because here I’m going to teach you how to be really cheap which involves a lot of self deprivation which obviously you’re not a fan of or you wouldn’t be in so much debt in the first place, stupid”.

No really, it’s comprised of some, I’m sure, great money saving techniques but to anyone who actually needs the book to get out of serious debt it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.  It includes things like, scour the grocery ads every week and buy only the stuff on sale. (Who has time to really study that stuff and then go to three stores?) She devotes a paragraph or two to getting cheap internet (dial-up what?  Not a chance, you saw what happened to me when I needed a cord, can you even imagine what I would do if I needed a phone line?)  She talks about spending less on groceries, spending less on cleaning supplies, spending less on your car … by getting rid of it, or, buying a used domestic car (used, I can get behind, domestic not so much (she argues that domestic cars are cheaper to repair.  She may be right but for my money my Honda or Toyota requires fewer repairs than her Dodge.)(said the girl who drives a Mazda.)) be patient, save the money first, go without, crazy stuff like that.

In all honesty I think that the last chapter in the book was a mistake on her part.  It’s all good advice but a little, no a lot, distasteful to someone unused to focusing on saving, and maybe slightly offensive (not a good idea to tell people that they’re crazy/stupid to want to buy a brand new car) and it’s liable to kill any remaining desire the possibly newly financially responsible person has to actually be financially responsible.  It almost did that for me.

But her ideas kept rattling around in my head.  (There’s not much more in there after all.)  Until I put together the fact that I get a lot of my own money back when I do the taxes (enough that in theory we could have had an extra $750/ month last year) and if I had all that money all year then the credit card to buy the tires would not have been necessary.

So I think we’re going to try it.

Hey, speaking of making more money, even though I was assured I didn’t need to, I keep looking at my three little boys and thinking that before too long they’re going to be three teenaged boys and somebody’s going to have to feed them.  So, I’m going back to school.

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie
    Feb 19, 2009 @ 22:04:21

    In my family, we ALWAYS talk about money. My dad’s an accountant, and my mom’s a bookkeeper. I’m so OVER talking about money. It’s ALL we talk about. I hate it.

  2. robyn
    Feb 19, 2009 @ 22:29:56

    So totally cool! And what will be your major?

  3. Kateastrophe
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 00:05:36

    Woah there bomb dropper! What are you going to do in school???

  4. LisAway
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 00:18:18

    I thought working in a hospital automatically made you rich.

    In The Secret they also talk about giving away ten percent. Eternal principle.

    I love the paragraph that starts with “The final chapter” and ends with “stupid.”

    And your next post better be about how you were kidding about going back to school or about why, how, what and where you’re going back to school. And when.

  5. cheryl
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 09:08:59

    Wow! That is news. When/where/what/how?

  6. s'mee
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 09:09:34

    Me too, I wanna know the school stuff!

    The money thing is a drag. I totally get the 10% for God, the 10% in savings, I even get not over paying my taxes to get a refund later scheme. What I think is typical of these books is that they all tell us to cut back…like we’re living in Monaco or having yearly vacations, or like our particular situation, paying for heat in the winter (which we haven’t for the last two years). We don’t have grass because we try to save on water (we tell people we’re green, but frankly, we’re cheap). I could go on about how, just last year we finally got wireless, and “cable”, and here’s the big news, for the first time in my 32 years of marriage, last weekend we finally purchased a new t.v. and it was finally larger than the 12″ one we have watch for low these many years.

    Yup. I love how they tell us to cut back and live on half of what we make, when in some circumstances, people out there actually do that and still have to scrimp. oy.

    Good thing about the school though! : )

  7. E
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 09:48:12

    Ha, ha….I already know about school But I’ll let Alison tell all of you herself. She loves it that way.

  8. Melanie J
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 09:55:14

    Wow, nice punchline.

    And my issue with that movie was that it didn’t have nearly the pay off at the end that it should have for all the dreariness it forces you to endure. Sheesh.

  9. Evitafjord
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 10:17:49

    Hey, that’s why I’m in school!! I should be done by the time my oldest starts driving. She’s almost 11 – I’m on the no more than 3 online classes at a time, waiting for the youngest to start preK so I can take the on-campus only classes plan.

  10. bythelbs
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 12:56:36

    We recorded Pursuit of Happyness on our DVR over a year ago. It’s still there. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it because I have yet to be in the mood for a depressing movie. Now I think I’ll just delete it.

    And I’m with everyone else, I need more back to school details.

  11. Annette
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 16:50:05

    I used to think that we’d be saving money when the kids got out of expensive diapers and baby equipment. Yeah. Now we’ve got orthodontic bills, in a couple of years car insurance will go up with a teenage driver, and school fees are insane. Not to mention that sneakers for a teenager cost an arm and a pinkie toe. ACK!

    Tell us more about school–what are you going to study?!

  12. Diary
    Feb 20, 2009 @ 17:17:15

    The Pursuit of Happyness is a true story. I saw the guy on Oprah. So cool. Rags to Riches type of story.

  13. Catherine
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 11:43:48

    I like Happyness. He does put his son through hell but it’s so he can provide long-term rather than short-term security. Which, is frankly, just what everyone who goes back to school for additional job training does. I might know a few people like that.

    We call the Freedom account our revolving savings account. It greatly helps in avoiding larger-than-usual credit card bills. Without it, the credit card becomes the default revolving savings, which isn’t as good.

  14. Kristina
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 12:08:03

    I assume you aren’t coming today, since I didn’t hear that you were! Boooo. Hope to see you again soon!

  15. annie valentine
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 17:00:06

    We have only fought about money about four times in our entire marriage. We’re currently doing Dave Ramsey’s 13 week Financial Peace University course (identical to the Church’s plan) and it’s good. Same story though, this isn’t exactly easy. $24,000 in the bank BEFORE we do anything else? I won’t even say how long that’s going to take us, not to mention paying off our car and the remainder of our student loan.

    And yet…financial peace. Sounds heavenly.

  16. david mcmahon
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 14:32:59

    I’m a parent too – and I learn as much from my children as they learn from my wife and me.

  17. Sandi McBride
    Feb 26, 2009 @ 08:20:33

    We always paid bills first, bought the essentials (food) 2nd and saved third…but we never wanted nor slept on floors and we weren’t rich and US Navy kept a roof over our heads…we sacrificed, sure…but we made it through…liked this post quite a bit.
    Congrats on Post of the Day mention at David’s!

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