Is this real life? Is this (budget) just fantasy?
Burt's Eye View
I rechecked the numbers, praying for a glorious mistake. Nope. The math was correct.
“We’ve got to stop indulging our whims and fancies,” I said. “We can’t afford it.”
“I’ve laid in a good supply of fancies in the root cellar. That should hold us for a while,” Terry said. “But we’re a couple whims short of a full pantry.”
“We don’t have a root cellar.”
“My goodness. Then where are all our fancies?”
“You know what I mean,” I snapped.
“Hardly ever,” she said. “But I keep trying.”
I tapped the computer screen. “I set up a perfectly good monthly budget. But at the end of the money, the month is still here. How does this happen?”
“Generally, it’s when Tuesday follows Monday, Wednesday follows Tuesday, Thursday follows Wednesday, and so on,” Terry said. “One thing you can say about months is that they don’t give up and go away. Oh, sure, March can drag on for what seems like six or seven months by itself, but the months never bow out early.”
I inhaled deeply, counted to 10, and exhaled slowly. “No, I mean how does our money keep running out? According to my budget, it shouldn’t. But there’s none left.”
“Have you checked the shelf next to the whims? Maybe you left some cash there.”
“This is serious,” I barked. “We don’t have any money left because we spend it all on whims and fancies.” I shuffled through a stack of receipts. “Like this. Can you explain this 58 cents spent at the salvage store?”
“That’s your Nestle’s Toll House Hot Fudge Sundae Morsels and More. They were buy one, get one, so you have four packages of chocolate chips, waffle cone bits and mini-marshmallows.”
I set aside the receipt. “OK, that one’s a necessity. But what’s this from the thrift store? I thought I begged you to stay out of thrift stores.”
She slid her finger down the receipt. “Hmm, those are the shirts I bought for you last week.”
“That’s what I mean,” I barked. “I have plenty of shirts and you went out and spent…” I glanced at the receipt “… 50 cents each on three shirts! Why?”
She picked up a framed photo. “Here’s a picture of us taken while we were dating. Notice anything?”
“My hair’s darker.”
She waved the photo in front of my face. “The shirt you have on now is the same one in this photo.”
“Can’t be. That’s a dark blue shirt in the picture.”
“They tend to fade after 20 years. And sprout holes.” She snatched the stack of receipts from my hands. “Check out this one. Sixty bucks.”
“Gas station,” I said. “I needed to fill up the tank to get to work.”
“Well, fancy that,” she said. “This electric bill is nearly 100 bucks, yet you paid it on a whim?”
“Necessity.” I snatched back the power bill. “It’s football season. I can’t watch games without the TV.”
“Or turn on the lights. Run water. Or cook. By the way, what do you fancy for supper tonight?”
On a whim, I suggested a thick, juicy ribeye steak with all the trimmings.
“Nope. We’re having hot dogs with mac-and-cheese. We can’t afford whims and fancies, remember?”
I deleted the monthly budget. It was pure fantasy anyway, and we can’t indulge in fantasies either.
— Ask Cole for financial advice at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or www.burtonwcole.com.