Thursday, August 30, 2007

Smells like a close call...

Don't you just love it when a plan works out?

Especially when that plan involved very little ... ahem ... planning?

By now, Dear Reader, you are aware that we have two boys, now both in school. However, during the summer break from classes they are cut loose from the educational mill and we have to find something for them to do with themselves. As the Mrs. and I both work in less-than-child-friendly environments, and the nearest retired grandparents are in another state, our only recourse is that most American of child repositories - Daycare.

All impassioned arguments for and against daycare may be checked at the door, as you may rest assured that we've run the gamut of emotional and fiscal scenarios and came to two conclusions: It's necessary for us, and yes, we feel like parental failures.

But that's not what this little missive is about, Dear Reader. This is about money. More to the point: how to pay the equivalent of a car payment each week for the pleasure of continuing to be a two-income family?

Enter, The Plan. Each of the last several years, we've received fairly sizable tax refunds, due to the boys' dual-classification as both "children" and "tax deductions." Rather than race out and spend our sudden annual "windfall," we decided to just add it to our operating funds to get us through the summer expenses.

"How much exactly would we need?" " Will it be enough to keep us afloat and pay our bills?" Feh, these are just details...

Like the deaf, dumb and blind eponymous hero from The Who's "Pinball Wizard" who played "by sense of smell," we tend to handle our finances purely on instinct. Truth to tell, I don't think we've ever taken the time to balance our checkbook. Our plan "smelled" about right and if we close our eyes tightly enough, we can ignore all the warning sirens and flashing lights. So it was that we blithely went about our summer activities, with us at work and the boys being socialized by people we hardly knew.

Of course, this is the year that the Texas Government decreed that all school districts would begin classes on the same date statewide, and in order to accommodate all the various schedules, this year's summer break was nearly a month longer than it had been in the previous several years. Add to that the costs of all the various summer activities - Vacation Bible School, Aikido Camp, the annual family pilgrimage to Galveston - and you have a veritable hemorrhage of cash.

We knew we must be getting pretty low on reserves these last few weeks, but our instincts told us the plan was working, and all would be well, especially if we didn't look too closely. After all, we had written our last childcare payment check last week and school had finally resumed, lifting that financial burden. Like Schrodinger's cat, our finances would hold out just fine, provided I never lifted the lid on the box to check.

Curiosity won out eventually, though, so I took a rare look at our online banking statement last night.

We had $1.56 left.

Of course, at the stroke of midnight, The Mrs.' direct-deposit paycheck hit the bank, once again leaving our account flush with a month's worth of government-worker earnings. I get paid tomorrow, and without the onus of childcare expenses, it'll feel as though we have yet a third paycheck in the bank, as well. (Or it will, by the end of next month, anyway.) All our bills, dues or tithes are - or will be - paid on time, as they always are, and we get to continue our usual routine unscathed.

If anybody asks what our secret to financial success is, we'll just wink at each other and tell them that we had a PLAN.

Doubtless, some of you are wondering if we learned some greater lesson from this exercise in fiscal irresponsibility. The answer is "yes," of course, but I'm setting this in very small type so I can continue to appear smug about our fiscal near-miss. Truth is, the $1.56 was just in our operating funds, and doesn't represent all the liquid monies we have available to us, should we need to move some around. It just makes for a better story... so there.

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