Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Choice is Yours

Ali and me having a brief catch up dropping off lunch over Beach Hop! And no, the shirt is NOT of my choosing!

Sorry it's been a while!  Have been working a LOT of extra shifts for one of our country's biggest festivals, the Beach Hop. It's supposed to be a five-day festival but more and more people seem to stretch it out to a week these days or even two!  During this time our tiny town of 4,000 people is pushed to bursting limit with around 120,000 rock n' rollers, classic 50's and 60's cars and authentic music and dress of the era. It's quite a spectacle! Not to mention one heck of a way to bring a huge amount of money and work into our little community.  At the club where I work our team slogged our guts out for up to 14 hours a day non-stop serving drinks to the masses. It was awful and awesome all at the same time!  Still, as many people liked to remind me 'think of the money', and that part was definitely a bonus.  Mind you, it would have been nice to hold on to the extra cash a bit longer.  I haven't even been paid yet but as soon as I do it will be going to the local mechanic where my car is currently getting new brake pads!  And I'd rather not talk about the $159 anti-barking collar I just had to order from the vet for Liam's flipping motormouth dog...

It happens to us all doesn't it, 'things' getting in the way like that?  No sooner do we find ourselves with a little welcome extra dosh than Murphy sees fit to throw us a curveball and send it someone else's way.  I'm not easily offended but by golly I had my nose put out of joint a while back when someone told me in no uncertain terms it was my fault I had no money. Granted, they didn't know anywhere near as much about me or my life as they thought they did - but even so, who SAYS that? Especially to someone when they're struggling!  The thing was, much as I hated to admit it, this person really made me stop and think.  According to them, I had had a choice when it came to some of the bigger expenses in my life.  Yeah yeah, I know - perhaps I shouldn't have bought a house, maybe it was too big a commitment.  They weren't the only ones to tell me that and I soon learned it for myself but I had wanted to give the kids some security.  Too many people get kicked out of their rental homes in our town in the summer to make way for holiday makers who are prepared to pay more.  I didn't want that to happen to us.

But apparently it wasn't just about the house; there were other things too.  Why did I cripple myself every month trying to pay off $7000 for Ali's braces?  I could have simply said 'sorry, no can do!' Plenty of other people in the world have to manage without braces.  And the $600 vet bill for Hubble's teeth.  The dog was 10 years old, why didn't I just have him put to sleep?  These were just a couple of examples of things I had written about over the past year or two.  I paid that money because I didn't think I had a choice - now here was someone telling me I did?  I started thinking.  OK with the dog I guess I did.  This person certainly wasn't the first to tell me I should have just had him put to sleep, I'd heard it at least a dozen times - even from the vet himself when he realised what a struggle it was going to be for me to pay the bill!  But this was Hubble - Liam's beloved companion who had slept on his bed every night since he was eight years old.  He had never cost us a cent before now, never had a day of ill health and as Liam pointed out 'He's 10 years old Mum.  Even if it is $600 that only works out to $60 for every year of his life.  That's not much compared to YOUR dog!' True dear boy, very true.  So the decision was made.  Maybe we were being silly and emotional but Hubble the toothless wonder lives to bark another day.  And bark and bark...

As for the braces though, this matter gave me a bit of a jolt.  You see I didn't think we had a choice but to get those braces.  We had already put them off a year after the orthodontist had assessed him because we didn't have the funds but now another dentist literally called me out of the waiting room to show me my son's teeth and tell me that he HAD to have braces - and soon.  His teeth were a mess, the x-rays proved it and they were only going to get worse and cause him severe pain.  Put yourself in my shoes, did it sound like I had much of a choice?  This dentist had nothing to gain either personally or financially from Ali's braces but if he was trying to guilt trip a mother in front of her child by crikey he was doing a stirling job.  What mother wants to think of her baby in pain, especially if it can be avoided?  I had already rung WINZ and asked if they could provide assistance and was told no; I honestly couldn't see any alternative.  On the positive side, my word that orthodontist knows his stuff.  A year down the track, Ali's criss-crossed, mish-mashed teeth are all perfectly straight and in line and the results have been so good he should be able to have them removed well within the two years we signed up for.

Whether those decisions and others were good or bad, what really stood out from that conversation was that when it comes to spending money, large or small, you have a choice.  And unpleasant as that conversation may have been, I took it on board and have kept it in mind ever since.  I have a choice. The buck stops with me.  I can't say it's ALWAYS going to stop me from making bad choices but a lot of the time it does.  I'm a bit peeved at the brake pads wearing out on my car because apart from not having a car at all (which isn't really too sensible when you live miles from anywhere) I can't see I have any other choice but to get them replaced.  Let's face it, brakes are rather important, especially when driving over mountains!  Not to mention the squealing, grinding noise is really not cool when out in public.  I definitely would rather not have the bloody dog collar issue though.  I'm only trying it because the neighbours and I have tried pretty much everything else to stop Hubble's continuous barking and I don't know what else to do.  If it works, well it's peace of mind for me when Ali and I are working and peace and quiet for the rest of the neighbourhood.  If not - well, let's just hope it works.  Once again it's my choice and it's a choice I'm angry with myself at spending so much money on but it's Liam's dog and I promised to look after him.  I tell you what though, this is the absolute last resort!

Fortunately things like new brake pads and citronella dog collars don't crop up too often but there are still countless other choices we have to make every day on a smaller scale.  They are just as important because all those little things can add up to just as much as brake pads before you know it!  One of my biggest struggles has always been organisation, which is really annoying because being organised is such an enormous key to being successful at saving money.  Being organised means no expensive takeaways, no late fees, no extra trips and wasted petrol.  I knew Beach Hop was going to prove a challenge for me because with both Ali and I working long and different hours, I was going to have to be super organised just to keep clothes on our backs and food in our stomachs.  The first couple of days went pretty well.  During my free time I caught up on washing, kept on top of the housework and cooked lunches and dinners.  Even though this sometimes meant cooking a roast dinner at 6 o'clock in the morning, it was done and I felt ever so efficient and in control of things.

Little did I know however just how insane Beach Hop was going to get!  By halfway through the festival, proper sit-down meals had become a thing of the past.  I would leave dinner ready made at home thinking I was going to be finishing at 8pm only to find we were still working flat out at midnight with no chance of getting away.  Even if I had brought my dinner with me it wouldn't have worked out any different as I had no time to sit down and eat it and several of us resorted to buying hot chips during shifts just to pick at and keep us going.  We were all in the same boat - the whole TOWN was in the same boat!  It was annoying but couldn't be helped.  The more Beach Hop went along, the more the wheels fell off at home.  The hours we weren't working everyone was just too dog tired to do anything but try and catch up on sleep and by the time it was all over I had literally no clothes which weren't soaked in beer and there wasn't as much as a loaf of bread in the house.  I must say poor Ali was brilliant during this time; he could see what it was like and just fended for himself. Mind you most days he was working long hours too!  If nothing else I made sure I brought him his work lunch on the days I could - at least then one of us didn't have to spend any of our wages on junk food!  Once again it was in my mind that I had a choice and this was a choice I was determined to get right.  At the end of the day, I think that the choices you make are nobody else's business.  The important thing is that if you ever find yourself up the creek without a paddle, you recognise and take responsibility for how you got there.  If nothing else, you'll know what NOT to do in future!

So that's our town's busiest time and biggest money maker done and dusted for another year.  I felt hugely proud to be a part of it!  And now things will begin to wind down in our dear little town as the cooler months approach.  Work will no doubt be a lot quieter and I'm not too sure what the future holds at this stage.  I've felt pretty out of control the past week or too.  I haven't been able to keep an eye on the bank balance and can barely tell you what bills have gone in or out!  Am really looking forward to getting back to normal and back on track; however I did notice when the power bill came in that Ali and I have saved $50 in our first month as a duo!  Hopefully next month will be even better!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jackie, I read this post last week and it has really made me think. And I am totally with you - who does say that?! But it made me think about some of the expenses that I just take as given. And the one that has really struck me lately has been our mechanics bill. We have our car serviced every six months when it goes for a warrant. The last bill was brutal, but thankfully our mechanic is great and has let us pay it off over a couple of months. I know plenty of people who just have the bare minimum work done to their car to get a warrant, but still we continue to pay for it to be serviced twice a year. So I guess that's an obvious area where we could potentially save quite a bit of money if we just started doing what is needed to pass a warrant. But I have absolutely no intention of doing that. Because I would far rather pay more and know i am driving my family around in a car that is safe and working properly. And had I been in your position with the braces, I would have done the same as you as well. I think it's always beneficial to look at how you spend money and determine what's truly important, but I also think some decisions should be based on more than just a dollar value. Rude as that comment to you was, I guess if it made you think about how you spend your money then it was kind of helpful too. But I really hope you are able to look at your decision to go ahead with the braces and feel like you did the right thing by not just considering the financial cost.

    And I just want to add that I really enjoy how honest you are in your posts. Making public the contents of your fridge when it's at it's worst is brave, and your explanations of how you feed your family on such days is to me far more inspiring and relevant than a meal cooked by a celebrity chef! Thanks so much, Jen