Monday, December 19, 2011

Us and Versailles

I was just re-reading my last post and I realized that I might, with my trying-to-be-clever reference to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, have given the wrong impression. We've never lived like aristocrats. We simply, until a year or so ago, accumulated a lot of debt without thinking much about it, paying for things we needed, and even sometimes for things we wanted, when we did not have the cash to legitimately do so.

But what do you do when the medical copayments skyrocket, when your school district assumes you're all loaded and arranges a ton of wonderful and pricey field trips for your (lucky) kids, when your (ratty old) car dies a shuddering death and you have to revive or replace it because one of you needs to get to work and the other has a zillion medical and therapy appointments, not to mention after school activities, to get the kids to? (Okay, take a breath.)

The difference between us then and now, is that now we do not pretend we can afford more than we can. We didn't go out much then; we go out less now (read: never). Now we shop at Aldi twice or thrice a month, instead of Trader Joe's twice a week. We used to occasionally buy clothes at Macy's; now we buy used duds more often than not (and you know what? It's not bad! You can get some great stuff that way).

The best thing that has happened to us in the past year is that we've taken our credit cards out of our wallets and put them in a drawer. Now, the only card we each carry, apart from our library and AAA cards, is a debit card. Of course, I resisted this mightily when Lars proposed it.

"What if there's an emergency?" I whined.

To which Lars replied, "Of what sort? Sartorial or gustatory?"

To which I replied nastily, "Medical, Smart One. Or automotive. Or one involving...something scary."

He held out his hand in silence until I grabbed my purse, took out my wallet, and dumped three cards in his hand.

"Fine," I snarled.

That was last March. And you know what? There's not been one emergency -- sartorial, gustatory, or medical. (There was one automotive emergency -- our Camry with almost 200K miles on it needing work that would cost more than it was worth -- and we did have to go into debt to resolve it. But the loan is super-low interest and we now have a grandmotherly, sandy-gold Corolla with less than 50K miles on it. It's not the Miata Lars has been fantasizing about but it's got a sort of elder-cache about it, which is something.

So I guess we were always dealing in sheep dung rather than dining at Versailles -- but now we embrace our inner shepherds. Marie Antoinette had a fake dairy barn, but we have a cute little house and no more credit card debt and a spiffy gold Corolla any Nana would be proud to own.

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