The anxiety of self sequestration
As I walked in the door I noticed the light on in my wife's office. I strolled down the hall and said hello. She was bending over the desk with a pile of bills on one side and another pile on the other.
"We have to make some budget cuts in our house," she stated without even looking up. "Our household GDP is not equal to our spending."
"What?" I said as I tried to hide the just purchased $400 piece of camera equipment I had carried into the house. "I thought we made enough to support our habits?"
"Well we don't," said the Shaw household budget director. "We need to cut spending or make more money."
I was in shock. Nothing had indicated such a state in our finances. Things had just gone along fine. I bought stuff, she paid for it. Simple as that.
On the other hand, however, for years I have been totally ignorant of what was really coming in and going out. When I became publisher of the paper (as opposed to being a writer in the paper) I suddenly had to take on all the responsibilities of managing the papers budget and at that time asked my in-house home financial whiz to take over so I didn't have too many numbers to deal with in my head all the time.
"Look at the stuff that you have bought in the past year," she said. "You need to slow down and bring what we spend within what we make."
Sounded a lot like what I had heard at a recent corporate meeting. Also sounded a lot like what some people in Congress have been saying.
By this time I had probably turned white. I had all this stuff I wanted to purchase in the pipeline; a new dog sled, a rifle I have been wanting to buy, and eventually a car that I have been wanting. And what about that cruise I want to take off the coast of Norway? I mean afterall some of the older programs we had been paying for years will soon be retired.
"But I just promised a sales person I would come back and buy a new camera I want," I said.
"Cancel the order," she said.
I thought about how disappointed he would be. But first I thought about how disappointed I was.
"So this is a home base sequester?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. "You will not have as much money to spend anymore. You need to have some control. I think if we start with a lot of little things, we can make up the difference. Inconsequential things like your breakfast at the Maverik next to your office each morning. You can buy a half gallon of skim milk and take Cream of Wheat packets to work and cut your costs there down to less than half of what you are spending.
"But you know what I spend creates jobs for people," I said. "If I can't go to the Maverik for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich each day, who knows what might happen. And if everyone who went in there started doing that, they might even have to close their doors."
"Well, sorry, but I doubt anyone will miss your little purchase there each day," she said as she continued to write out checks.
"I will miss it," I said as I walked back down the hall and sat in the living room in a chair. I was depressed. A few minutes later she came down the hall and sat in another chair next to me. She had a list in her hand.
"I have a budget for you," she said.
"Is this budget negotiable?" I asked.
"Sure it is," she said. "But only within the confines of the amount of money you have for it. You are the one that needs to decide how it will be spent."
I looked at the piece of paper. She had lined out how much I had to spend on various things throughout each month. It was concise, to the point (she had made some very strong notations) and apparently final. It was not big enough even for two weeks.
"I can't survive on this," I said. "And look what you have put into my money. Things like dog food, hay for the horse and even gas for my truck. Those are household items."
She was in the kitchen.
"Whose dogs and horse are they? Who thought they needed a truck that gets 8 miles per gallon? Not me. It's time to live within what we have," she said.
"But this forces me to make a decision between feeding my dogs good dog food and feeding myself," I said. "Do you want us to starve."
"Don't be ridiculous," she said as she walked back into the living room with a cup of tea. "It's not between feeding the dogs and you. It's about the way you spend the money you have to feed you. There is plenty there if you stop eating out and take a brown bag to work."
"Do you have a budget for you?" I asked, hoping to use the fact this might be one sided to my advantage.. She handed me a piece of paper. Hers was as austere as mine. There was nothing I could criticize or negotiate with.
"Until we get some things paid down on our total debt or more money comes in this is the way it will have to be," she said.
I got an idea.
"Maybe you could get a part time job to supplement our income," I said smiling in a devious way.
"I already have a part time job," she said not missing a beat. "Taking care of and controlling you."
What this move will do to the economy of Carbon County, I am not sure. But I do know no one, particularly me will be happy about it.