DH = Dear Husband
Last week, Laurie wrote about how tough it can be to get out of a financial rut. Through her summer of high expenses, when just keeping her head above water has been enough of a challenge, Laurie has had to face down this temptation: “And wouldn’t you know it, the furniture set we fell in love with last month just went on super sale. Our ugly, ragged twenty year old couches have been an eyesore to me for about four years now and are begging to be replaced. But even on super sale, I cannot justify a new furniture purchase as it would have to go on credit.”
Have you been there? I have! My stamina for old, stained, ripped, scratched, rusting, mismatching, or otherwise ugly stuff has increased dramatically since DH and I started our journey out of debt 4 years ago, but there are still times when the temptation to buy shiny and new is just cruel.
Allow me to introduce you to a collection of our ugly stuff:
- That’s our ’99 Dodge Caravan. And yes, that is a hole in the front. My best guess is that it was punctured during a parking lot misadventure. You can also see some rust developing behind the front tire. Our van is approaching its 18th birthday, and it’s still going strong. It would not be worth it for us to fix up the van cosmetically, so we’ll just drive our old vehicle as is until it gives up the ghost.
- In keeping with the vehicle theme, here is the scratch on our 2011 Ford Focus. Again, parking lot strife. (The guilty parties shall remain nameless, but when you’ve had new drivers in the household, these things are bound to happen.) DH and I discussed whether or not it would be worth it to repair the damage, but in the end, we decided that it wouldn’t. Although much newer than the van, our car is no longer a spring chicken. Besides, we have another learning driver coming up.
- This ripped chair is a reminder to us of the exorbitant spending of our past. We bought it as an accent piece for our family room 17 years ago. It cost $750. At the time, we had an infant daughter and 2 young girls. Why, exactly, did we need an accent piece in our family room? Years of childhood play, birthday parties, indoor fort building, and snacking meant our furniture got heavy use. This delicate chair was clearly not equal to it. We have it in our spare bedroom now, and I keep saying that someday, I’ll have it fixed up again. ($750! And that’s from 1999. That would be almost $1,100 in today’s dollars. What were we thinking!?)
- Just over 3 years ago, our youngest daughter was completing her chore of cleaning the upstairs bathroom when she brought the bucket, filled with a mixture of water and bleach, into the hallway. She accidentally kicked it over, and it left more than a soaked carpet. It left a bleach stain. The upstairs carpet is now 18 years old, and the bleach stain is not the only ugly section of it. DH and I did some renovations on our first floor last year, after we’d finished paying off all non-mortgage debt, and it was so satisfying to get rid of the old carpet! But upstairs, the carpet is going to stay until the mortgage is gone – bleach stains and all.
- This is my old bike. It used to be my dad’s. I’m not sure for how long he owned it, but knowing him, I’d say at least 10 years. He was a very, very frugal man. Raised in poverty on a farm during the Great Depression, he carried the lessons from his childhood through his life. Osmosis failed me, and I did not get that wisdom in my youth, but as I learn now, my appreciation for my dad continues to deepen. He knew the end was near during the Christmas break of 2006, and he made sure that his bike went to our eldest. Our daughter made thorough use of it until she moved out to study on the west coast in 2011. That’s when it became mine. Will I get a brand new, shiny bike some day? Not until the mortgage is paid off, and maybe not even then. It will be a sad day when I say good-bye to my dad’s old bike.
- The classic problem that arises when renovations are done is that they make other parts of the house look worse. The red accent paint that worked for our old set-up downstairs does not match with our new flooring and furniture. It will be a HUGE job to paint it – we have roughly 500 square feet of wall painted in that deep red. It would cost well over a thousand dollars for us to hire someone to paint those walls, and a couple of thousand more to have all of the downstairs walls painted. We are not going to spend that kind of money, so the problem remains: When will we be able to set aside the time to paint it? (And what colour? Any suggestions? These things don’t come naturally to me.)
- I’ve saved the ugliest for the last: our poor, poor backyard. 3 years ago, we had to have the beautiful, old sugar maple tree behind our house cut down. It was 100 years old at least, and gorgeous, giving a canopy of filtered light and shade to our grass. But it was rotting, and it was dangerous. A huge branch had fallen, and if anyone had been under it at the time . . . Ugh! It had to be cut down. Ever since we removed it, our backyard has deteriorated. DH and I (mainly DH) have made valiant efforts to add new soil, and to seed, fertilize, and weed it – but to no avail. We’re following Dave Ramsey’s steps out of debt, and someday, we’re going to do what he says: After the mortgage has been paid off – after all debt is gone – take your shoes off and walk across your backyard. You’ll find the grass under your feet feels different. If it stays as is, it will feel awful! We can’t have a backyard like this for our big moment! So we’re planning to fork over some significant money to have someone fix it – possibly next summer. Our tolerance for this instance of ugly has worn out.
Do you have a decent “ugly tolerance”? Has it served you well in terms of your financial goals? Is there such a thing as going too far in tolerating ugly? (Do you have an idea about what colour we should paint our walls downstairs?) Your comments are welcome.