I am something of a control freak when it comes to money. I realize -- and have for a long time -- how very irritating that can be to family members, and I sympathize, somewhat. However, if I were not a control freak, now that my annual income has basically been halved, we would not have been able to keep our home, and would likely be in public housing, dodging meth mongers and bullets, at any given time.
Thus it is a source of consternation to me when people are loose with cash, and have little knowledge and no control, for the most part. I was divorced at the tender age of 23 years, and remarried around four years later. In that span of time, my checkbook was out of balance once in the amount of $0.05. That's a nickel for those of you who don't follow cash-flow charts. It took me a couple of days, but I finally worked out where the mistake had been made, thank God, because then I could sleep again.
Several years ago, I was confronted by a co-worker with the old saw "time is money," and -- for the first time ever -- I really put some thought into the saying, and came up with this core philosophy: Time is not money. The exact opposite is true. Money is not the paper bills you receive from the bank and spend at retail outlets. Money is not the gold stored in Fort Knox, up yon in Kentucky. And it absolutely is not that seemingly magic plastic in your purse or wallet. Money is all of the time that I am forced to spend away from my home and family at labor for an employer. The numbered paper bills and credit cards are mere pale representations of the time I must spend at my job, keeping the earth spinning on its axis.
Thus, one of my core philosophies: Money Is Time.
When one desires a particular manufactured item or a nice meal, one must decide if it is worth the time spent gathering the funds necessary. When I was employed by Tate & Lyle, I worked a good deal of overtime so that I could pay cash for my vacations. And we had some outrageous vacations that were worth all of the time it took to pay for them. Our hiatuses were paid in full before we left the house, and if the credit card was used, it was because it had been prepaid.
In my in-between years -- my early to mid-twenties when I was a swinging bachelor -- I lived for a short time in Cougar Town. I had a tendency to date women of a certain age, because I found that, mostly, they were less pretentious, and approached life with a cynical eye forward, as I did.
At one point I was seeing a woman who was more than a decade older than I, and had two sons, thirteen and seventeen. I had received from work, as a safety award, a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of my choice. I chose Chesapeake's, a Knoxville seafood emporium, given to fresh seafood and excellent service. I left Athens with my gift certificate and $150, cash, in my possession.
The meal consisted of cocktails, an appetizer, our chosen entrées with appropriate wine, and dessert. When the repast was done, the waiter brought the check, and I dug out of my wallet the certificate and necessary cash to take care of the bill and tip. My date, however, was absolutely incredulous that the gift certificate had not covered the cost in its entirety. I looked at her. Then I asked how long it had been since anyone had taken her to a decent place to eat.
She admitted that it had been some time since she had been confronted with an atmosphere of Chesapeake's caliber. I told her then that, when I intended to have a dinner the likes of which we had just finished, along with a tag-along date, I never stepped out of the house with less than $200, ever. She was flabbergasted. I then told her that $200 was always more than enough to cover the check, but better too much than not enough. However,had the money not been in my possession, we would not have gone there. Foreknowledge of the potential expenditure is part of the control aspect.
And, of course, I always kept a running total of my available funds pinned to the bulletin board in my head. I still do, but the funds are less impressive these days, so there are a lot fewer meals out than there were, back in the day. Vacation, of course, is a distant dream, as I believe in taking enough cash to burn a wet mule.
Which brings me to Exhibit B.
More than twenty years ago, my Young Bride and I took our first trip to Walt Disney World. We had friends living in Orlando, and the plan was that we would spend three nights in a local inn, then four with Jim and Peytyn. Also, the host couple planned to accompany us on our third day at WDW, spent in the Magic Kingdom.
We had an okay day there, and when it got on toward time for dinner, we shopped about for an eatery. The Liberty Tree Tavern looked workable, so Jim and I stepped into the foyer to look at the menu. When my best friend got a gander at the prices, he got that look on his face. "I can't afford this," he said. Remember, he was not on vacation. I asked to see the menu.
It was gourmet fare, surely, with escargot on the appetizer menu and various types of steak and seafood for entrées. I did some quick math in my head and said, "Buddy, this one's on me." Let's not forget that this couple was putting us up for several days, gratis. That philosophy of having enough money to light up a creature of equine heritage paid off. And, let me say, without hesitation, that this favor has been paid back many times over in the intervening decades. That's how it works.
But, had I not been able to afford the meal, we could have easily eaten hot dogs at Casey's, or burgers at Cosmic Ray's. The ability to do simple multiplication also helps in the arena of control.
And if I ever have that kind of cash again, trust me, off we'll go. But I won't leave the hacienda until I have the money/time my hands; 'cuz that's the kind of control freak I am.