Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Upgrade Trap

There is a problem with a new house or a new anything else for that matter. All of a sudden everything else looks old or small. The temptation is to just say, “Aw, what the hell,” and upgrade.

We needed to get internet and phone service. Trying to take care of even basic financial actions, like moving money or balancing a checkbook is just about impossible without access to the Internet. Our pay-as-you-go cell phones on the Sprint Network are adequate for travel and emergencies but at least in this area, they drop calls and sometimes fail to ring when they should. Trying to coordinate deliveries, communicate with our real estate agent, or the comings and goings of technicians with these barbaric instruments is infuriating. We had a choice between two providers. Both are thoroughly hated for bad customer service. We choose to go with Charter because AT&T does not yet offer high speed Internet in our neighborhood. For another $16.00 a month I could add extended basic cable TV, “Aw, what the hell.” Now my wife can watch animal planet. Readers of this blog know cable TV is one of my prime bugaboos.

South Carolina has had the most remarkably wet summer in memory. Rainfall has exceeded average by something like 21 inches. The state needed the rain. A drought lasting several years had left the reservoirs depleted, but over the last two days the sun came out and the grass is growing—really fast. I am somewhat worried. Parts of our yard have a pretty steep slope. The grass is still really chunks of sod, lying on the local red clay. It needs to be rolled. I am somewhat concerned about attempting to cut the grass with my self propelled lawn mower. The solution? Hire a yard maintenance company for just a few months with the proper equipment and expertise rather than risk the need to replant the yard. How much could it cost? “Aw, what the hell,” after all, I am just protecting my investment. What happens if I like having a lawn service?

We gave away our oldest furniture. Giving away furniture is a lot harder than I could have ever imagined, but we succeeded. Personally, I expect the Washington suburbs are so affluent that charitable organizations can afford to be picky. I expect I would have done better in the Pickens County Jockey Lot, but then I would have needed to transport the stuff from Maryland to South Carolina. Our furniture that was not old furniture in an old house, suddenly looks old in a new house. My wife is talking about replacing things that don’t match or are showing their age. Can anyone say, “A refinishing project?” Time will tell. For about 40 years (they predate my marriage) I have used cheap screw together metal shelves to house my book collection. Obviously, those things are not going into a brand new house. Really. One of the shelves is bent. A big patch of paint is missing on another shelf where once some printer ink leaked out of a cartridge. Cleaning it up managed to strip the paint. The shelves are out in the garage, where they belong, holding my tools until I can get a storage shed to replace the very nice storage shed I had in Maryland. You can’t transport an eight by twelve storage shed over 500 miles. I will need to buy new bookcases or leave my books in boxes for the next 20 years. I will need to buy a shed for my lawn mower and similar instruments of destruction (unless I really like using a lawn service).

It all adds up. Solomon observed, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” Generally this verse is the basis for a sermon on small sins that creep into a virtuous life, eventually leading the sinner down the road to perdition. The same can be said about our attempts to control our expenditures. There is always a perfectly good reason to spend a little more money. The more expensive model is on sale. It is a better buy. Yep, we bought the more expensive washer and dryer that were on sale. It has flashing lights. It beeps. It saves water and it protects your clothes since it doesn’t have an agitator.

Adding this desirable feature to your plan is only X dollars a month, just pennies a day. You already heard about the Animal Planet.

Who is it saying, “Really, you have worked so hard. You deserve it! We will worry about a budget tomorrow. Like, financial responsibility is like so boring.”

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