Opinion

Editor's column: Some sound budget advice from an expert

Joyce: Melvin, we’ve got a problem.

Melvin: What’s that, the price of gas is half what it was?

Joyce: No, I’ve just finished our 2009 household budget, and we’ve got a huge deficit.

Melvin: Deficit? How can that be? You and I both got small cost of living increases. Sure, things will cost a little more than that, but we can cover it.

Joyce: Where’d you learn budgeting, in arithmetic class? You haven’t factored in the budgeted cost increases we announced last year.

Melvin: You mean before the economy tanked, before we lost 40 percent of our investments, and before the value of our house plummeted like our bank stock?

Joyce: Well, we made promises that we have to keep.

Melvin: Like what?

Joyce: Well promised the kids a big increase in their allowances. Music downloading and text messaging don’t come cheap, you know. It’s not like when you were a kid and you could pay for your lifestyle by collecting empty bottles in the ditch.

Melvin: Things have changed, tell the kids they’ll have to make do with what they got last year.

Joyce: They’d be devastated. And to tell the truth, they’ve already made plans to spend that extra money. In fact, I fronted them some of it, by using my credit card.

Melvin: That wasn’t too smart. Now our 2008 budget is out of whack.

Joyce: We’ll just dip into our savings to cover that. Now, we have to worry about 2009. Besides the kids’ allowances, we planned on that trip to Europe for $10,000, the new car for $30,000 and the assisted care facility for Mom, for $5,000 a month. All together, that puts us more than $100,000 over budget.

Melvin: This is crazy, we can’t afford that. Sure, things looked rosy last year, but then they fell apart. All that new stuff is on hold.

Joyce: But I’ve already booked the European trip, I sort of told the car dealer we really like that cute little foreign thing, and Mom’s got her bags packed.

Melvin: But how are we going to pay for all this? Remember, we’re worth only a fraction of what we were last year at this time.

Joyce: Well, we could make some cuts, but the kids would whine endlessly, we’d lose our travel deposit, our car dealer would hate us. Don’t forget, he belongs to the same clubs as your boss. And Mom would be devastated.

Melvin: That’s too bad, but we’ll have to make some cuts.

Joyce: OK, we’ll slash the kids’ allowance increase by 10 percent, go to Mexico instead of Europe, buy a Ford instead of a foreign car, and put Mom in a cheaper facility. But we’re still way over budget.

Melvin: Why are you looking at me like that? Kind of longingly. I haven’t seen that look in years.

Joyce: I’m longing for you to get another job, Melvin. You absolutely must take a second job so we can balance our budget.

Melvin: But I already work hard. Every time times get tough, you demand more from me instead of cutting back like you should. Why don’t you take a second job?

Joyce: You know I can’t, my present job is too time consuming, especially this time of year. It’s not easy being budget advisor for the Washington State Legislature.

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