Balancing the Checkbook

November finally arrived overnight with temps approaching freezing. Heck, just yesterday I was out doing the mail route in shorts. I was actually thinking of going to the beach (since I didn't get there all summer), but now the weather has turned seasonal and I understand the water temperature is around 49 degrees ... and unfortunately I don't look good in blue.

coinsSo this morning, after proofreading the galley proofs of our upcoming new book - Cape Cod Harvest with co-author Jim Coogan (what a shameless plug, huh?), I sat down to balance the checkbook. Nowadays, with online banking, I balance it once a week just to keep on top of things. It's funny, over the years the ol' checking account and I have developed a friendly relationship of sorts. We're like old pals. Oh sure, we've had our bad times in the past, and our good times, but right now I'd say our relationship is rather smooth - few crests and troughs, just steady sailing.

There was a time, years ago, when money was important to me -- back when I was making a good income in direct mail marketing. Then I went through a phase when I despised money -- back when I was either unemployed or when I made a career decision to leave my good paying direct mail marketing position to become a full-time writer (which again rendered me unemployed for a time). Now, my feelings toward money can best be described as complete indifference. It's been a long battle over these past twenty-something years since graduating from college (debt-free, thank God!) - a battle of debits and credits. But now, as long as the bills get paid and I can putter around my garage while listening to classical music, I'm as "sound as a pound" as Austin Powers might say.

Like Thoreau, my goal in life is to simplify, simplify. Hopefully, future years will find me as a "gentleman farmer" up in Maine - no phone, no internet, no cable, no credit card bills, and hopefully no mortgage if we can make it work out that way. I'll probably take up smoking a pipe, wearing lots of plaid shirts, writing in the morning, puttering around the barn in the afternoon, lighting a fire come nightfall, and reading till bedtime. Sounds good to me.

But until then, my wife and I have to put our two children through college and continue to pay the monthly bills. I figure college (most likely a state college) is going to cost circa $15,000 a year, times four years, times two kids = $120,000. Home equity will cover that - that's been the plan all along. But what of the monthly bills? Well, let's break them down:

Cable - I remember way back before cable when television was free. Yes, free! Oh sure, we only got three stations if the atmospheric conditions were just right. But there seemed to be more interesting programming on those three stations than on the hundreds we get now. I say we pull the cable out of the wall! That'll save about $50 per month.

Internet - Who needs it! (Except to read CapeCodToday, of course) Somehow we all survived without the internet before Al Gore invented it, back in the "good ol' days," back on Walton's Mountain with Johnboy and Maryellen and Jimbob and Ike and Corabeth. I say we give it the boot! Savings: $50 per month.

Telephone - Who needs a wall phone today when we have wireless phones. Gone! Savings: $60/month. 

Wireless Phone - What, are you kidding me?! Besides causing brain cancer in laboratory mice (who would mice be calling anyway?), these things are the greatest nuisance to driving ever invented. Who are all these people talking to as they attempt to make a left turn with one hand, holding the phone in the other hand, and while holding a cup of coffee in their third hand, joyfully chatting away like they were sitting on the couch rather than in a hurtling piece of metal. I greatly dislike very few things in life - except for perhaps terrorists and those who fund terrorists and those who harbor terrorists - but wireless phones make the list. Gone! $45 savings per month.

Electricity - I don't know about you, but I like candle light. I think we can make some savings here.

Heat - Like they say when out hiking, "Dress in layers!" As long as the pipes don't freeze, we're in good shape. Savings quite possible here as well.

Gasoline - Our gasoline credit card payment is almost as high as our mortgage payment these days. I say, plan your trips better, walk when you can, dress in layers (oh wait, that doesn't apply here), and coast with your foot off the gas pedal as much as you can. If you can make all your trips downhill, that would help as well.

Food - Is it just me or are food prices rising (and no one seems to care)? Where's the outrage? Where's the concern?! Where are the Little Debbies treats located these days?!! I can't seem to find them! Pound for pound, calorie for calorie, you can't do better than Little Debbies. They're cheap, yet they taste like desserts you might find in some of the finest New York restaurants. When I die, I hope to be buried with an assortment of Little Debbies treats, along with my pipe (which I hope to start smoking someday soon), and an extra plaid shirt, in case it gets cold.

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