Monday, April 21, 2008


Last year we had a garage sale. We worked for many weekends and evenings going through an accumulation of "stuff" from four different people over two different states and five cities.

I think this was one of the biggest catalysts for us to bring things into balance.

I realized that we don't have "nice things". The majority of what we own was given to us. Some of it was new (like the television with dvd and vhs that my hubby won at a work event) and a lot of it was second-hand. Our computer equipment and business equipment are about the only things we've really put money into.

Instead of purchasing a really nice, comfortable sofa, we've probably spent about ten times as much on little $20-$40 items at Target. It's so easy to spend a small amount of money. What's $20, really? Seen alone in a wallet that twenty dollars doesn't have the "add-up power" that it does in a stack of other $20 bills. It's hard to imagine how $20 will make a difference. It's real easy to say, "well, if $20 makes or breaks us honey, we have loads of other problems."

And yes, we've said exactly those words, at least 2-4 times each month the entire time we've been together.

"If $20 makes or breaks us, we have other things to worry about."

What a wonderful way to think, eh? What a wonderful way to live in denial and build up debt.

$20 is also an amount that is easily paid off at the end of the month. No cash? Don't worry... $20 won't make or break us, we'll just pay that off when our bill comes in.

I feel very embarrassed right now. And rightfully so. We were idiots.

Because in going through the boxes and boxes of stuff in our attempt to declutter and consolidate our belongings into a more manageable amount, I realized just how many items we really had purchased.

Seeing them, lined up on our garage sale tables, made me realize that those items could easily have been a nice new couch, a dining room table, or even a nice down payment on a new car.

Instead of investing our money or using it to pay down debt, we celebrated life in quick bursts of spending that fizzled quickly and left us with a garage full of crap.

And not only was it a garage full of crap; it was a garage full of crap that no one wanted to buy.

One of my favorite candle holders was a pair of wrought-iron loops with four votive candle holders around a bowl that could hold floating candles, pretty pebbles, or anything else that would be pretty. They were on chains that we hung from the ceiling. Total? $40 for the pair plus about $16 replacing the glass votive holders that ended up getting broken.

Our total amount down the drain was at least $56 plus tax. Oh, plus the cost of the hooks to hang them.

We "meant" to hang them up and when we finally found the boxes, dusted them off, and got around to it we had just over a year before we had to move and no longer had the room for the lovely decorative candle holders. Then they sat in the garage collecting dust for almost two years.

They sold for $5 each.

Now, the nice thing is that it was a (very expensive) reality check and it completely changed the way we spend our money. It also got rid of a lot of things that we had no need of. We gave a sizable donation of usable items to Goodwill. (Unfortunately we weren't smart enough to get a receipt.) We had a baby on the way and we needed the space; we accomplished a goal.

We accomplished a goal. We actually finished something that we had started.

This was something we needed to know about ourselves. This was the first "big project" that we had seen through from start to end. It was a big thing.

This garage sale was full of lessons. I'm thankful that we have finally learned them rather than sitting around and waiting another few years. I'm glad we've proven that we can start what we finish. We can work as a team. We can get stuff done.

Now our big challenge is finding a reality check for all the things that can't be lined up on a table in the early morning light of a Saturday garage sale. Like our trips to Starbucks (1-2x/month), getting homemade custard from the shop down the road (2-4x/month), trips for Slurpees (4-6x/month) and all the other assorted "treats".

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