I can’t help it.
Music, coffee, and a smile are how I greet my bills. I’ve always felt awesome about paying bills but took for granted that was a normal feeling. Over time, I realize that many people are so busy feeling the loss of what they can’t do with that money that they are getting the joy of paying bills stolen right from them. That makes me sad and I hope to help out some of those people (maybe even you?) with these tips.
No One is Going to Disney-Land-World with the Electric Bill Money
One bill is not big enough for anyone to take a vacation on. I found myself slipping on this one a little while I paid my six-month auto insurance premium and my main credit card off. “If I just carried all that credit card debt I could have taken the kids to DisneyWorld, man.” I thought sadly. Then I kind of had a moment and swung over to the, “Wait. Then I’d come back with memories, mouse ears, and the same financial mess I left behind.”
That would probably suck at least some of the joy out of those vacation memories. Maybe it wouldn’t for other people, but I tend to regret spending when it is not done from a good place. I want to know when I’m on that vacation – that I’m sure will happen one of these years – I will come home to a clean house and clean finances.
Even if all your bills for one month could get you to Epcot but then come home with two months’ worth of bills and a stack of pictures it might have been better to just pay the bills and postpone the trip.
It Is More Important to Teach Kids Boring Responsibility Than Cram Them Full of Exciting Memories
This is probably more controversial, but the reason I am happy when I pay bills is I make it a togetherness experience for me and the kids. I talk to them about bills and why we pay them and, “Isn’t it nice to be cozy warm when there’s an eight foot snow pile in our front yard?” Oh yes, they agree, it is ever so nice to be warm.
In my fantasies my kids talk like the kids from Mary Poppins with the big eyes and the breathless voices and the English accents. They can also fly and do dishes without splashing water all over my floor. I have an amazing fantasy life.
Speaking of fantasies, I know a lot of parents out there (including ME, so no high horses here) that think if they don’t give their kids wonderful memories they are failing. Like, if the kid grows up and doesn’t have some kind of anchor-memory they are not going to remember anything and we will have just been the bland, “They were fine. They loved me. I guess.” parents that don’t have the other adult-children’s friends going, “Dang! I wish my mom/dad/caregiver were that cool!”
Almost everyone I know – myself included – don’t want to be boring parents. We want to be interesting, we know things because of the Internet and want to share them, I may have spent two and a half hours playing Minecraft with my daughter last night. I don’t even like Minecraft but I was determined to find diamonds in the mine because that would be the icing on the cake of her “stayed up late to play video games with mommy” memory. Without diamonds, I felt the whole thing was a waste of getting lost down a mine shaft.
Of course she didn’t see it that way. She just loved playing Minecraft with her mom. I was the one putting the expectations on the whole deal. Don’t do what I did. Enjoy the moment even if it’s not diamond-encrusted. Also, we did find obsidion, so there’s that. (See what I did there? Silver lining!)
So get the kids involved at a level they can handle when you are paying your bills. Soon, I am going to let them pay a bill. I haven’t decided exactly how that is going to work out but I feel it’s important they are used to it by the time they have to do it themselves. I look back at myself and my $15 minimum payment to Sears when I was 21 and not paying it because I needed money to “go out” and I want to kick my younger self and make her pay that card off and start building her credit for later.
Remember Why You Pay Bills In the First Place
When I get crabby about my gas or electric bills I have this thing I do. First I go to the front door and open it. Then I open the screen door as wide as it will open. Then I either freeze or immediately start to sweat. Ta-Dum! I just reminded myself why I pay my bills. When the weather is nice my bills are low and I don’t get particularly bent out of shape about them. But those dead-of-winter prices and height-of-summer prices are a killer. Luckily those are the times where going outside is enough to remind me why I pay for climate control.
If I’m having a really smart day I look at the laptop I’m typing on and try to even wrap my brain around a life with no electricity. Then I freak out and stop thinking about it and move on feeling a lot less bitter about having to fork the cash over for my bills.
If you pay for daycare or preschool, have a few conversations with your child(ren). They will make you smile and you remember you would do anything for them. Same goes for older kids but the older they are the less a conversation will help because they get kinda mouthy as they get older and it might backfire.
If you have a spouse or significant other wandering around you might want to give them a hug. Hugs always make things better.
Remember Your Goals or Get Some Goals
If you think about a vacation or a coat or new shoes or a car or something else you could be spending the money on when your’e paying the bills, odds are good you do not have a budget with goals.
When someone has a budget they know where the money is going and how long it’s going to take to get to the goal. Then, when they pay the bills and put something away in the “Vacation Goal” savings account (we use Capital One 360 for multiple savings accounts you can name whatever you want) you think about the vacation your’e going to take in the future and it hurts less to see the money from your checking account or from your purse/wallet going toward necessities.
Right now my Vacation Goal savings account has eight cents in it. We aren’t in a place where we can start saving for vacation. I still make sure to look at it when I’m paying bills because soon I’ll be able to put some money in there. My goal is to start saving for my goal. It works for me. It’s not perfect because I long to take a break and leave the house for some extended period of time that lasts longer than day, but it stops me from blaming my bills and that’s really all I need it to do right now.
If you haven’t written down your expenses and income on a piece of paper or in a Google Drive spreadsheet yet, do that. It’s the most basic of budgets and will let you know where you are at now so you can start making budget-based plans and decisions moving forward.
Stop Feeling Like Crap Because You Aren’t Doing Everything You Want
Whether or not you have kids, not doing the stuff you want can make you feel like a loser. I have watched other people having fun many times and wondered what I did wrong that left me in a position where I take my kids to the movies once a year. “Why can’t I just figure life out like everyone else?” is something I ask myself more times than any human ever should. I’m trying to stop beating myself up and focus on what I do have.
The big one is time. I might not be able to take my kids on a ski vacation, but I do spend time with them, talk to them, and I know they feel heard. That is important to me.
If I didn’t have kids my priority would be spending time with my husband. If I didn’t have a husband it would be spending time with my friends. I’m a very people-oriented person. Of course I want time to read, listen to music, and just dance in my living room but those are all a close second on my list to the people I’ve chosen to have in my life.
While I might not be able to give my kids name-brand clothing, I can give them attention. Even if I tell myself I’m a crap mother for not getting them better clothes, I still know the attention is important. No amount of negative self-talk can convince me otherwise.
Besides, everyone has something they want to do but can’t. Even the super rich have things they want to do that are beyond them. We all have goals, the goals just get bigger and more expensive with the size of your net worth. So don’t worry, you aren’t alone in wanting things that are just out of your reach.