Sunday, July 5, 2009

Plan A vs. Plan B

My air conditioner sucked away $1,200 from my bathroom renovation fund last week. Sucked away in replacing a blower, a fan and a compressor. I'm not convinced the initial visit by the A/C guy didn't cause the problems that led to the second visit, but I'll deal with that soon.

What I'm most distressed about is that another Plan A in my life is becoming more elusive. Plan A involved a budget to rearrange the sink, toilet and bathtub so the space would be used better. To replace a creaky, rotted wood window with glass blocks, to have a small vanity made to fit the space and maximize storage. To add a heated tile floor and a fan.

I'm $1,200 further from that goal now. And I just learned I have to take a week of furlough, another chunk of change sucked away. And I took a pay cut in the spring.

"Why can't you just do something different?" counseled my friend last week.

"No, that's Plan B," I said. "I want a Plan A in my life."

I have lived my life settling for Plan Bs, and just once, I want to do a Plan A. I've never been married (no big wedding, and even so, my family was too poor to even finance anything). I waited until I was 45 to buy a house, and spent three years saving the money for a down payment. I've settled for used furniture, stuff off the street and IKEA (the novelty wears off quick). Nor do I have a dress that cost more than $45.

If my job goes away -- I'm in the newspaper business -- I'll be dead broke again. My retirement is looking more and more like another Plan B.

Usually, I do not respond to a financial setback like a plucky Briton in World War II. I get mad, and try to do something -- buy something -- that might make me feel like a Plan A person again. And that just defeats the purpose of it all.

So I'm trying to hang on. Forget that my friends, my family, live in nice houses with sidewalks and mature plantings and insulated walls and garages. Remember that I'm in one of the most challenging times of my industry, my economy.

And thinking of a way to salvage Plan A.

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