Have things ever just…fallen into your lap? Call it luck, a perk from reading the book The Secret, the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (wait…have you just recently heard about this?), or an answer to your prayers, but you think of something—a need, a want, a nice-to-have—and then several weeks, months, or even days later it appears. And it doesn’t appear in an ordinary fashion, or even on my timeframe; but it does appear.
I can remember my desire for a pure, all-white cat as a child who grew up on dirty, mucky farm where it seemed hopeless to try to keep anything clean, much less white. Last week Danny Boy, a completely bleach-white kitten, fell into my husband’s email inbox. I am now rubbing his chin and fighting off his little bites and scratches while he chases after my jerkily moving fingers navigating the keyboard. I have developed a taste for mango salsa, and several months ago we had the tortilla chips, but we were out of salsa. Since we only go grocery shopping every other week, I was pretty much out of luck. The next day, I opened our front door to a paper bag from a local church inviting us to their sermons and welcoming us to the neighborhood. In the bag were pamphlets, a Frisbee, pens, and…salsa. When our honeymoon to Austria was grounded last month after the volcano erupted and we ended up spending several nights in my family’s cabin in the mountains, I couldn’t help but smile as I looked around and remembered that this is exactly what I had wanted: a secluded cabin in the woods nestled among mountains. Last week I heard of a great deal that if you purchase Gillette bodywash at a dollar general store with the P&G coupon, you could get the bodywash for free. I didn’t have time to do this…and as it turns out, CVS has a deal this week with free Gillette bodywash using the same coupon.
Perhaps it is because of my openness to receiving opportunities that makes me so adept at identifying them when they come, even though they are often disguised or at a time that may not be convenient for me. Or maybe I am subconsciously looking out for these things because I introduced the thought in my head, and so it is not that they occur after I have the initial thought, but just that I am now more aware of them. Whatever it is, it has taught me to say and think what I actually want, even if I think it is absolutely ludicrous and could never happen in a million years; after all, I have been surprised many, many times.
One of my ludicrous wants is to install granite countertops in our kitchen. It’s not the desire for granite itself that is ludicrous—there’s something so enticing about the depth, solidity, and clean lines of a granite countertop that would make most people want it—but my desire to pay less than $20 per square foot for it that would make most people balk. Lo and behold, last Tuesday I was driving to work and was stopped by a redlight long enough to catch a look at the F-150 that had pulled beside me into the left hand turning lane. My eyes nearly popped out of my head as I read the sign advertising granite countertops for $14.95 installed. I hesitated for a moment (literally, as the redlight was momentarily going to be changing), but decided that perhaps this was my opportunity for living my frugal decadence, even though the price seemed too good to be true. After hurriedly writing down the phone number I called the company and scheduled a free in-home consultation and quote for our kitchen.
The quote came in at $2,142, which included the labor, taxes, granite, installation, and five-year sealant. The only issue was that it was a promotion that was ending on that day (typically they sell for $30.95 per square foot). I checked out some of their reviews online, as well as asked for references. I even went so far as to pick out the type of granite that we wanted, envisioning the nice, sleek ubatuba adding an air of elegance to our kitchen.
And then I took a deep breath, and felt my internal hesitation. Sitting on the bar stool, which could soon be housed under an actual breakfast bar made of granite extending from our countertops, I wondered, “Will this opportunity ever come again? Is this my sign that I should push the button and sign the contract? Or am I merely falling into the trap of spending for instant gratification instead of waiting until we pay off our debt?” I tried to think of myself as the next caller on Suze Orman’s “Can I Afford It” segment and wondering what I, as a frequent watcher of the program, would say to someone in my situation. I waited for Paul to come home.
That evening he and I sat down to discuss. Granite countertops would clearly increase the value of our home, and they were a sure upgrade from our current vinyl leftovers. But we are in debt. Our debt-free day will be sometime in August (excluding our mortgage). Even though the end of this summer is sooner than we had ever hoped to be out of debt, and even though the student loan we still have is only at a 1.25% interest rate, it would mean keeping ourselves weighted down for another two months or so before hitting the debt-free jackpot. What opportunities might arise in the fall that we can’t take advantage of because of this past spending? Granite countertops installed for $1500? (A girl can dream, right?).
We said no. It was difficult to do, so difficult to do. I went to bed that night feeling that I had done the right thing, but still being a little disappointed. I dreamt that Paul and I had purchased a second home, and even in the concocted scenario of my subconscious I could feel that weighted, ugliness of debt seeping through my heavy, heavy pores. The next morning I woke up to the sun dripping through the leaves of the blooming magnolia in our front yard. In the haze of the morning, when I realized that it had just been a dream that we had purchased a second home with a second mortgage,, I had a glimpse of the feeling of debt freedom that is ours for the taking in just a few precious months away. That feeling—liberation from others, having nothing to pay for except the choices that we make from the present moment, and being able to realize our dreams—can never be replicated by granite. Granite is a gorgeous, distinguished, polished stone; but that is it, it is only a stone. Debt freedom is a feeling and a way of life. How can I take my $2,142 that could be used for one to pay for the other?
Granite is just going to have to wait, which leads me to the second thing I have learned from having all of these coincidences and opportunities creep up: another deal will come around. Deals are not finite and this deal is not the last one I will ever see. Except the next time around, I will be ready with cash in hand for when opportunity comes knocking on my door.