In my Lenten mood, the concept of payday probably deserves some examination. Yesterday was ours.
The morning of payday is a glorious morning. Even though all of those earnings exist electronically somewhere until accessed with an ATM card, I still can't help but feel like I'm strutting around "with my pockets full of green," as a song once described. It is like I am a car that was running on empty, suddenly has a full tank, nay, more than full, topped off right up to the cap.
It doesn't last long, of course. Depending on the financial road ahead in my mind, I then act in one of two ways. If there is no goal or obligation ahead, I spend the first two or three days of a month buying whatever I want. The Costco cart gets fuller. The restaurants see more of us. Something I've been pondering online gets ordered on a whim. If I know that there is a major expense or a break on the horizon, then I do what I'd did yesterday. The money has barely registered in my account, and I immediately pay every single bill, the paragon of fiscal responsibility. In this model, three days into the month, I know exactly how much I've had to pay and, consequently, exactly how much I have left.
Either way, the first half of the month is always better than the second, or so I tell myself.
Whether I was making $17,000 the first year I had a full-time job, or now, the 27th of each month remains a day I live for, wish for, count the days until, try to make it to, budget and strategize and scrimp or "rob Peter to pay Paul," all to get to that day.
It's a grim way to live. Now, I know this is a petty little first-world problem. The living-paycheck-to-paycheck mode that some of us find ourselves in as we've gotten older is artificial. The "cash flow" problem of each month occurs because we are paying things like mortgages, retirement funds, car payments, tech expenses, and expensive educations for our children. We short ourselves in the name of luxury, convenience, and security, financial or otherwise.
And being paid is better than not. Being paid more is, arguably, better than being paid less. Mostly agree.
No, what I'm grappling with is what has happened to my psyche. I am a slave to a paycheck. My "biorhythms" have ordered themselves to a particular day of the month that my employer chose for some unknown reason, long before I started working. That day has taken control of me, really of my entire family. We all know the 27th. For you, it may be a different day, maybe a couple of days a month.
A friend and I proposed a twice-a-month pay plan some ten years ago. We were told, "Sounds like someone doesn't know how to manage his money." Surely, you hear the class criticism in that response--the less-educated you are, the more manual-labor type work you do, the more frequently you need to be paid, presumably because if you are going to squander your paycheck in a tavern at the expense of your family, then we'd better pay you again a week later while you are chastened and while your wife threatens you with a rolling pin if those pockets aren't still green when you get home.
No, salaried employees must have greater financial savvy than that, mustn't we?
But what weighs on me today is that I am allowing myself to live for money. Payday has become self-validation day. I've done it! My family has been counting on me and I've delivered! Yay, me! Paycheck, you complete me! Living for money isn't something I want to do. I'd like it to never be anything more than a means to an end.
But that is what is in my head when I log on to my bank's website and verify that, yes, I am winding up the money clock once again and it will keep ticking for the next 30 days. Should the Energizer bunny of my bank account not be "still going" for that stretch of time, then I am less than what I should be. That ain't no way to live. Which is why I hope my wife is paying for supper.