Bills, Bills, Bills.

Posted on January 7, 2009


I think I should take a reality check on my aspiring journalism/columnist career and give a call to a local record company. I’ll ask for a desperate agent who’s one hit away from getting the sack and tell him to sign me up for nothing. I’ll offer to pay for all the expenses, including cutting the LPs, the design of the album and marketing this one-trick pony.

My song? The 2009 Top 40 Hit Bills, Bills, Bills.

Oh how I love bills. How many ways do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

You come in several incarnations. If you’re feeling really good that day, you’ll come once every quarterly with a massive three-figure sum that I struggle to pay off, but at least I don’t have to see your funny face that often. Some days, your missus didn’t give you any nookie and you Fed-Ex a bill that arrives every two months. I was just beginning to wonder if this was a utility I’m using for free. So fair play, knocking on my door six times a year is okay.

Of course, you like rearing your ugly head too and decide to dish out the pain with bills that arrive every month. On time. Without fail.

How do you do it? I swore I just paid you off yesterday and I couldn’t wait to see the end of your fugly derriere. I wake up the next day and hey wadya know, you’re back in my mailbox with another middle finger.

It’s like Groundhog Day, only less funny and more gory.

Now that I finally own a house of my own, I think back to those days when my folks told me to turn the telly off if I wasn’t watching it. Or turn the lights off if I wasn’t in the room. Or turn this off. Or turn that off. It all kind of went in one ear and went out the other. What did I know then? I’m only a teenage kid, and I come home from school with teenage worries. Saving $20 to purchase a CD or a pair of jeans. Or maybe borrow $10 from my best mate so I can take that hot chick out to the movies. You know, that kind of silly thing. Coming home only meant one thing to me – a temporary reprieve from money problems. Because at home, a teenage kid does not pay for anything he uses. I want. I take.

I didn’t think much about what my folks said or all that nagging about how money is hard to come by and I shouldn’t be wasteful. Not until I moved out and started renting. I guess the brunt of it is blunted when the rent is split three ways (there were three of us renting an apartment) and everything else is well, split three ways too. And besides, rent is rent. It’s not that steep. Like a bloody mortgage.

Last year was all about the harsh realities of realising what your folks said has always been true. With mortgage payments at an all time high in 2008 (on a variable interest rate most Aussies were paying between 8.5% and 9.5% – incredibly high), Michele and I were bleeding money every fortnight. Factor in grocery, ammenities and bills (all essentials), we had no leftovers. Of course, it was exacerbated by my work restrictions, which meant we were almost surviving on beans and rice. Exaggerated? Yes. Impossible? No. We survived it didn’t we?

What amazes me was how a large number of Aussies have much higher mortgages than us. Living here in a poorer part of Melbourne, we’re barely getting by. How on earth do these double-income couples (no doubt about it) cope?

I’ve also developed a rather (un)healthy obsession with the switches. If I’m not using say, the kettle, I turn the switch to the kettle off. And likewise for every single appliance in the house. I go into my sister-in-law’s room to check for switches and remind her when she hasn’t turned them off (made worse because we don’t really get along) and I do a quick scan in every room before I go to bed each night as well. Bar the essentials, almost every switch is off.

There are reports everywhere on the effects of turning off your switches, and how much money they save in the long run. It’s minute amounts, even in the first year. But it’s a substantial amount over a decade. Money that you can possibly pay for a week’s worth of grocery.

I’ve even called home to tell my folks how I have regretted not listening to them in the past. I can only imagine how much more they’ve had to pay for because of my negligence.

Well never again. My kids will learn it the moment they grasp the concept of money. Money is not easy to come by and I’m not about to throw it at some national corporations just because I’m too lazy.

I reckon some brilliant politician should enact a law that stipulates people who pay over, say $3000 in bills a year should be given a tax refund. Or a public holiday. Or Salary Package their bills.

Now I’ll take any of these incentives over a Top 40 hit any day.

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