Today I emptied the change jar and counted what was in it. Here’s what I had.
$3.74 in pennies.
$8.10 in nickels
$27.00 in dimes
And, because I’m Canadian, a bonus –
$32.00 in toonies and
$1.00 from a single lonely loony
That’s a total of $71.84. In addition, I keep a quarter tin as my wool-buying stash, and from the weight of it I’d say I have another $30-$40. Since Christmas, in other words, I’ve managed to sock away about a hundred dollars, fairly painlessly. Even without the toonies and loonies, I’d still have enough money for a very nice dinner out, or a few books, or a tankful of gas if I was desperate.
This isn’t ten thousand in mutual funds or RRSPs, but it’s emergency money. My mom always kept a few dollars in the house for emergencies, money my dad didn’t know she had. The change jar is my version of this. It might be inconvenient to pay for groceries with thirty-five dollars in dimes and nickels, but it can be done.
I have a friend who took up financial planning and told me that he could get me to retirement by the age of fifty-five. I’m pretty sure he said this because he thought I was younger than I was. I said “Good trick – I’m fifty-four. Can you still do it?” His response was, “Yes, but I need more money to work with.” Frankly, if I had that kind of money I wouldn’t be handing it to a financial planner.
I’m not talking about getting to retirement here. In fact, I think most artists and writers don’t think in terms of retirement.(They can’t make artists retire – they have to shoot us!) What I’m talking about is finding ways to be able to sleep at night, to stop, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “beating [yourself] to pieces over all the mean worry of housekeeping”.
That day-to-day worry can be so consuming that it eats our sleep, our joy and our creativity. There is something very wrong with a life where you work as hard as you can and still can’t manage. Part of it is rethinking needs versus wants (and I’ll be talking about that in a future post), but part of that anxiety can be alleviated by an astonishingly small amount of money. The bank manager who told me I’d be surprised at how fast twenty thousand dollars accumulates would probably fall over in shock if he actually knew how much fifty dollars can do in the average artist’s life.
What will I do with my change jar? I’ll roll the coins and turn them into bills, and use them. I might take my husband to dinner, or pay for the dog’s vaccinations, or buy books or paper or art supplies or chocolate. Or put them in my sock and know that if I need a few bucks for gas or groceries, it’s there. Tomorrow I’ll start filling the change jar again.