Lifestyle

The million-dollar question: Want to smash my kitchen sink?

A million U.S. dollars is considered mega-bucks to most of us.

Day-dreaming, I envision our money flowing like water trickling out to the sea. It crashes in, then streams out on an uneven tide. Watch how fast it moves when there are school tuitions and fat heavy books to buy.

Sometimes my kids beg for unnecessary things, so I sarcastically implore them to hasten out back, shake that tired old money tree and keep what falls. Oh — and try not to spend those pennies all in the same place!

Teaching children about cash flow is tough in our changing economic environment, especially since we Americans adore shopping. Be aware (and afraid) that the holidays are here now, at Costco, until January 2009.

A million dollars in U.S. currency sounds like a healthy windfall to me. However, I’m not convinced money always changes lives for the better. And to me personally, that’s the point of money. Occasionally, I deliver that boring speech about the almighty dollar: You know the saying “Money can’t buy you happiness,” blah blah blah. That is true — money itself won’t love you back, but it delivers options.

Recently, I conducted an unscientific poll among various groups of people in my circle of friends. Hypothetically, a million dollars cash lands on your doorstep, tax-free and ready to spend. What is the first thing you would buy spontaneously?

Pleasantly surprised by some, and not by others, the responses weren’t gender biased. Women said “invest it” as often as the men. Pay off the mortgage, take a trip, give it all to charity. A remark about how that wouldn’t be enough to do anything revealed the true nature of people caught off-guard by a casual question. Only one person asked me in return what is the first thing that I would do with a million bucks.

Caught off-guard by the casual question, I immediately said “Buy a new kitchen sink.” Truly, that is what I dream about. And I would host a “bash-the-kitchen-sink/faucet party.” Anyone who has ever tried to use my dysfunctional kitchen sink and been sprayed unwittingly by that evil hose is invited. Everyone can take a whack with a sledgehammer — it’ll be fun, I promise.

Amazingly, my own frugal-to-the-core husband scoffed at my kitchen sink response. He proudly proclaimed that he’d buy a whole new kitchen! That is truly ironic because Mr. Hallahan doesn’t cook. He burns water if he figures out how to turn on the gas stove. I also find it hugely ironic to clean a sink that is zinged hateful thoughts and words on a daily basis. So a million dollars is not enough to retire on by today’s standards, true enough, but it would buy a lot of new kitchen sinks.

Money issues are tough lessons in life. There will always be people with more discipline and those with less. How we choose to spend/save what we have today determines the quality of life tomorrow.

Last week, we introduced a new budgeting plan for our children. Allowance money will be given rain or shine after attending church on time. No church on time, no money. (Blackmail to some, moral teaching to others, but hey — money does motivate!)

Much to my dismay, my children’s spending habits are already formed. The oldest inherited her father’s genetic cheap code, the middle boy loses his money faster than he can spend it, and the youngest will buy anything just for the sake of buying.

Obviously just watching us isn’t enough; it’s time to chop down that tree and do some real goal setting.

As parents, we want our children to have options — maybe someday they’ll buy me that perfect kitchen sink. The American Dream stays alive!

Federal Way resident Jan Hallahan is a writer and mom. Contact: Jan12160@yahoo.com.

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