Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mama's Envelopes

Yom revi'i, 23 Sivan 5775.

Debt kills. Increasing debt weighs you down, dragging you toward a grave in the End of Hope Cemetery. I think it must be like heroin addiction. In the moment of the "fix," you're flying high, feeling no pain. But when you crash, when you smash face first back into reality, the pain is exquisite and debilitating.

The greater the debt, the less likely it feels that it will ever end. And since you're already up to your eyeballs in seemingly unpayable debt, what's another fifty bucks, right? And so the cycle continues.

My mother was a woman of uncommon native genius. Even though she never finished high school and lacked positive role models as a child, she came up with many of her own chunks of life wisdom.

One of her particularly wise recommendations was to set aside cash in little labeled envelopes each month, until the desired item or service could be paid for outright. This was just another of the great ideas that we ignored, as children often do.

Until crisis strikes.

Without going into gory details, I'll admit that we had a lot of debt to unload years ago. Once it was finally gone, we vowed never to have another credit card -- and we've kept that commitment for the last eight years. While we do have debit cards to facilitate payments directly from our bank accounts, and we have a monthly grocery account at our makolet, we no longer go into debt to purchase stuff, or worst of all, to pay off another month of interest on our debt.

Now, we tuck a little money each week into Mama's Envelopes. They are labeled as needed: "Emergency Fund," "Dental Work," "Vacation Fund," and so on. There are envelopes for the fun purchases such as musical instruments, and for educational pursuits, such as my beloved writing class.

There is so much pride afforded by not being in debt, by having the self-restraint to wait to make a purchase until the money is collected.

And then there is the sweetness of keeping my dear Mama in the world, just a little bit, by finally living a little more of her wisdom.


  1. And wise she was, of blessed memory.

  2. My mum lived the same way, only her "envelopes" was a small metal tin with compartments. She still uses it, in her 90th year! I was raised with the axiom, if you can't pay cash for it, you can't afford it and may not even need it! Stood me in good stead. I didn't have a credit card until I was in my 30s. I only use it when I know I have the cash to cover the payment, that way it gets paid off in full each month. And you are right about deferred gratification, it's sweet to get that thing you have saved for!

  3. Your mum IS a very wise woman, and it clearly rubbed off on her girl! May she live in good health and happiness till a hundred and twenty!