The $10,000 Challenge - yikes!

Posted November 26th, 2007 by Penny Wise

I don't know why I don't just get money and throw it out of the window at the moment. I could have cried at the weekend! I was already feeling hideously guilty about my theatre splurge so I figured the least I could do was make the rest of the day as low cost as possible by taking our own food and trying to get free parking. Last week I parked in the Skytower and thanks to the help of a knowledgable taxi driver, only paid $5 by getting my ticket validated, instead of the $30 I would have had to pay otherwise. I knew the theatre had its own carpark, I just didn't know which street it was on, so I rang them to find out. 'Yes, we do have our own carpark but you won't be able to get in it tomorrow. The whole of the city centre will be blocked off for the Santa Parade!' I was told. 'The Santa Parade? But it's still November!' I wailed. Honestly, of all the days I pick to navigate my way around Auckland CBD, it had to be the busiest of the whole year. There was only one solution - I had to leave my car at a friend's place on the outskirts of the city and get a taxi to within walking distance of the theatre, adding another $90 to my Sad Sally total. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and not convinced it was all worth it - until I set foot inside the grand old Civic theatre. Oh yes, it was definitely worth it! Mig Ayesa is just dynamite. I'd go again and again if I could but even I know when I really need to stop! Especially now we have to try and pull $10,000 out of thin air...

Ah yes. 'Twas May 2005 when we first received a quote to paint the exterior of our house from a local painter. This is a guy we have used before to paint our previous house without any problem. November 2007 we are STILL waiting. Not that there hasn't been progress, mind. There was a Wednesday in April this year when he dropped off a trailer load of scaffolding, we chose paint colours and he told me he would be back on Friday to make a start. That was the last we saw of him and yes, he is still alive I have checked! Not once in two and a half years has he returned our calls. So why have we put up with him this long? Well, as mentioned he painted our previous house without any problems or delays but mainly because of the price. He quoted us a heck of a lot less than everyone else did. In fact, it was such a good quote we asked him on several occasions if he was sure he could actually do the job for that amount but he insisted he could, so we took his word. Eventually even Noel had enough and we spent a weekend going through painting hints in the Vault to see whether we could do the job ourselves. The thing is, it's not the painting that's the problem, it's the preparation. Our house is a BIG house, two storey and parts of it are very old. We had a builder come and fix some quirks for us in 2005 when we first received the painting quote but since then the building has weathered more and it needs more stuff doing to it. Our main concern was that if we didn't do the job properly, or worse, miss something vital that needed fixing and just covered it up with paint, we could be setting ourselves up for a big fall (and not just from the roof, which was also a problem as we both hate heights!). To give Noel his due, he did try. He went to Placemakers, bought a heat gun for stripping paint and some putty and spent an afternoon re-puttying the window frames. It took him all afternoon to do one room's worth of windows and he broke one in the process. Any form of decorating or DIY is not Noel's forte - he absolutely hates it and I don't like to admit it but I think even I can do a better job. One look at those windows and I knew that lumpy, bumpy putty was going to drive me mad forever! Not that I would dare mention it of course. Anyway, by the end of the afternoon he had to admit defeat. The job was just too big for someone who didn't know what they were doing.

The final straw came the next day, when I heard someone else cursing the same painter's name in my presence. 'Don't talk about him to me!' I growled, and went on to tell the tale. This poor woman had been waiting months without even so much as a quote. I told her our story and she couldn't believe it. She told me the painter had informed her he was currently working on another local woman's house, then he would be along. I happened to know the other woman who's home he was supposedly at, so I asked her if she had seen him. 'Pah - if only! He started a job in February and I haven't seen him since! My house is still upside down, waiting for him to come back!' Well that was it, I wasn't prepared to wait indefinitely. Fortunately a friend of ours told us of a new painter who had just set up in the district. I gave him a call that night and he was out here the next afternoon giving his honest opinion and a realistic quote. Better yet, he's going to be starting next week! The only problem is, it's going to cost us as much as double what the 2005 quote was. We've got two months at the most to come up with $10,000! We have to get it done; we can't leave it any longer or the house will continue to suffer more structural damage and it will just cost us even more. I tell you what though, it's certainly put the cobblers on a few of our plans!

Obviously there's Christmas to get through. The kids have been told in no uncertain terms that Christmas is going to have to be downsized. Ali, still blissfully unaware of who buys everything on Santa's behalf, is unperturbed, secure in the belief that Santa will still come up with the goods anyway. Liam on the other hand refuses to hand over his Christmas list now he knows who is the one who actually pays for it all. Funnily enough though, the best coping strategy was actually thought up by Ali. He suggested that instead of buying as many presents as usual, we could plan some nice family things to do instead. So that's what I'm going to do! I'm going to make some vouchers for everyone that can be redeemed so we can go bushwalking, or to Hot Water Beach, or camping or whatever. In fact, camping is going to be our new family hobby and our Christmas present to each other! The gift we all want most is more time together and this is a way we can achieve it. At first, we were pretty down in the dumps, thinking we wouldn't be able to afford a holiday for a very long time - but with camping, we can! No expensive accommodation, barely any travel costs, no fast food or restaurant meals or costly tourist activities. We can go wherever we like, whenever we like! I don't even care if we camp in the field across the road from our house; it's still a break for us. No phones, no computers, no TV or Playstation, just us. I can't wait! I did a little research online to see how many camping grounds there are available. We didn't want to go and get ourselves all set up with gear and then find we were limited to just a few spots but there are heaps! There are plenty of places we can even hire things from before committing to buy. I've always wanted to go camping but Noel has always been hard to persuade, until last weekend. He and Ali have just spent a weekend deep in the bush near Mount Ruapehu. I think Ali must have been Mowgli from the Jungle Book in a previous life. He returned home as brown as a berry in a singlet and camo hat, stinking to high heaven of billy goat. Not only did he see wild goats but also wild pigs, deer and he also caught his very first trout fresh from the stream - it was a beauty too! Ali proclaimed it was 'the best weekend of his life' and the grown-ups who accompanied him were all in agreement too! So when I suggested camping as a family, both he and Noel now needed absolutely no persuasion! Although Noel thinks it's going to be expensive to get set up but he doesn't know the Vault like I do! It will be a great way for us all to learn new skills, particularly the boys but it won't hurt me to become even more resourceful too. With a few $21 Challenges under my belt, finding camping tucker should be a piece of cake!

PS: Oh my goodness!!! I had just finished writing this blog and you WOULD NOT believe it. The first painter from two and a half years ago has just turned up and is waterblasting the house as we speak! Unbelievable! Do you think his ears were burning? Yay - it looks as though my $10,000 challenge has just turned into a $5,000 challenge! Even so - it's no small bikkies. We still have to find the money from somewhere, so the downsized Christmas and camping holidays are staying. I wonder if Noel would notice if I popped off to the theatre just one more time? Just kidding...

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