The price of being nice

Posted March 31st, 2008 by Penny Wise

Sigh... I feel like a right plonker. Yesterday Noel and I had our first real argument in years and it was over money. Well, something stupid that I had done involving money. It wasn't a big thing, but I had lied about it and tried to cover it up and that to Noel made it a big thing. If I had just been honest in the first place and taken the flack it probably wouldn't have gone down well but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as bad. The worst thing of all was that I only got myself into this mess by trying to be nice! You see, Noel's ear is permanently glued to the phone for his job and every month he has to go through the phone bill and claim any work expenses owing back from the company. Not usually a problem but I had already paid the bill a few days earlier and was shocked to see that I had unwittingly donated $60 to charity. You know - all the ones who ring up when you're up to your eyes in cooking dinner or bathing the kids and you agree to anything to get them off the line. I couldn't even remember who one of the charities were and then to make matters worse I remembered the $40 Noel told me he donated to Friends of the Air Ambulance a couple of days ago. Between us we had donated $100 to charity in a single month's worth of calls. Now I am all for supporting worthy causes but we just don't have that kind of money to give away! I was horrified when I opened the bill and knew Noel was really not going to be impressed, so I did something really daft. I destroyed the piece of paper from the bill which listed the calls and simply kept the piece which had the final total. Even at the time I knew it wasn't going to work, I don't know why I even bothered but it gave me a few days grace until Noel did his company expenses. Upon which he immediately asked 'what have you done with the other piece of paper?' I tried my best to look innocent and mumbled something about oh dearie me I must have thrown it in the rubbish with the envelope. I would have got away with it too but I'm a dreadful liar and his disgusted expression caused me to burst out laughing. Well that was it! Straight away he realised I was up to something and I got accused of having affairs, ringing phone sex lines and all sorts of other things - why else would I go to such lengths to destroy the phone bill? I told the truth about the charities but to my dismay it wasn't enough. I mean, if his wife could lie about something so simple, what other things did she lie about? In one fell swoop I had managed to earn his distrust AND leave us $100 worse off because now he couldn't claim back his work expenses. I promised I would ring Telecom and ask them to send a copy of the bill again and he agreed. 'Honestly - if I'd known you were going to do that I wouldn't have forked out another $40 to the bloody air ambulance!' he fumed.

To cut a long story short, all is well again but basically it all came down to the fact that I was too nice to say no to the charities when they rang and not only did it put us in financial strife, but also a fair bit of marital strife as well! It's just the way I am - other people are a lot more assertive but I'm not and I decided I didn't want to be put in that position ever again. I would love to be able to support all the charities who need help, they do a fantastic job but I can't save the world to my own family's detriment. Lately we've been getting an average of four calls a week asking for money, and the lead-up to Christmas we were getting as many as eight! I even made notes of some of them in my diary who I had asked not to call for another six months at least and found they had been calling at least every three months, sometimes every eight weeks! So I sat down and thought of all the things we do to support organisations that don't go on the phone bill. For years our family has sponsored a guide dog puppy and shaken fundraising buckets at people during Guide Dog Week. Ali sponsors a crocodile from Australia Zoo and we have recently become members of WSPA and make an automatic donation every month. I buy wristbands for breast cancer awareness, poppies for ANZAC Day, ballpoint pens for Daffodil Day and bandannas and Christmas cards from Canteen. I often put an extra pet food item in the SPCA donation box in the supermarket and buy tickets for all kinds of raffles. I can do all these things without breaking the bank but no more phone calls. In desperation I rang Telecom and explained my situation - even they were horrified at the amount of calls we'd been getting and directed me to a website called The Marketing Association. All I had to do was submit the online Name Removal Service form for Consumers and I was done, they assured me I should start seeing a reduction in the amount of calls and junk mail I receive within a month. Woohoo! I hope they're right!

As well as unwanted phone calls, I have also put an end to unwanted spam, with the help of the Vault! My email account was being swamped each day with all kinds of dreadful mail; anything from replica watches to Viagra and 'health' supplements. I didn't want to go to the inconvenience of changing my email address just as everyone had got used to it but I was sick to death of being offered fake Rolex watches and the secret to having a bigger willy. Something had to be done - but why should it be at my expense? So I checked the Vault and Forum for a free anti-spam provider and found a tip which told me about a free program called Spamfighter. I downloaded it and have never looked back! It works really well with my Outlook Express and you can see the pesky spam emails being dumped into the Spamfighter folder before they even arrive. The only thing you have to do is remember to check the spam folder occasionally to make sure no emails you actually WANT have been put in there by mistake, but so far it's got it right every time. Brillant - and thank goodness!

We've done quite well for freebies lately. Liam got bowled over by a huge wave at the beach on Sunday and landed awkwardly, injuring his foot badly. Of course it had to be on a weekend when all the medical centres were closed but luckily the doctor was on duty. He was a locum and was up front from the start. 'Look - he needs an x-ray but we don't have the facilities here. I'll look at his foot but there's no way I'm charging you $60 for it being on a weekend and me not being your usual doctor. We'll just pretend we met on the street if anyone asks, shall we?' What a nice chap! Fortunately we had to go past a hospital on our way home and fortunately it was quiet. Fortunately because the injury was also accident related we didn't have to pay for any treatment either! However, while Liam's foot was thankfully not broken, his foot's still swollen like a balloon and he can't walk without crutches. Luckily I knew where to get some free crutches from too though - our local information and support centre lends them out!

Day Two of my $21 Challenge and so far I haven't spent a cent. My first proper home made loaf turned out wonderfully - probably too well actually, I think I'm stuck with that job permanently now but I have to admit I was rather proud. Even yesterday when Noel accidentally knocked off the ceramic coffee jar we've had for years and it smashed into a million pieces and sent an entire new bag of coffee over the floor in the process, I refused to go and get him some more until the next time I happened to be in town. I think all this renewed enthusiasm is mainly down to the fact I interviewed Tara Holland from our Campbell Live No Spend family for That's Life! magazine last week. What an inspiration! I can't believe how dedicated she and her family have been and how well they have adapted to turning their habits around. Even though No Spend Month is over they have continued to keep up the excellent work and are continuing to reap the benefits. Talking to Tara reminded me of a lot of the things I used to do which have gone out the window over time. I won't say too much about them for now, we'll wait until That's Life hits the streets in the near future!

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