Mulch Ado About Money

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden, a permanent fixture at Wendell Wilkie High School.

Hi Mr. C.,

Well, here I am in the middle of Summer with nothing to do, as usual. There’s no regular work so I’m doing odd jobs around the house for pocket change. Just last week my dad paid me $1 a bag to spread cypress mulch in the planting areas of the back yard. I had to ask my mom to keep taking me back to the garden store because we have lots of planting areas and 2 cubic feet is not as much mulch as you think.

I loaded everything in a wheelbarrow, rolled it to the spot, dumped it, opened it, spread it, collected the bags and went back to the car. Over and over. It was pretty hard work but I’m happy with the way it turned out.

However my dad didn’t realize it was going to take sixty eight bags. And I probably could have done it with less, but I’m convinced bark mulch is a waste of time unless you lay it on really thick.

Especially when I’m only getting paid $1 a bag!

He forked over the money though, which is all that counts. But then he asked me what I was going to do with my windfall and I said I was going to go see Edge of Tomorrow, that new Tom Cruise sci-fi action film.

That’s when my dad said he was disappointed that I was using his money to pay for something by that weenie Tom Cruise, and just the thought of his hard-earned dollars supporting “that wacko” gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

That kind of confused me. I told him I wasn’t giving his hard-earned money to Tom Cruise, I was giving MY hard earned money to Tom Cruise.

See, I thought money was mine as soon as it was given to me but he said “No, there are complaining rights that belong to the person who just gave it to you. They’re free to slam you if you’re doing something stupid or objectionable with it, and even to take it back if they can.”

So I asked “What if the person who gave you the money was a Scientologist who got it from Tom Cruise himself? Wouldn’t they have complaining rights too?”

“No,” he said, “complaining rights only last for one transaction.”

So then I called him “small-minded” and said a bunch of stuff I don’t remember, but it probably had to do with the whole economic system being at risk if the person who employs you can dictate your behavior.

And that’s when he snatched a ten out of my hand and told me has a deeply held religious objection to children who contradict their parents.

“Honor your father and your mother”, he said. “Matthew 15:4.”

When I said “Hey!” he said “Take it up with the Supreme Court!

People sure get weird around money.

I don’t know if I want to own a company some day. It would wear me out to keep up my complaining rights on all those salaries and benefits. Not to mention the complaining I’ll have to do about taxes!

I think maybe it’s easier to lug around all those bags of mulch!

Your pal,

I told Bubby I don’t think he’ll have to worry about owning a company some day, but complaining about what other people do, especially if it’s none of our business, is one of the great pleasures of adulthood and he shouldn’t be so quick to give it up.

When does your money stop being yours?

31 thoughts on “Mulch Ado About Money”

  1. Excellent post, Dale.

    Once you’ve given your money to someone else (not the same thing as entrusting it to them to say, purchase a loaf of bread for you or invest for your retirement), it is theirs to do with as they please.

    Ergo, there are certain establishments the doors of which I will never darken. Neither shall one thin dime of mine pass from my hands to theirs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have a different view of things now, vs. when I was married. In the olden days, it was never mine.

    Now, I don’t worry about this idea, because I find I still have cash at the end of bills, end of the month, and even at the end of fun nights.

    That doesn’t answer the topic question, but Bob’s your uncle!


    1. Bob’s my brother-in-law, actually, but thanks for playing.
      The fact that you have cash left over at the end of all those things speaks well of your money management, and makes you unique among your human brethren.
      But you knew that already!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My attitudes toward money are permanently screwed up, and I don’t hesitate to blame my mother. Money was an emotional issue with her, and her emotions weren’t very constructive.

    As a teen, I came to hate our family’s push lawnmower with a passion I’ve never felt toward any other piece of machinery. It was heavy, geared to be difficult to push, and it had never been sharpened. It was a fat beast with no teeth. I used to get a whole quarter for cutting our sizable lawn, although I’d get fifty cents for cutting other folks’ lawns.

    But it wasn’t my money. My mom declared that almost everything I earned would go to my “college fund.” I was told that a college education would cost thousands, which amounted a whole lot of damned quarters. You can just imagine how motivated I was to spend two hours sweating copiously behind that lawnmower so I could make another contribution to my college fund. One result was that I would secretly work for other folks and not report my earnings because that way I’d have a bit of money of my own. That created a foundation of nasty hangups about earning and spending.


    1. Mom obviously learned this from her mom. One time, our grandmother got all the grand kids together for a big surprise: cracking open a large container filled with coins she’d collected forever. We were given the impression that, after dividing it up among ourselves, it would be OURS.

      We excitedly moved ahead and carefully divided the prize money, then our parents took it from us, saying we’d need it for the future. Some disappointments don’t fade with time.


    2. Completely understandable, Steve. It’s hard to nourish a work ethic around just the promise of future reward and nothing more.
      But how was it when college time came around? Was there money?


  4. Like Joe, I’m pretty sure that the small amount of time that my money spends in my custory hardly qualifies me to call it mine! I often think I should just sign over my paycheck to the bank, the coop and the hardware store!


    1. Oooh, signing over your paycheck to the hardware store is tempting. Our local hardware store could fill most needs but they fall a little short on food, unless you can live on pop and Little Debbie cakes.


      1. “I save hundreds of dollars there every week.”

        My local hardware store has popcorn and I think it’s free. I could live on that for a while.


  5. Good morning. I don’t expect to have any control over my money once it leaves my hands. I might hold back from giving any additional money to anyone who got money from me and used in ways that didn’t seem right to me. I don’t see how you can take money back from anyone who you earned it doing some kind of work for you. What was Bubby’s father thinking? Then he said people who pay out money to someone who earned it have the right to complain about how it is used? What? I have never heard anyone claim that to be true.


      1. I think that there is a special dispensation for this… kinda like complaining about officials elected in other districts/states.


      2. I have written on the blog before about my marvelous weed wrench and how easy it makes it to remove buckthorn. I was considering adding a second weed wrench – a smaller, lighter size – to my tool shed. I was dismayed to find that the maker of the tools has decided to get out of the business and posted on his web site a political screed about an illegitimate government and not wanting to pay taxes to it.

        I would really like the person to just get over himself and get back to business. But if he did and I bought another weed wrench from him he’d probably donate to a political party that I oppose. So maybe it’s just as well. I’ll just have to get along with one weed wrench.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Money’s always been a charged topic for me. My first wasband kept every dollar to himself and made me account for a five dollar bill I’d gotten weeks earlier. My next wasband, who didn’t work, managed to scarf away nickles and dimes to maintain his hoarding compulsion. What this cost wasn’t as infuriating as having piles of junk under tarps in the backyard and every square inch in the house filled.

    Money has also been an issue when it came to family or friends. The only time i’ve ever loaned money to a friend ended a 20-year friendship when she refused to repay it. I’ve also loaned money to my always-in-a-financial-crisis daughter. Somehow, the repayments rarely arrive. In the meantime, I’ve seen her spend lavishly on her five very entitled kids. Occasionally, I’ve lowered a client’s fee due to unemployment or other sudden expenses, then learn that he/she is taking an exotic vacation or buying an expensive car.

    All in all, I’ve come to view money as quite dangerous to relationships.


    1. And yet you can’t even go out to lunch with a friend without having to deal with the check. Do you always split it? What if your friend insists on buying? Do you keep track? Maybe it’s my turn to buy – or is it? I’m always a little nervous about this.


  7. Here’s what I’ve learned: EVERY dollar you earn should have a name on it. Mortgage, Savings, Vacay, Beer, even Mad Money. As long as you decide *beforehand* where each dollar is going.


    1. Yes, but isn’t BEER a whimsical, spur-of-the-moment thing?
      And what if you get to the end of the month and you haven’t kept up your predicted rate of beer consumption – do you binge on the final weekend so you can start the next month even, or do you reduce your subsequent beer budgets until things balance out?
      So confusing – this is why I’m not allowed near the books.


  8. What’s odd is, I can’t remember how that went. I’m sure I was allowed to spend my babysitting (for other people) on clothes or whatever I wanted. Money I earned around the house MAY have gone into a college fund, but I can’t recall – so I guess it wasn’t too unjust or I would remember., (wouldn’t I?)


  9. My parents did all the saving and I could do what I wanted with whatever I had. That is how I did it with my children, too. Daughter is a spendthrift; son was but has a very frugal wife and has learned good saving habits. Daughter is very disdainful of people who can’t manage money. I have hopes she will start being a saver one of these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My money is never my own. It mainly goes to feed other people. Nothing like fixing dinner when I’m not hungry, with food purchased with my money, for people who eat it up in two minutes.


  11. I have a funny habit many years long. As the months and years go on, every dollar I earn goes into my checking account – no savings per say; no investments; no IRAs to draw upon, etc. It’s gradually accumulated over so many years to a point that I feel pretty wealthy. With what’s happened to the stock market and the .005% return on CDs or regular savings, the mattress is safer, I think. Once a year, I compare where I am to the previous year and then smile,


    1. Speaking of a money-stuffed mattress, when I was a teenager growing up in Illinois, politics finally captured my attention with the case of Paul Powell, our Secretary of State and a man who kept thousands of ill-gotten dollars in shoeboxes in the closet of a Springfield hotel room, where he lived.

      Liked by 1 person

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