Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Comedy of Expenses

There seems to be some mysterious force at work in my life, which I have not quite got to grips with. I know it is there because I experience its effects regularly. It’s a bit like Newton's Third Law of Motion which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is also a third law of finances, which I have discovered and runs parallel to Newton's Law. It states: "For every saving there is an equal, opposite, and unforeseen expense". I'm not sure what the first two financial laws are, but I'm sure that if I sit in the bath and think about it for long enough (topping up the hot water from time to time - of course), like Archimedes, I'll have my own "Eureka" moment. In fact, looking over my past and present fiscal affairs, it would be fair to say that the third law could be amended to read: "For every saving, there is a GREATER, opposite and unforeseen expense". This then, is McAdam's Third Law of Finances.

Most people on a reasonable (or even not so reasonable) income have a monster lurking outside their house which has the potential to wreak havoc with their finances, and a lot of other aspects of their lives besides. This particular beast has an antenna which is tuned into to its owners perception of his or her own financial wellbeing and is programmed to respond to McAdam's Third Law of Finances. The monster, of which I speak, is, of course, the car. Allow me to explain………

Being a particularly frugal (tight) sort of person, I tend to look after my loot. I have a system of saving which provides a cash boost to our current account every few months. I would tell you what that system is, but then that’s my business and its secret! Anyway, the upshot was that at the beginning of the month we found ourselves with an extra few hundred pounds in our account (our = me and my wife). This gives one a nice warm and comfortable inner glow, which is all the better at this miserable time of the year, not long after Christmas.

Then………….it all started to go wrong. I should have known. I should have expected it, because it is the story of my life.

Each working day, I go home for lunch and let Sally the boxer into her run to relieve herself. I’d had a particularly busy morning and was feeling somewhat tired so I relaxed back into my recliner and shut my eyes for a few minutes – as you do. Unfortunately, the few minutes turned into about half an hour. I awoke with a start and staggered out to the car to head back to the funny farm, not wishing to be late. I turned the key. The starter motor rotated. That’s all. No engine bursting into life. No power. No traction. No hope. I rang my rescue service, who were very quickly on the scene. He couldn’t get the car started for love nor money. Next, the rescue low-loader appeared and my car and I were transported to the friendly garage who look after my car the other side of Cambridge. It turned out the security system was at fault, and it needed a new one. That cost me nearly £300.

A few days later I booked my car in for a six monthly service. This should only have been a relatively cheap one. I say relatively because anyone of sound mind ought to know there is no such thing as “cheap” where car maintenance is concerned. Even so, I wasn’t particularly fussed – it was planned after all. No such luck. I was sat at my desk. The phone rang. I was told the brake pads and disks were worn right down. Only a few hundred miles of wear left at the most. What was I supposed to do – scrap the car?? Another £200 or so on top of the bill. Picking up the car, I pretended the bill for a little over £400 was good value. Like I’ve got money to burn. Ha Ha.

A couple of days later I had to re-tax the car. £180. Wonderful – but expected, so mustn’t complain.

The following weekend, my wife and I took our annual jaunt out to “Focus on Imaging” at the NEC. This is the country's premier photography show for professionals and keen amateurs. I had been looking forward to it. Nothing was going to spoil the day. Driving back, I was feeling a bit tired. Rather than falling asleep at the wheel and killing myself, my wife, and whoever I ran into, I decided to stop and have a caffeine infusion. I pulled off the A14 and parked up at a theme pub on the outskirts of Kettering. I had a nice rest, shutting my poor weary eyes a while, and when feeling well rested, we got back into the car. Looking around, there were no other cars around, and nothing but empty, unobstructed car parking space around me – I thought. Wrong! Reversing back, I applied a bit of right lock to bring myself to face in the correct direction to move off. The next thing I heard was scraping and graunching. Braking quickly, I brought the car to a sudden halt and then straightened up back into the parking slot. My wife got out and inspected what I thought would just be a bit of a scratch. The alarm in her voice made it clear I was deluded. It was a dirty great dent going right in on the passenger’s side wing just behind the headlight. This was caused by a short concrete bollard set into the tarmac beside my parking slot, and just below the driver’s line of sight. £495 repair bill. Ker-ching!!!! It wasn’t worth having it done on the insurance. I have a huge excess and it wasn’t worth the no claims loss. No, I don’t have protected no claims. Don’t ask!

And, oh yes – I nearly forgot. My car insurance is now due. All donations gratefully received.

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