| A Different Counting Shavuos 5782 |

Counting Change     

       They gave us the world, and if they had it, they’d give us money too


was never a math person. Numbers always felt a little too concrete for me. But life is life and sometimes we have to become friends with those we’d rather avoid. Like numbers.

I needed the numbers to equal a magical 50k. Honestly, the number wasn’t that magical, but it was the number we arrived at after meeting with a mortgage broker and considering how much we’d need to put down on a house and cover closing and moving costs.

It took two years to pay off our student and car loan debts, totaling close to $50,000. I have a video of my husband pressing “pay” on our final payment in the student loan portal, and I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach fighting the looseness in my chest when our savings account dropped to zero.

You’d think the second 50k would be easier; it wasn’t paying off debt, it was for ourselves. We were going to buy a house! Everyone else our age seemed to already be settled, a few years into their mortgage. Everyone else seemed to have gotten help from their parents.

We knew not to expect financial help from ours. They gave us the world, and if they had it, they’d give us money too. But they had none to give, so we knew it was us alone. Which is empowering… but sometimes you just want a leg up.

Saving for a house took more discipline than paying off debt. It’s harder to say No to yourself than to the inevitable student loan bill. We wanted more takeout, more gifts, more clothes. We felt free and it was hard to keep at the endless grind of saying no, especially when we knew we could say yes. There was a constant battle between today’s whims and tomorrow’s security.

Stimulus money gave our savings a nice boost early on. Then each month, when recording our budget, my husband would add a “Yay!” in the comments next to the line listing how much was going into savings. $3,000 one month, $2,600 another, $1,500 the next month. We were doing great. And then we stalled.

Expenses came up. Emergency room visits with high deductible insurance. Cobra payments. The cars suddenly needed brakes and pads and new tires. Yom Tov is so expensive — and I’m not talking fancy; just matzah and daled minim costs call for pearl-clutching. Our savings waited quietly while we handled life as it came. All the while, in the back of our minds, we knew the housing market was getting worse, rates were going to go up soon, and the expenses would keep coming.

“You’re doing the best you can, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” I’d tell myself. “Keep at it, this is the biggest gift you can give to yourself, healthy finances.”

Hashem noticed our efforts and pushed us along. Fifty thousand turned out not to be the magic number — it was 46K. My new home is glorious and more than anything I dreamed it could be.

Turns out numbers can be kind and flexible when you play nicely with them — and let Him do the math. 7


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 795)

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