Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Last Friday, the Get Rich Slowly Blog asked, "Do you have a plan in place in the event of a windfall?"  They asked that question with an implied "if", as in, "if you ever happen to be so lucky".  But in my own fortunate experience of life, windfalls aren't so much a question of "if" as "when".  We all get extra doses of money from time to time; one of the true tricks of frugality is learning to watch for those times and to use them well.

Winning the lottery?  Not so likely.
Getting an inheritance?  Maybe, but not something we'd want to plan for.

(Well, really, pruning-fall but phrase doesn't
have quite the same ring, does it?)
But there are tax refunds, and gifts, and bonuses.  Sometimes, there are non-expenses (like the time we'd planned to pay for K-daughter's braces, but the orthodontist took pity on the orphan and waived his fee).  Of course, the opposite can happen too -- we're all familiar with the unexpected expense.  But my point is that the unexpected money in our pockets is something we ought to expect as well.

The original "windfall" meant literally that a bunch of wind blew, and it blew the fruit trees so hard that fruit would fall on the ground.  Go gather it up!  The added implication "windfall = surprise abundance" came later.   But the origins of this word reminds us that we'll do best to keep our eyes open, to expect abundance --- when the wind is blowing, we should check the ground under the fruit trees.  

Windfalls are sort of like algebra or sewing machines.  If you don't sew it's hard to imagine that a sewing machine would be worth the expense, and if you are scared of math you think nobody ever does algebra in real life.  But once you master a tool, you realize how useful it is.  (When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail).  Once you come to expect windfalls, you learn to pay attention and keep your finger up to the wind.

In our family's case, there have been funky amounts of money showing up.  My employer occasionally pays me to go to certain kinds of training, and I have jumped to volunteer to be trained (and also, thank you, to be paid).  I also get invited to give talks at other institutions, and the older I get, the more I get paid for those talks.    Small outside consulting gigs seem to hover at my periphery like pigeons near a park bench, and the more of them I do, the more of them seem to flock over toward me and say, "choose me".  

We also have the entirely planned-for and abundantly welcome death of the mortgage.  Whoop!  And so our finances have been floating at abnormally high tide lately.  This is a new (and rather scary) situation for us to be in --- so many choices about what to do!  With all this sloshy money to swim around in, how do we keep our feet on solid ground?

It is, I know, a wonderful problem to have.  I'll write another post soon on some of choices for this new phase of our financial life.  But in the meanwhile, I just wanted to do that encouraging thing of saying:  when I read in books that frugality could lead to this, I wasn't really sure I believed it.  How strange it is to arrive, finally, at a place I'd always only taken on faith?  


  1. Man, I love your posts. If only summer lasted forever!

    1. Blushers. This summer (speaking of "if only"), I've been practicing for retirement. Pretending. Imagining. A good thing to do with a windfall of time, eh? -MM