Stories told

Monopoly money

I was feeling pretty good about my financial situation as I headed into the summer. I was paying down debt pretty powerfully and had built up some savings. But then August was unexpectedly expensive. I replaced my car’s transmission, rented a car for two weeks, bought a new refrigerator, and had some medical and veterinary bills. Bam! Within a few weeks, my savings was gone and I had even gone a little more into debt.

I know that everything that cost me was just a matter of chance. Cars break down, 20-year-old fridges die, dogs and people get sick. It was better to spend savings on these things than to have borrowed to pay for it all. You might even say that God took care of me, providing for me through these misfortunes. But I’ve been angry about it just the same. It really hurt to get a little bit ahead only to lose it almost all at once.

PICT0733On Wednesday, the boys and I broke out the Monopoly board. My youngest is starting to understand trading and can now stick with a long game, and so our play is starting to become vigorous. We’d made some trades and we all had monopolies — my older son had the violets, my youngest son had the neighboring oranges, and I was just around the corner with the reds. When we started improving our properties, it became hard to move along that side of the board without somebody collecting.

My youngest son landed on my Kentucky Avenue. With two houses, the rent wasn’t terrible, but having spent all his cash on houses he hocked most of his property to pay me. He weathered that with good humor, but he next landed on Go To Jail and so would make another trip down Death Row. His next roll put him on Community Chest, but then he landed on Indiana Avenue, which by then had four houses and was much more expensive to visit. Cash-strapped and hocked to the hilt, he had no choice but to sell most of houses. He was ticked. And then a few tears ran down his face. And then he buried his face in my shoulder.

The irony did not escape me as I hugged him and told him it’s bound to hurt when you build things up and get a little ahead only to have bad luck take it all away.

When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t feel so bad anymore.


It felt good to retell this story today, which first appeared here in 2008.

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6 thoughts on “Monopoly money

  1. Timely reprint, Jim. I’m about to pay off the line of credit I’ve been saddled under since my cat Twinkle got an autoimmune disease in 2011. Last payment. Then the weird, weird tax year I’ve just had adds up to just shy of five figures. Another year or two trying to pay off debts just to get to zero… again. “Savings” is starting to sound like some quaint idea from the 1960s like saving yourself from a nuke by hiding under a picnic blanket.

    I know how you and your son felt. Oy.

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    • I finally got completely dug out a little more than two years ago. Oy, the divorce was expensive. Took me forever to pay it off. Since then, only thing I owe on is the house. It’s a great feeling, though sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice buying my last car with available cash because it was older and has been a frequent guest at the mechanic’s. Anyway, now that I’m building some savings, it’s time to put my oldest in university in the fall. Bye bye to what I’ve saved!

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  2. Bob Dungan says:

    After my first wife died it took me about 3 1/2 years to pay off everything except the house. Since then I have remarried and we paid off the house. Debt free is a great feeling. I just retired and my new income is slightly more than half my working income. Oh well. But, the free time to do what I want is great.

    Matthew 6:19-20
    19″Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20″But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;…

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    • I am looking forward to debt-free. I am working toward being there by the time I’m about 60 or 65. Owning the home I live in is a major portion of my goal. I want to live as frugally as I reasonably can so that I can have freedom when I’m older — freedom to keep working if I want, or to stop if I don’t.

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