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The Law of Household Economics

By JLP | June 24, 2008

I read an interesting and funny article by Karen Blumenthal in today’s Wall Street Journal titled Vanishing Act: The Law of Household Economics ($). She defines “The Law of Household Economics” as for every financial windfall, an equal, unexpected cost. She then goes on to lament the fact that everytime she and her husband experience a financial windfall, something comes up that requires them to spend that very windfall:

Our family first stumbled on this reality [the law of household economics] several years ago when we cleaned out closets and kids’ toys to join in a family garage sale. We loaded up the minivan with stuff the day before the sale and my husband stuck a dolly in the back just in case someone needed it. It shifted, and when he slammed the back door, the handle of the dolly crashed through the rear window.

Some colorful words were shared. But despite the setback, the garage sale went on. When the organizer tallied up the proceeds, she challenged us to guess our take.

“Three hundred and twelve dollars,” my husband replied.

She looked stunned. He was off by maybe a couple of bucks. “How did you know?” she asked.

“That’s what it cost to fix the minivan window,” he sighed.

Been there, done that! Actually, I would call that “luck” rather than bad luck. There’s nothing worse than an unexpected expense when you don’t have the money. So, although it may be frustrating, I would consider it a blessing when there’s extra money to pay for an unexpected expense. There’s lots of people out there that aren’t quite so lucky.

Topics: Budgeting | 8 Comments »


8 Responses to “The Law of Household Economics”

  1. Steve Braun Says:
    June 24th, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    The Law of Household Economics is real. I would add these important corollaries:

    1. The joy you express with the windfall is inversely proportional to the heartbreak you will suffer when the expense hits.

    2. The large appliance, vehicle, or major household system (i.e., heating, cooling, water heater, roof, etc.) that is closest to you when you experience the windfall is most likely to be the source of the ensuing expense. These objects have ESP!

    Moral of the story? Keep your best poker face and never speak openly about your windfall and maybe, just maybe you’ll beat the odds for once — just like Charlie Brown with Lucy and kicking the football.

  2. Heidi Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 12:30 am

    hanks for pointing out that this phenomenon has a name – I had no idea!

    I really like Steve’s comment above: “The joy you express with the windfall is inversely proportional to the heartbreak you will suffer when the expense hits.” – So very true!

    I wonder what happens if you simply direct all “found” money to charity?

  3. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 8:02 am

    This seems to be a law of the universe in my household. I’ve actually considered putting all windfalls into a 6 month CD so I couldn’t touch the money…but, the expense would hit 6 months and one day later!

    The real moral of the story: BIG FAT EMERGENCY FUND

  4. Joe @ Simple Debt-Free Finance Says:
    June 25th, 2008 at 10:28 am

    LOL!

    It’s so true! I had always referred to it (semi-jokingly) as the “conservation of destitution.” But a thorn by any other name stings as much. It’s exactly what happened to my economic stimulus windfall. :(

    http://simpledebtfreefinance.com/my-economic-stimulus-check/

    It might also be a permutation of Murphy’s law. Damn Murphy.

  5. partgypsy Says:
    June 26th, 2008 at 11:57 am

    If any of you haven’t seen this blog yet, check out “We need to be debt free”.

    His life is a perfect example of this, and can be painful (but entertaining) reading.

  6. rubin pham Says:
    June 26th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    this article is funny.
    i had similar experience not too long ago.

  7. Troy Says:
    June 26th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Actually, I look at it in reverse. When something bad comes up, there is usually a windfall (or contingency plan) that is in place to offset the unexpected event…and I can keep on leaning forward

  8. Bozo Says:
    June 26th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    We never have unexpected expenses. We always save more than we spend. All our tomato blossoms pollinate and turn into beautiful fruit. Our DSL never goes out.

    Yah, you betcha.

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