Hard Financial Truths: Money = Choice

One of the hard financial truths is that money — whether or not you control it?and how much you have — is more important than hard work or preference when it comes to your options.

We like to have choices. With the issue of The Move, I find that I have few choices. Not only that, but I feel insignificant and impotent.

And it all comes down to money.

I've been thinking about this a lot, since the timing of the move is almost completely out of my hands — because I'm not the one paying for most of it.

My husband has been hired to teach at Penn State's Brandywine campus?and we are moving to West Chester, PA, to make this happen. We were told that we would be given $3,000 to help us with our move.

I immediately began looking for moving quotes. A localish company, Redman, performed a survey of the house, and gave me a “not to exceed” quote, complete with estimated weight, and everything else pertinent to the move. I picked a moving date that suited my family, and things seemed ready; getting that $3,000 was the last piece.

Then it happened: We were told to work with certain “approved” companies to?coordinate our move. This is when things started going to hell.

You Don't Control the Money, You Don't Control the Outcome

As you are probably aware, control of money does a great deal when it comes to control?of?outcome. Control the?money, and you have more choices. It's one of those financial truths many of us learn while growing up (that whole “live in my house, obey my rules” thing many of us are familiar with).

We don't have control over the bulk of the money funding our move. Penn State is going to directly pay the moving coordinator, and we will make up the difference. Turns out it's extremely maddening, and here's why:

  1. Penn State doesn't make the arrangements. They sent us two contacts and asked us to get quotes and make the choice. (Penn State has been great, btw. After my husband explained the situation, they were kind enough to make accommodations regarding his arrival/start date. Also, they were properly indignant about this whole thing, and that sort of validation goes a long way.)
  2. The companies involved offer a discount to Penn State, so they don't have a great incentive to prioritize our move.
  3. The coordinating companies work with affiliates all over the country. The Utah-based affiliates don't get the same deal/cut/whatever, so on this end there?really isn't an incentive to prioritize our move. This has led to some?of the most frustrating few weeks of my life.

One of the companies, Hilldrup, was a little faster making initial contact. Our moving coordinator assured us someone from a Utah-based company would be in contact with us to schedule a home survey. Meanwhile, I waited for word from the other coordinating company, Hoy Transfer. Upon not hearing anything, I took the initiative and called.

I wanted at least two quotes, dammit!

The coordinator at Hoy assured me that our information was sent to the local company, Mollerup. After not hearing from Mollerup for a couple of?days, I called. They claimed they didn't have my information, and when I explained the situation, the guy on the other end of the line said, “Well, that sounds like a great deal for the people in Pennsylvania, but not such a great deal for us!”

After I pestered the guy at Hilldrup again, someone from a Utah-located company, Mesa Moving & Storage, actually called to make an appointment for a home survey. He said he could come August 8. That was a little more than a week from the date I was talking to him. (The folks at Redman came within a couple days of my interest in a quote.)

I let my dream of moving when we had originally planned dissolve.?

I also called Hoy transfer again. They promised that someone from Utah would call by the end of the day. No one did.

I gave up on getting a competing quote.

Then, the guy from Mesa called me again. They were going to push the survey date to August 13. I stood there, frustrated that I could do nothing. I felt powerless. It's been a long time since I've felt that level of impotence related to dictating the circumstances of my life.

“Uh…is that okay?”

“It really isn't,” I replied. “That's a day after we originally planned to move. Even the 8th wasn't really okay.”

“Well, you have a moving date set, right?”

“They haven't told me about it. They said we need a survey,” I said.

“We-ell, maybe you should see if you can nail down a date without the survey, and they can make tweaks after the survey.”

The first somewhat-helpful suggestion in this whole mess. Although it didn't mollify me much.

“So, I'll see you on the 13!”

I called the guy at Hilldrup, and, since he didn't answer, I left a message on his voicemail. Then I sent an email. A?couple of days later, I sent?another email. Then I called again and connected with the?guy.

He said he received the messages, but didn't think it was really that urgent to answer me since?I had changed the survey date.

At this point, I about lost it. “I didn't change the survey date,” I said in a louder voice than I would normally use. “The local contact called me and TOLD me he was changing the date.”

The Hilldrup guy said that we could set a date, based on an estimate that our 4BD/3BA home would have X amount of weight, coming to $8,000. I explained that we are ridding ourselves of 75 percent of our stuff, and we didn't have nearly that much weight. I told him I had a quote from another company's home survey, and he used the weight reported on that survey to set a price that made more sense.

Of course, that price is just an estimate, depending on what local guy has to say. But it was enough to (finally) set a moving date. So here I am, committed to a company that I wouldn't have chosen, working with people who?don't give a damn about my situation, and who have no incentive to give said damn because?I'm not the one paying them.

Oh, and I still don't know how much money I'll owe. I'm responsible for the difference between the $3,000 and what this actually costs, and I'm pretty sure that this move will exceed $3,000. I just have to go off a reasonable guess as to its cost. Good thing I have a cash cushion for these situations.

It's been frustrating, feeling like this, and it has me thinking about the whole money and choices thing.

If you have control of the money, you have more options open to you. Back when I thought I had control of the money, I had limitless options. I could line up multiple quotes, from companies that seemed interested in competing. Once I lost control of that money, the situation changed, and my choices narrowed.

I essentially have no choice, and I have no option but to take what Hilldrup and Mesa are willing to dish up. Unless, of course, I want to bear the whole cost of the move myself. I guess we could do that, but I'm not $3,000 mad yet. Besides, at this juncture, it would take even?more time to get done, pushing back the move date further, and my husband should have left for?Pennsylvania?yesterday. We're going out separately because of this mess, and pushing things back further means more hassle, since my son and I?wouldn't be around in time for my son to start school.

This hard financial truth applies in other areas of life as well. If you have enough money that you can afford a flight at a convenient time, you have more travel choices. A bigger budget means more choice when it comes to buying any number of items, from TVs to cars to homes.

When you control your money, and you have more of it, you have more choices. That's just the way it is.

2 thoughts on “Hard Financial Truths: Money = Choice”

  1. Prudence Debtfree

    A sobering truth. What is particularly remarkable in light of this truth is the fact that so many of us choose to give up control of our money to our spouses – because it’s such an annoying thing to have to look after. I’ve yanked my head out of the sand and have started participating in the management of our household finances. Fortunately for me, my husband has always been trustworthy. That’s not the case for everyone though. No matter what, both people in a couple should be responsible for, aware of, and engaged in running the household finances. We’re vulnerable enough to outside control, as your story indicates. No need to increase that vulnerability by checking out at home.

    1. Miranda Marquit

      That’s a great point about trust, and paying attention. No matter the situation, it’s nice to be informed, and have input with regard to the money.

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