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New economic theory leaves nothing extra

Allow me to introduce my new economic theory, which I call "The Principle of Domestic Expansion." It states that, no matter how much money you make, your household will expand to consume all of it.

Let's say, for example, that after doing a good job at work you get a raise amounting to $200 a month after taxes - or, in other words, $500 before taxes. Whoo-hoo! you think. An extra $200 a month! Right?

Wrong. As The Principle of Domestic Expansion explains, there is no such thing as extra money. It's merely an illusion.

No sooner has your new, marginally more substantial paycheck hit the bank than your teenage daughter reminds you that her $60 yearbook deposit is due the next day. A week later, your son brings home a field trip permission slip, which must be returned by Friday - along with a check for $40.

The next morning, as your wife leaves for her dentist's appointment, you remember this is the month she's having $1,000 worth of bridgework done. Fortunately, you have dental insurance, so your share is only ... $100.

And just like that, your "extra" $200 has evaporated, like campaign promises after an election.

But there's always next month, you think to yourself, grasping at any lingering shred of hope. Then you'll have money left over, right? After all, you did get a raise. Next thing you know, you're daydreaming about a new car. Maybe a red convertible ...

Well, dream on. Next month you'll have to get your gutters cleaned. And your son will need new soccer cleats. And - well, you get the idea.

In six weeks you'll be back to staring at your checkbook, shaking your head, and thinking, "If only I had another $200."

And you will not, incidentally, be driving a new convertible.

If it's any consolation, the same principle would hold true if you got a $500 raise. Or $1,000. It doesn't matter - whatever you earn, your household will expand to consume all of it.

The truth is, an "extra" $500 can disappear almost instantaneously if you have just one teenage driver at home. With two teenage drivers, you could easily go through $1,000.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I wish I were rich. I don't normally think that way, because most of the really rich people I know are arrogant and snobbish. That's not counting the people who aren't really rich but want you to think they are. Those are twice as arrogant and snobbish.

But maybe, if I were independently wealthy, I'd no longer have to worry about The Principle of Domestic Expansion. I can't imagine Bill Gates ever sweating a pair of soccer cleats or a yearbook deposit.

Then again, that probably depends on how many teenage drivers Bill Gates has at his house.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.