I am completely and utterly my father’s daughter.
By this, I mean that I am either excellent at managing my money, or terrible at spending it. It may sound like one and the same thing, but it really isn’t. I was raised with a simple monetary ethic that was very much driven by my dad. And it’s pretty good advice, really.
If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it.
I had a few mad years. I learned the curse of credit cards pretty quickly and have been fortunate to pay off my debts more or less completely now. As it stands, the only things in my life that I don’t own outright are my house and my car.
It’s not to say that I don’t go crazy every once in a while. I do. I really do. I blame TeeFury, mostly. But I’m going to be honest here and point out that Himself is far worse than I am. Check out the bank statement and it’s largely constructed of cash withdrawals made by him. A tenner here. A tenner there. Instead of budgeting for what he needs in a week and restricting himself, he spends money on an ad-hoc basis. He turns on the finance tap and money pours out. I scramble around behind him turning it off again. A bit like chasing a husband and teenage son around the house and turning lights off behind them. (‘It’s like Blackpool Illuminations in here’ – yes, I really am my father’s daughter). But I haven’t always been quite so miserly. What happened?
I discovered that if you put two people who aren’t brilliant at managing money together in a relationship, things go south pretty fast. It wasn’t until we fused our accounts together in a Transformers-esque act of maturity that we both became entirely more responsible with our cash. I stopped spending because I didn’t know if it was my Actual Money and I think the same can be said of him.
After a relationship break-up, I lived on my own for a few years. During this time, I lived on my overdraft and that forced me into learning how to budget better. For example, this has been a tough month money-wise. Lots of extra expenses we weren’t anticipating have crept in and the bank account has slid, screaming like a kid on a water slide, towards the Point of Ultimate Shame. You know. The -£0.01 balance that takes me from the sense of coping to the sense of being out of control. A positive balance keeps my OCD at bay.
I have an authorised overdraft on my account. I pay a tiny nominal fee for the privilege and I haven’t used it in something like ten years. But I’d rather pay that fee for the security of having a cushion in the event of a disaster. I would never even contemplate approaching a squawking vulture so-called ‘pay day loans’ company. These people are, of course, in the news at the moment. The Arch-Bishop of Canterbury made himself look like just a tiny bit of a fool by soapboxing about the evils of these money lenders, only to be told (probably in a very sheepish manner) by an underling that the church actively invests in the company in question.
Oops, eh? Perhaps the AB of C should be writing articles about war gaming. He certainly seems to demonstrate the same approach to his research before allowing his verbal diarrhoea to start.
Claws away, Sarah. Claws away.
Once upon a time, they taught Home Economics in schools. People learned how to manage a household budget. Now, money is just this Thing that gets you what you want when you want it and when it runs out, it’s all too easy to just go and get more. I’m proud to say that the Son saves up his money. When he wants something, he saves for it. Almost invariably, when he has enough, I will pay for half of what he wanted. But only if I have the money myself. This way, he has learned the value of money and I hope that he clings onto that same ideal. Not all kids are so savvy.
Talking to a colleague this morning, she mentioned that her seventeen-year old daughter was ‘saving for a holiday to Tenerife’. She has it all planned out. She won’t need spending money, she says, as she will go all-inclusive. So far, she’s saved £30. And took £10 of that out to pay for a kebab and chips.
I’m lucky. I know I am. Both my husband and I work, and we bring a reasonable amount of money into the house on a monthly basis. We end each month with cash in the bank. We are even at a stage where we can sometimes put a little into the savings account. It’s a nice feeling when that happens, rare as it is. I genuinely feel for people who are in difficult financial situations and believe that more needs to be done to help them. If I knew what, I’d suggest it.
I feel less sorry for those who run out of money through their own greed and stupidity. The ones who complain about it whilst they have a cigarette in one hand, a can of Carlsberg in the other and their Sky TV playing in the background. I don’t want people to give up their luxuries, but sometimes you have to sacrifice them for the right reasons. How many gym memberships are sitting there unused by well-intentioned people who never go, for example? It’d be an interesting statistic, that one.
Am I obsessive about money? Yes, I probably am. But that means that I have successfully fed my household for less than £40 this week and have probably saved myself from the horrors of a negative bank balance. It’s entirely do-able. All you have to do is think. Think, and remember the mantra.
If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it.