Sunday, 18 January 2015
Deny or empower?
For those of you who haven't met us before, here is our little family! Alistair (known as Ali) is on the left. He's 16 and Liam on the right is 18. They're pretty awesome kids if I say so myself. Even at their young age they've already known what it's like to be able to have anything they want - and nothing at all. They've both got plenty of exciting (though rather daunting) new challenges coming up this year which you'll learn about soon enough, Liam especially. Fortunately they're both accustomed to living under pressure!
Talking of which (oh nicely done, Jack) I had a most enjoyable chat the other day with Sunday Star Times money editor Rob Stock. He's a very cool guy. Back when Simple Savings was first launched in NZ, saving money the way we did it wasn't smart or trendy the way it is now. When it came to promoting us in the media, journalists either 'got it' or they didn't. Rob was one of the few who 'got it'; who immediately saw its merits and didn't think we were weird or quirky. Actually, he probably did think I was a BIT weird. Even so, we've been talking for years and over that time he's seen me go from one extreme financially to the other.
Of my current situation he asked, 'Isn't it incredibly stressful having no money? Constantly having to deny yourself?' As anyone who doesn't have enough knows; whether it's short term or long term, whether you're a little bit strapped or in dire straits, the stress of having no money never leaves you. It sits on your shoulders, weighing you down and banging on top of your head every minute of every day. The only good thing when you're single and short of money is at least you don't have to worry about fighting with your spouse over it or apportioning blame. I remember when I first joined Simple Savings reading how money is the number one cause of divorce. I might have to carry the load alone but at least there's no 'this is your fault! You shouldn't have spent this, you shouldn't have done that!' The buck stops with me and funnily enough that helps because I know every choice is mine for good or bad and I'm responsible for everything I do. Still, I can't remember the last time I had a good night's sleep. I think it was last September when I was in hospital and for once I had a decent reason for not being able to pay my bills on time!
As for constantly denying myself however, Rob was right. For years I told myself and everyone else who would listen 'it's not about going without, it's about finding the smartest way to get what you want'. Which is still true, absolutely! But for many people there comes a point which goes beyond that and I didn't - couldn't - understand that until I had reached it. You go from 'I'll get a haircut/facial/new shoes next pay day' to going without even the most basic things for so long you don't even think about it. Once again it's always on your mind - I can't, I mustn't, how am I going to? I didn't even realise I had gone into this next stage until Rob mentioned it but somewhere along the line I had gone from being Little Miss Smartypants, quick to brag about her latest frugal choice, to someone who had ran out of choices long ago.
Which is why after I finished talking to Rob and went to the supermarket, I still found myself struggling to spend any money. Even though I hadn't bought more than a handful of things since before Christmas, even though for the first time in longer than I could remember I had money in my bank, I still couldn't bring myself to use any of it. Even things I loved and had been craving such as chicken was too extravagant in my book to consider putting in my trolley. The real clincher (and sorry for too much information here) was refusing to buy 'ladies products'. I actually had a bit of a chuckle to myself at how stingy I was. We had nothing at home, the insurance company had given me a meal ticket, quite literally - yet I still couldn't buy any more than the bare minimum! I had become too conditioned, too ingrained.
And just like that I went from feeling downtrodden to empowered. Jeez I was strong! I never realised until then how much my mindset had been dragging me down. For the longest time the little voice inside my head was telling me I had nothing, I was never going to have anything, my life was always going to be this way, cue the violins. Sure it was understandable - but where does thinking like that get you? If anyone knows how important mindset is when it comes to financial success, it's me! What the heck happened? I needed to start feeling empowered again; not only with every dollar I SAVE but with every dollar I SPEND. Because every dollar I use to chip away at those debts with is another step closer to freedom, another couple of feet out of the hellhole.
So I left the supermarket, and ran into the mechanic's (actually it was more like a bounce) and gleefully announced 'Guess what! I can pay you!' And then I bounced into the vet and told them the same. And the doctors. And later that night when I was working I bounced over to the lawn mowing contractors who had chopped down a huge tree in my garden months before. Obviously they were rather happy they were finally going to get their money but the lovely thing was (judging by the way they were laughing at my bouncing) that they all seemed genuinely happy for ME.
You're might well be reading all this rosy stuff thinking 'Oh well that's just fab isn't it. She's just started a blog saying she's got no money and now all her troubles are over already!' But no. Ohhh no! I still have a long way to go and there are no laurels to rest on. Liam leaves home in less than a month, there is no more child support and Inland Revenue have already stopped my Working for Families benefit for being his sole carer. That's a whopping $900 a month less I will be getting from now on! I might be able to pay some bills but it's going to take some very careful adjustment to stay on track. It also takes a long time to get into a mess this deep and it's going to take a long time to get out of it too. Unless you have a credit card of course; then you can get into a huge mess in the blink of an eye. Which was another thing Rob brought up - so many people in my situation have no money so of course they turn to credit cards and other magic solutions. Bad idea as we all know. Fortunately by the time I got that desperate nobody would give me one anyway! But I'm glad about that because the end of the day it's just bloody hard work that's going to get me out of this and when it does I'll feel like a million bucks. Actually I don't know how I'll feel. I can't even imagine it. But I'm looking forward to it nonetheless!