Be smart with your money!

I could say that when I was a kid, we were so poor that…

But, when it comes right down to the nitty gritty, I never felt poor. Neither did my siblings, at least not until we went out to earn or own incomes, whether part time or in real employment. It was only when we actually had cash in our grubby little hands that we began to realise that we had had so little to work with.

It’s so easy to feel that one is broke, that one has so little in the way of wealth. Even millionaires that I’ve met over the years have complained about how they feel poor at various times. They have to think about all that they’ve got, or the huge incomes they are getting, and compare it to someone who has a lot less, whether it’s in wealth or income. In some ways, it hits those rich people far harder than people like my parents and my siblings.

The first thing about being smart with your money is simple: live within the income you’ve got!

It suggests that the question you should ask before buying anything is “Can I afford to (buy this)?”.

If you have enough of an income (or enough wealth that can convert to cash), then great! You won’t go too far wrong. But what happens when you DON’T have enough cash or enough cash available to you?

Funnily enough, even millionaires find there are times when they can’t afford things; for practical purposes, they are as broke as my family used to be. In case you are wondering, yes, I’ve met millionaires in exactly that kind of state. But it’s more common among the middle income people, those who have very good salaries, and seem to be able to get just about everything they want, at least within a short time frame of when they want to buy whatever it is.

Take a look around you, and you’ll find that this is a very common problem.

It leads to what could be called “mental or emotional poverty, a poverty consciousness that affects the rest of their lives. If you live by “Can I afford to..?” you are always in danger of falling into the poverty consciousness.

Poverty, by the way, is a matter of definition: you are in poverty if your income falls below roughly ⅔ of the median societal income. In some countries, it’s ⅔ of the AVERAGE income. In other words, the way people see poverty is by some statistical definition, rather than the availability of cash, income or wealth.

So, how did we get by, with our more or less real poverty?

My parents lived with a very simple rule. Rather than asking whether we could afford to buy something we kids asked for, or that they wanted to buy, they asked: “Can we afford NOT to buy…?”

If the answer was “Yes, we can afford NOT to buy!”, the item or whatever was ignored. No excuses, no arguments, no debates.

When the answer was “No, we can’t afford not to buy…!” we would take a very close look at how much we could afford to spend. Not just looking at the money, but looking at why we could not afford not to buy it.

Then we would consider the alternatives, the substitutes that could give us the advantages of having whatever it was. Sometimes, it meant that Dad would work overtime, if it was available. Or maybe Mum would take on an extra job — she was an excellent seamstress, and often finished off clothes for a manufacturer or a store that did alterations on clothing (male or female). Or we’d head off to the Barrows, and find something second-hand that did the same job — Mum or Dad could fix it so it looked perfectly new. Or we kids (if it was to meet our needs) would go out and do chores — babysitting, delivery groceries, selling lemonade or whatever, or a hundred other small things that people were willing to pay for. We’d find either the price being asked for the bargains or find a substitute.

Sure, it meant that we didn’t have the brand name goods. But what we did have worked every bit as well as the “real” stuff.

The thing is, we never felt deprived of the things that were essential. We had everything we ever needed, even if we had to make it ourselves….

Try it…

It will work as well for you!

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Love and Presents

It was just after Christmas…

I was browsing the Web as I usually do, when I came across a complaint:
“My parents don’t love me — they bought me the latest blue iPhone and not the gold one I wanted!”

Shock! Horror! How could loving parents do such a horrible thing?

Of course, anyone with a brain knows that one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. Gifts are a way of showing that one cares for someone. They are given (hopefully) with no strings attached, no expectation of getting something in return.

But, as I shook my head at such crass materialism, I began to wonder… Maybe this tweeny-bopper was right.

Is buying the latest and greatest gadgetry really showing love?

I never knew my own grandparents (either side), but I did know my parents. And, yes, as a ten to 14-year-old, there was much that I wanted to have, hopefully from my parents. Things like a bicycle, or a scooter. I loved books and comics. And all kinds of things I saw in the newspapers.

But we were comparatively poor. Dad was not well-paid, and Mum did all kinds of things to get a bit more cash into the household budget — seamstress, laundress, dressmaker, hat presser, and much more. Despite these shortcomings in the cash department, my siblings and I didn’t want for much. Sure, we had hand-me-down clothing from better-off relatives (as well as each other). And we really had to scrape for me to get a school uniform. An ice cream cone or whatever was a luxury, and Mum baked out birthday cakes or special treats. Our main meats were mince (hamburger) and sausages or some of the very cheap cuts of meat — I only learned about fillet mignon and sirloin and the really tender meats after I started at University. We used bacon drippings as a substitute for butter (I still love a slice of bread soaked with bacon grease).

I could go on about how poor we were, but, really, we kids felt like we were far better off than 90% of the people we knew.

Why?

Because the one thing our parents gave us was their time. Even though Dad worked (on the job or travelling to and from work), he tried very hard to spend time with all of us. He showed us how to use tools, and how to repair the bicycle that we finally got, an ancient thing that had a single gear, in a girl’s model. That was for ALL of us — my brother, sister and me. Not a flash racing bike with umpteen gears. Dad picked it up from a garbage dump; he cleaned it up, oiled it properly, found inner tubes for the tires, straightened out the frame and more. He took the time to make it look a bit flash, with decals and a bell.

I remember being a little disappointed — the bike was just a tad on the small side for me, but it worked well for my sister. So, I tended to think that it was “bought” for her, rather than something for all three of us (although my brother was much younger, and too small for it).

It was only later that I started to realize how lucky I was to have a father like that, someone who would give generously of his time, because that was the one thing he could give us. He was there to help us learn the joys

  • of walking in the parks and woods,
  • of picking mushrooms from the forests and fields,
  • of finding frogs and toads hidden in small streams and ponds,
  • of being able to laugh and shout
  • of winning a few dollars on the pools and horse races

Hopefully, I’ve passed those joys to our kids and to my grandchildren who are contemporaneous with the tweeny-bopper and his blue iPhone. Nothing really great, but the idea that the most precious thing that we can give other people is our own time.

That’s where love really resides…

Peter (L.E.Gant)

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