The price of ‘Stuff’

The Money Shot

I was very unsure when, 6 months ago, P drooled over his desktop at an image of the beloved 7D.

A 7D, for all those who are unaware, as I was 6 months ago, is a type of fancy pants camera. It takes about 3 million pictures a second and can film in HD, underwater.

Pretty schmancy. With a price tag to match. Around about £1000….well, that’s how much P has let me know about. That may not sound like a lot to some, but it is to us.

I’ve grown up very wary of money. Having not had a lot of it. I started working at aged 14 as a weekend girl at a sports shop and then at a Polo Stables. I remember my first pay packet, I went in my lunch hour and put some money down in the local jewellery shop on a necklace for myself and an ornament for my mum for her birthday. I paid off a little bit each week for 2 months till I was able to take both home. I was so proud of myself for buying a present for my Mum with money I had worked for. But I learnt very quickly how easily money it slips away after hours of working for it. Even now, I tend to work out how many hours of work things are worth before I consider buying them, to see if it’s really worth my time. I’ve seen people struggle with debt and not come out very well at the end of it. Debt can cause serious and painful rifts in relationships and families. It’s really not worth it, if you can avoid it.

9,389 is the number of new debt problems dealt with by Citizen’s Advice Bureau each working day.

£8,556 is the average household debt, without mortgages.

Every 15 minutes a home is repossessed.

Every 3.87 minutes someone is declared insolvent or bankrupt.

I know there are circumstances where borrowing money is unavoidable. I know there are circumstances where you need ‘stuff’, and I’m thinking the essentials…food, water, heat, shelter…not an I-Phone. The boiler has packed up for example, or the car has broken down and it is the ONLY way you can get to work because it’s an hour away and there are no trains or buses.

I told P blankly that if he bought his camera on credit that I would leave him. Harsh perhaps, but that is how strongly I feel about it. Going and putting a bit of money down on some jewellery or a wedding dress each week, only receiving the item when you are paid in full, is very different to buying on credit.  If I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it. We’ve become such a ‘on tic’ culture, spending money we don’t have, and I refuse to partake in it.

The shops are littered with deals…buy this now…pay in 2 years… I don’t know what will happen in two years, do they have some kind of crystal ball where they know for definite I’ll be able to afford to pay this off? AND they whack up the interest anyway! You may have been better off just saving for it.

I’m not saying buy a house outright. I’m just saying that as hard as it is, could we not know our means and live by them? I’ve worked with children aged 9 who say they don’t need to get a job because Mum will pay for everything and she doesn’t have to go to work, she has credit cards. That tears at my soul.

I was really very lucky when I think about it. I didn’t really notice the recession. I managed to get a job and I got by, and could actually afford to go out of an evening or travel by train to see P before we lived together. I was on my highest paid wage ever, due to acting, intermittent shift work and being at uni, so earning around £13,000 a year was the high life. I lived in London, in a flat share with 2 of my good friends, I ate well, I paid bills, I used public transport, and I still could put a little bit of money away for moving in with P. Not a great amount, but I still could save. I didn’t have take-out, I cooked like my grandmother, I rehashed and ate leftovers, I made things to sell on eBay. I lived in a way where I was accountable for every penny.

That’s not the way for everyone. My OCD tendencies helped a lot. Some people can’t face it. But when I realised I spent £10 on just eating lunch, when I could have made it for £1.50, I had a reality check.

I’m not saying I don’t splurge every now and then…the new shoes in my bedroom would shout ‘LIAR’ every time I walked in them if I said I didn’t…but they were in the sale,  and they were only £25. And it was from my ‘free money’. ‘Free Money’ is the money I have left in my personal account after ALL the money for bills and rent have gone into the joint account. So that ‘free money’ is mine to spend as I wish, with all my commitments (except petrol) accounted for.

And surely the saving is the best part? The anticipation… the wait…watching your money creep to the price of your beloved item…knowing that soon you have earnt it.

P spent 6 months saving for his beloved camera. He is responsible for the beautiful photography of my un-photogenic mug. And to be honest, I’m glad he got it. He’s pleased he waited and could buy it without repercussions of a monetary kind, and he took the most beautiful pictures of me and my friends, when they came to visit for a night out, that we had all had to budget into our pay packets.

And every last shot was accounted for.

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