One of the main things that can cause issues in a relationship is money and how to deal with it. It is often sighted as one of the divorce reasons. SO and I are very lucky in that this never has been an issue for us. We think very alike in that matter.
Still there is one major difference for us in that respect. SO has always been employed, even before he graduated. My life has been different. In the past I had bouts of unemployment. My first episode was after I graduated. It was in the early nineties, when the recovery of the eighties depression were still felt. I hated it. It was not about the money (little as it was, it was enough to live off) but about the fact that I was not contributing to society. It was one of the overriding reasons to move to NZ where it was a lot easier for me to find a job.
After my first job there, on contract, I was unemployed for two months, without any money coming in. As I interpreted the rules at the time I was not entitled to benefits and thus lived off my meager savings. All previous savings I had had, I had pored into my emigration. I was so helped by some sweet friends that insisted I had a meal with their family once a day. They allowed me to stretch a little money further. I’ll always cherish them for that act. I prioritised my outgoings hugely. Contact with my parents was by phone if they called, or email. I became a whizz in the use of vouchers and if I needed my car I always ran errands in a way that would allow me to reduce the use to once a week. Walking became a preferred mode of transport. I got the point where a ticket to the Netherlands would have be to paid by selling off my stuff and still needing my parents to bail me out.
I did find a good job pretty soon, but if my new employer had not agreed to pay moving expenses I would have ended up with in debt. Once I had moved and paid the bond on my new home I had NZ$100 to my name. Until my first salary came in three weeks later, it would be what I’d had to live off. I managed as I am still here. From that money low point it has been pretty much up all the way. At the time I did not tell my parents how bad it was, I was determined to make it out on my own and truth be told also too embarrassed.
I was unemployed when I moved back to Europe and when I had a sabbatical in 2005. However at that stage I also had a lot of savings and it was easy to live off those. It was very much a calculated risk to take. What was remarkable though that even then, though I had the money I immediately reverted back to the survival mechanisms I had learned when my times were tough. Just to stretch the savings further.
What brought this remembrance posting on? Well we were looking at our financial picture today and it got us talking on where we would save on if we would fall on hard times. SO freely admitted that for him really hard times was something he’d never encountered, so to him it was a thought experiment. For me however, it brought back memories and I know what I would be saving on.
The memories of those hard times are not bad. Quite the opposite in fact. They are comforting as I have been there, but left them behind. But also as I know I can take several steps back and still be OK. I remember those times as stressful, but also times when I learned the valuable lessons in friendship and compassion. I also learned then, as I did when I left my X, that I can trust myself to climb out of holes and friends will be there even if only to talk to. It was then when I learned a lot about me. For one that being a natural saver did help me a lot.
Those times taught me the value of money, which is positive. On the negative-ish side it made that I still find it hard to spend money on myself and what I perceive as luxury. As examples there are my bike and sewing machine. It took me weeks if not months or thinking, doing maths and convincing myself that these were items that though expensive would have real long term benefits for me and that they were worth the purchasing price. The shear size of the price on the ticket was paralysing for me. All that money could be used for ……………………… SO kinda understands and when he sees I finally decided he helps me over that last hurdle and is there to hold my hand when I purchase these large ticket luxury items. Seriously it scares me to bits to spend that money on me, it still does.
Knowing that I can afford these luxury items fills me with joy and gratitude. Yes we both work hard for it, but so do many people that cannot afford these things. For me personally, having been near the bottom of the money pit taught me to value what I have even more. I do not take it for granted ever again. So now I am stepping of my soap box and will go get ready to spend the rest of the weekend doing something very nice with my SO and my parents. More soon.