Forum therapy

Posted October 18th, 2006 by Penny Wise

I am just loving the Discussion Forum at the moment! I don't post comments on it myself very often as I reckon I get plenty enough space to ramble on right here, but I am finding myself glued to it more and more lately reading all the amazing posts. I don't even listen to the news any more, the Forum keeps me up to date on all the current affairs – much less depressing too! My favourite threads at the moment are (in no particular order):

Sydney's pay-later poor - this discussion arose from an article Fiona found in the Daily Telegraph about the horrifying debt people put themselves in because they want everything now, when they don't have the money, so decide to put their extravagant purchases on credit and cripple themselves financially for years paying them off. Not that it just happens in Sydney of course! I can recall two couples - friends of ours who were just like this when Noel and I were starting out together. Although we were the same age as them and on similar incomes, their houses were filled with new furniture, decor and appliances, where everything Noel and I owned was second hand. The only time we every replaced anything was when it gave up the ghost and that was some years down the track. I'll admit to being envious – why did they have such lovely homes and we didn't? In my naivete it never occurred to me for a moment that they hadn't paid cash for anything – it was all being paid off. At least what little Noel and I had was 100% ours! It took me years to realise that that was how they achieved their impressive homes and both couples are now divorced. I'm really glad as 19 year olds that Noel and I started out with the basics, because we really appreciate what we have now – and it was a long time coming!

The comments that followed in this Forum thread made compelling reading and spoke such common sense. We all know people who are putting themselves in financial strife in their efforts to 'Keep up with the Joneses' and even if we couldn't see it before, as Simple Savings members we can now see what they're doing. I hate to see it, especially in people I care about. Not that I'm perfect, mind! We've made some mistakes too, but I'll get to that in a minute. One comment I read, which was spot on, is that just like my friends with the nice houses years ago, they give off the impression of having heaps of money, when in fact they have none. What's more, even after our humble start, Noel and I went on to fall into this trap, which brings me to another brilliant Forum thread currently doing the rounds:

Debt confession time (no peeking Fiona)– what a wonderful supportive and honest bunch SS members are. As a result of two and a half years as a Simple Savings member I am proud to say I now know exactly what all our debts are, but before then I wouldn't have been able to tell you, there were too many! Thanks to the perks of Noel's job, who provides him with a car and free petrol (for his vehicle only) not to mention hard slog on our part we are down to:

Mortgage - $170,000

My car - $8,039.80

Boat - $10,905.38

We had an overdraft facility for two weeks but are back on track now and have gone from having two maxed out credit cards to a zero balance. Thanks to Simple Savings we are more financially stable than we have been in many years, but the ironic thing is that five years ago, when everyone thought we had money, was when we had the least. It's not surprising the neighbourhood thought we were well off. We were living rent free as Noel worked on his parents' farm and we drove a brand new double-cab Nissan Navara ute, which was often seen towing a brand new boat. Everyone knows what a Sad Sally I used to be regarding my spending habits, but the car and the boat was Noel's contribution to our plummeting bank balance. I'm not trying to point the finger here, just telling it like it is! The car used to cost us almost $700 a month under a three-year 'lease to buy' agreement and he loved it. I didn't and was really glad when his new job required something more sedate – and much cheaper! He also caught the fishing bug and went from a half share in an $8,000 14ft boat to a whole share in a $25,000 16ft boat, paid off over five years. To me, that five years seemed like 20, but I was delighted when the final payment drew near. Until he announced that after five years, the boat really wasn't looking its best any more and arranged to go halves with his best mate on a $60,000 boat. Immediately on making the final payment, he traded it in and we were back to paying the new boat off over five years again. At least I can take comfort in the fact that this boat can't get any bigger as he wouldn't be able to tow it and would have to pay to moor it at a marina!

The awful thing is, in the bad old days I liked the fact that people thought we had money. I was quite happy to play along with that image and wasn't going to say anything to convince them otherwise! Although I must admit I really did have a problem with Noel buying the boat, which to many must seem like one heck of a luxury item. However, over the years I have come to appreciate his hobby. He never goes to the pub, rarely goes out and the fun and experiences it has provided our family with, particularly the kids are worth the monthly payments. Saying that, I still can't wait until we have a zero balance on the blasted thing!

I wonder if other Forum found their debt confessions as therapeutic as I just did? It's good to know where we're at and what we have to work towards. It's also good, not to mention valuable to clarify and reaffirm why we're doing it, as discussed in the Forum thread 'Why are you a Simple Saver?' I really admire all the members who make the decision to reduce their income in order to spend more time with their family. I would love to have made that choice years ago instead of putting Ali in day care five days a week from the age of two, but I didn't realise that I had a choice. As far as I was concerned, getting a job was the only way to keep our heads above water – I never considered that if only I could have learned to manage our money better, I could have stayed at home. I was fortunate in that Ali was a child who thrived in that environment, but I wonder how I would feel now if he hadn't. I found Fiona's interview with Linda Cockburn last week very thought provoking on that matter. In fact I found the interview very thought provoking on all kinds of subjects – what a fountain of information both women are. What an amazing transformation Linda has gone through too, from a petrol guzzling, fast food scoffing workaholic to the passionate environmentalist who has gone back to basics in order to do what's best for her family. I think Felicity Kendall may have a rival for my admiration at long last!

On a more lighthearted note, I have really enjoyed keeping up with the thread entitled 'What's your occupation – past, present or future'. If you haven't seen it, go and have a look to learn more about some of our wonderful SS members. We have food technologists, teachers, nurses, accountants – even a professional ballet dancer! With so many diverse occupations I guess it shouldn't come as such as surprise that Forum users have something of value to share on pretty much every subject you can think of. The Forum is my favourite source of news, lifestyle information, family health and advice, sitcom and drama all rolled into one. Best of all, I get to learn how to save money with them all at the same time! If only someone would start a rugby thread, I could cancel our cable TV!

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