People watching

Posted June 29th, 2007 by Penny Wise

Had a very interesting week so far - not in a huge money saving way, but watching how other people spend it. A few days ago I listened intently to a woman whose family was struggling terribly to make ends meet. Having always had plenty of money it had come as a huge shock but they were now so desperate that they could no longer afford to put food on the table, or take their sick children to the doctor. She only had $100 to last the rest of the month and being a Simple Saver I actually thought this was a pretty decent sort of amount to get by on but she obviously had no idea how she was going to cope on so little. Looking at her obvious frustration I felt genuinely sorry for her and attempted to offer advice about where she could go for help. Until in the next breath she told me excitedly how she was going to buy a new release Playstation game for her kids! I was tempted to ask her if she had a twin sister called Sally (as in Sad) but I didn't! Besides, it was exactly the sort of thing I used to do when I knew no better. I was absolutely dying to tell her about Simple Savings. I wanted to tell her that I would happily go round to her house and teach her how to live on $21 until the end of the month, or show her all the things that she wouldn't have to go out and buy, by learning how to substitute with something else instead. So why didn't I? I guess I've come to instinctively know when a person is receptive to someone else telling them how to manage their money. This person already thought she was excellent with money - at least when I was a Sad Sally I admitted I was crap! So I kept quiet but it really bothered me when I got home, to think of her little one sick at home and not even able to go to the doctor. Maybe if she's as desperate as she says she is, she'll listen? I might give her a call after all...

On the way home that afternoon I passed a local man walking home from town, accompanied as always by his dog. It struck me that here was someone who really didn't have any money but just got on with it. Every time he runs out of something as simple as a bottle of milk, he has to walk 10km just to get to Mr Patel's and back. Rain or shine, he just does it. I couldn't help admiring him after the conversation I had just had. The other family were positively wealthy compared to this guy! He doesn't even own a car, let alone a Playstation. I took Tui to the vet on Monday and it turned out she had another barley grass seed embedded deeply under her arm, meaning she needed another operation yesterday to remove it. Tui doesn't handle the pain thing very well and looks positively woeful at the moment with a drain sticking out of her side and a plastic bucket thing on her head to prevent her ripping it out. I guess that's another couple of hundred dollars for the vet again, which was pretty inconvenient but at least I knew I would find a way to pay the bill - not to mention take my kids to the doctor if they needed to go. The dreaded flu is still rampant in our area. We have to keep cancelling the kids' rugby games as there aren't enough players and last week there were only eight children in Ali's class - out of a roll of 38! I still thank goodness for Fran Sheffield's Flu Stop for helping us through the worst of it. Noel finally crawled out of bed yesterday afternoon for only the second time since Monday. Here's hoping peace and harmony will now be restored to our sickly home!

I had an interesting chat yesterday with the man who came to service our water filter. I was talking to him about Simple Savings and he told me that he and his wife were currently reading the infamous 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus' book. I have never read it myself but apart from giving him a chuckle about how much he and his wife identified with the book, he also said it provided quite an interesting insight into male and female attitudes towards money and possessions. The reason women can come home one day to find that hubby has gone and splashed out on a brand new car, TV or stereo system is not so much due to a boyish love of gadgets but actually largely due to the 'hunter gatherer' instinct. Providing the biggest and best for his family and impressing his other male peers and all that. I had never thought of it that way! Of course, it doesn't do anything to help the bank balance but at least it offers a bit of an explanation. 'You go into any store and ask how many men have bought six foot wide flat screen televisions in the past year compared to women', the chap went on. 'You'll see!' I'm sure the same logic applies to flipping great boats like the one sitting outside at our place too...

Not that I begrudge Noel his beloved boat of course. Well - I do actually, but it's his pride and joy, fishing is his 'down time', it fills the fridge and freezer and he works hard so I guess he deserves it. We've been having a bit of a discussion over the last few days about his work goals for the next 12 months. You see, he is entitled to a bonus at the end of every year, depending on how much commission he makes the company he works for. This past year, he's been relatively laid back, in order to spend more time with the family but now a new company year is about to start, he is concerned about the amount of debt we still have and is unsure what to do. The thing is, if he spent the next 12 months working his socks off (bearing in mind he already works around 70 hours a week in so-called 'cruise mode'), he could earn enough commission to pay off a big chunk of the mortgage. Certainly sounds appealing - the downside is, we would never see him. He asked me what I thought and I told him I didn't think it was worth it. Our kids (almost 9 and almost 11) are at such a vulnerable age and any family time we get is hugely valuable. In just a few years they will be more independent and it will no longer be cool to hang out with us - 'the olds', so I think it's more important that he is there for them now. Noel's inclined to agree but do you think we've made the right decision? What's more important in the long run - sacrifice a whole year of no Daddy (not to mention no husband) in order to pay off as much as $30,000 worth of debt? Should we be going with our heads or our hearts on this one?

Personally I think Liam needs his dad around more than ever over the next 12 months. He starts high school after Christmas and is growing up fast. However, we've recently discovered something he really enjoys and is good at - cooking! He's my little menu planner now - he decides what we're having for dinner and helps me make it. His biggest triumph so far is Sophie Gray's 'Spianata' from her latest book - it's kind of like a rolled up pizza. It turned out to perfection and tasted divine! It's a great way for him to gain confidence and independence; heaven knows he needs to. I've kind of put aside my 'Not Buying It' book at the moment in favour of another I ordered from the library. It's called 'He'll Be OK - Turning Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men'. It's by Celia Lashlie, who became the first female prison warder in an all-men's prison and has put her years of knowledge of the young male psyche to good use. It's a fascinating read, hilarious and poignant - it was recommended to me by a lovely SS member called Jennifer and I would encourage any mother of young boys to read it. If you can't get your hands on a copy, listen to Celia's interview on The Conversation Hour. You'll be riveted and it might not save you money but it could save you an awful lot of heartache!

Before I go, I must share a secret! As always, where would I be without SS? A wee while ago now I came across a thread in the Forum called 'Pride or Vanity? Looking after yourself!' and oh my goodness, it totally summed up the way I was feeling as I sat there in my trackies with my hair unbrushed! So when the aforementioned thread sprouted a sequel called The SS'ers Pride Challenge I decided I would jump in and start taking better care of myself too. There's something about the title 'Pride Challenge' that just acts as a really great incentive. I'm not willing to let myself down any more! So I've really been making an effort lately and it's not costing me anything as I don't need to buy any make-up or perfume for at least the next ten years, thanks to the enormous stash I accumulated in my Sad Sally days. My trackies and sneakers have been replaced by smarter clothes and proper shoes and do you know what? It sounds bizarre but when I look in the mirror I actually feel thinner! Not because I'm eating less, because I'm definitely not but I guess I'm just wearing more flattering clothes. Noel laughed at me the other day when I went to the Briscoes sale dressed up to the nines. 'What's the occasion?' he asked. 'I always dress up when I go shopping', I explained. 'It's a fact of human nature - shop assistants are always nicer and more helpful when you look like a respectable customer'. He chuckled but couldn't help agreeing. Not to mention it gives me more confidence to ask for discounts when I'm out too. Mind you, I think Noel actually prefers having the new improved 'Proud Penny' around as well - after griping about the grumpy old so-and-so on our anniversary on Monday, I was amazed to find a huge bunch of gorgeous flowers on my desk that afternoon. My first anniversary gift from him EVER - in 13 years! And what did I do? Burst into tears like a big girls' blouse! I think he was quite chuffed at my reaction - didn't stop him moaning about the price though...

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