Wow, almost at the end of No Spend Month! On the whole, it's been a really good month. We spent basically nothing, didn't stuff up buying useless non-essential rubbish and consistently made smart choices, yay for us! And then Penny went and got the flu to end all flu's. Today is the first day I've been properly out of bed for 10 days - I was so ill I couldn't even sit and watch TV! Even then, I refused to let it affect my No Spend month by frittering money away on the usual things I would normally rush out and get to make me feel better (this was largely because I simply couldn't get out of bed but hey, it worked well as a No Spend strategy!) and I even dragged myself out of bed each evening to cook dinner for the boys so we didn't waste money on takeaways - even if it was only bacon and eggs! However eventually we really did run out of food and as I wasn't up to going to the supermarket I did succumb to getting takeaways twice and oh good grief on both occasions they were so bad! Makes you wonder why you bother! Still, sometimes it's good to remind yourself just how rubbish value they are and why it's so much better to cook from scratch. So technically we had made it almost the whole way through No Spend Month and wasted less than $40, which did annoy me as those takeaways were so not worth it but under the circumstances we hadn't done too bad. In fact, we were doing really, really well! What was I going to do with all my savings? Put them away in a separate account? Pay off some debt? Bit of both? I hadn't decided but I couldn't wait for the end of the month so I could throw some money around in a super duper sensible and grown up manner!
And then came the real clanger. Not content with losing a whole week's work due to illness, I decided in my infinite flu-fogged wisdom to pay a whole bunch of my bills twice. I still don't even really know how it happened! I thought I had cancelled most of my usual automatic payments whilst waiting for Gayle the budgeting lady to get back to me with a different plan, so in the meantime I simply paid them a nominal amount manually to keep everyone happy. However just two days later I was horrified to see the automatic payments had also gone through as well! Somehow through all the fevers, aches and pains, I had managed to literally give away more than $700 too much, which put me slap bang back to square one, used up all my savings before I had even managed to save it and basically went and made the whole of next month a lot harder. I wanted to cry - how could I have been so stupid?! There was nothing I could do about it; I could hardly ring them up and say 'oh I paid you too much, can I have it back?' when they were already being kind enough to let me pay it off in the first place! There was absolutely nothing I could do except kick myself. The boys couldn't believe it after all my premature celebrating but already aware that their mother is totally bonkers, they took it in their stride. 'We should be alright - we just need to be really careful', I told them apologetically. 'That's OK Mum', said Ali. 'We never spend money any more anyway, it should be easy!'
That's Ali all over though; he just gets on with it. Through this whole turbulent year - and the months leading up to it, Ali has been amazing. Even though his world was falling apart he never missed a day of school and still got up at 6.30 every morning, same as always. He always kept trying, not wanting his education to suffer. The day we moved house, even though he was in tears himself at leaving the family home he loved, he worked for hours doing all the heavy lifting when his brother was overseas and helped me to make a new home for us. Even though things have been just as hard for him as anyone else, he has never let it show. And he has always, always been there for me. He is one of the best No Spenders I've ever met, because he never asks for anything. Material things don't really matter much to Ali. He has his own style, knows what he likes and what he doesn't like and will happily wear every item of clothing he owns to death, until his shirts don't cover his midriff and his trousers are halfway up his legs if I let him! I can't imagine he'll ever be rich bless him, as he's far too generous; always spending his money on his friends rather than on himself, right down to his last dollar.
One thing is for sure though, Ali will never starve - and he'll make sure the rest of us don't either! He can cook pretty much anything and is often experimenting in the kitchen making up recipes. It was HE who taught ME how to cook a BBQ recently! He still loves nothing more than hunting and fishing and has been on several hunting expeditions with his dad, each time bringing home meat he has successfully hunted and carried out of the bush himself. Even though we no longer had a boat when Noel and I split up, Ali didn't let it stop him fishing. When other kids his age are wandering aimlessly around town or hanging out in the local Subway, Ali can be found at the wharf fishing for John Dory, or surf casting off the beach - and as of last week he has his own boat! He suddenly remembered his dad having a little old aluminium dinghy which he bought years ago second hand but never used. When we moved to the beach we took it down to the marina, but again it was never used even once. So off he went to the harbour, unlocked the chain which had held the dinghy safe for more than three years and went for his first sail. The first day he rowed and rowed until his arms almost fell off and whilst he had a wonderful time cruising around in the sunshine, all that rowing took way too long and wasted far too much fishing time! So the next day he dug around in the shed, found an old outboard motor which hadn't been used for 10 years or more and spent the morning getting it fuelled up and running again. He didn't know exactly what to do with it and I certainly didn't but if you make enough of a spectacle of yourself someone will eventually come to your aid and it wasn't long before two fishermen turned up at the boat ramp. Before we knew it they had taught Ali and his friend all the various motor parts and how to work them and they were whizzing off on their way! I was so proud of him for having the drive and initiative and now he takes his little boat fishing every spare moment he gets.
Whatever Ali does, he commits himself to fully and gardening is no exception. He asked recently if he could start his own garden so he could grow some food of his own, which was perfect timing as I had just shifted a whole load of soil into a disused sandpit. So he spent a morning preparing the soil, then trotted off to town to buy some plants with his own money and returned with a raspberry bush, as well as blackberry, blueberry - and a curry plant! Morning and night he tends his little garden and it makes me smile to see him happily popping blackberries into his mouth as he goes about his chores, more often than not accompanied by his cat.
We've always been a good team, Ali and me. No longer the 'little guy', he towers over me and I still can't quite get used to the deep booming laugh that comes out of his mouth these days! I'm the smallest in the household now and there's no one more protective of me than he is. When I had a stalker a few months back, Ali was the one who slept beside me at night with a cricket bat and a hunting knife by the bed. Heaven knows what either of us would have done if we had needed to use them but it made us feel better! The funniest thing happened more recently though, just before No Spend Month, when I was feeling particularly low and vulnerable. The boys had been working hard all summer, it was almost time to go back to school and all holidays I had promised them a big day out in the city to do whatever they liked. They had money and they wanted me to live up to that promise and the last thing I wanted to do was let them down but as we trailed around the malls I'm embarrassed to admit I was being a big ol' party pooper. All I could think of was that I shouldn't be doing this, I shouldn't be doing this. I couldn't get my mind off all the bills I had to pay, the petrol it had cost to drive to the city - I couldn't even bring myself to eat as the boys happily scoffed their burgers, having lost all appetite and not having wanted to buy lunch in the first place. What a bundle of joy I was and saddest of all was that the boys could see it and it was having a real dampener on their special day out.
As I trudged around feeling woebegone, I must have looked it too, as I was suddenly accosted by a beautiful young Israeli woman who told me my eyes looked sad and she wanted to give me a treat. I protested and told her I had no money and couldn't possibly buy her miracle skin products but she brushed me off and told the boys to go and check out the shops for five minutes while she put some cream on me. They rolled their eyes but off they duly went and came back in five minutes. And ten. And 20. And 30 and still she kept going. No matter what I did, I could NOT get away from this woman! She was lovely, she was sweet, and she knew her market PERFECTLY. She knew exactly how to tap into my emotions and in my weakened state I let her. Which was still a big old waste of time as just ONE pot of cream cost more than $200 and she was taking me through the entire range! Even if I had wanted the darned stuff more than anything on the planet, I would not have been able to buy it and I told her time and time again but she would not let up. The boys were getting beyond fed up. They texted me, they rang me and even though I was getting visibly upset, again she just brushed it aside. 'You do something for yourself! All the time you do things for your children, this is for you, you deserve this', she said firmly, rubbing more cream into my face and hands. I wanted to cry. This was the boys special day and as if I hadn't already made it bad enough, our quality time was now being completely ruined by a bulletproof midget. How on earth was I going to get away from this woman? And then suddenly, I spotted a tall, thin young man striding purposefully across the mall. 'Leave her alone!' Ali growled as he reached the display. 'Come on Mum, you don't need this shenanigans!' he said (I think we all know that wasn't the exact word he said!) and he literally grabbed my arm and dragged me off. I can't explain the relief - but why hadn't I been able to find the strength to do that myself in the first place? It made me think of the reason Fiona had started Simple Savings in the first place; because she was so sick and angry at seeing vulnerable mums being targeted by marketers and for the first time I truly realised just how heartless companies could really be.
While I was hugely grateful to Ali for rescuing me, the whole experience had left me feeling drained and even worse than I had before. Mostly I felt just plain awful that I had allowed myself to be overpowered in this way and the boys understood that totally bless them. However we had already wasted a lot of time and they wanted to have fun! The boys all jumped at Liam's suggestion of ten pin bowling so I took them to the heart of Auckland's Queen Street; although at more than $20 each for two short games I couldn't justify the expense and assured the boys I would be fine watching. However Ali wasn't having a bar of that! As soon as he discovered I wasn't going to play, he secretly paid for me. He had less money than anyone else and paying for the both of us used up everything he had but there was no way he was going to let me miss out on the fun! I'll never forget his generosity that day. I was so touched I burst into tears, which was rather embarrassing in the middle of the bowling alley. Luckily before I knew it I was crying again because I was laughing so much at our terrible bowling! Our disastrous day quickly turned into hilarity and I think Ali and I would say it turned out to be $20 very well spent - although I'm not sure Liam would agree, as for the first time ever guess who won? Me!