I’ve just paid off all my debts. Phew. It’s such a relief not to look at the post expecting bad news.
I realise it’s rare that someone in my impoverished position regains financial control, and I’m lucky to have been able to do so. Getting a significant windfall like this is unusual and it very quickly dawned on me that I could easily blow the lot! Simply with the excitement of having hard cash once again. As a result, I’ve popped some into my savings account and deposited my living money in a separate account. It’s money management again, rather than living on a shoestring and it requires a different mindset.
I’m back to budgeting, still trying to live economically, but catching up on the things that I’ve deprived myself of. I reached the point of giving up both what I wanted and that I needed, I’ve replenished my cleaning products, replaced my worn out/repaired clothes, and bought a few treats. Simple things like birthday cards are back on the shopping list, as are the nicer food products. I sew quilts too, so I can once again afford to buy the material and the sewing accessories; making really nice things, such as the baby quilts for the new-borns of my friends.
For me regaining financial control means being able to sign my daughter up for her activity list, including the Duke of Edinburgh Award and associated activities. It’s nice to see the pleasure on her face in being able to re-join our social world. It also means I have my self-respect back, and perhaps she too has hers.
Being impoverished is mentally hard and requires endurance as well as resilience, for the whole family. I recently saw a foodbank that packs a box a week for each family, all based around a meal plan. It’s an amazing level of effort by the ladies that run it, and shows a level of understanding and compassion that I really admire. Having been there, I know the appreciation that family will have for the consideration and effort beyond the call of duty.
It may sound strange calling poverty a state of endurance. It really is. You sometimes feel out of sight, especially if you are sufficiently housed, as others just assume you have the matching level of income as your neighbours. Sometimes it’s more about the fact that tightening your belt removes you by default from your normal social circle. Sometimes the endurance is more about the anxiety of not being able to feed your children. Sometimes it’s about the level of desperation you feel at an interview, which may show through and affect your ability to land the job.
Weirdly having been in this position, my anxiety is that I’ll end up back there. I am planning monthly outgoings and managing my life according to my ability to pay for it. However, knowing what being cash poor feels like it definitely creates a level of fear in revisiting that position. Clearly, I am planning to remain financially independent and it’s unlikely that would happen. It has added to my understanding of what being poor is like and has substantially increased my empathy towards those on low and insufficient income. I read today in The Guardian that Universal Credit actually assumes and dictates a maximum of two children per family, to teach families to remain within this quota. This does remind me of the Chinese one child rule, and it does assume that family was always on a low income. What about the scenario of losing your job unexpectedly as a breadwinner? Most families would not plan to have children beyond their means, they don’t need to be taught. It’s usually a result of a bad turn in their life which was not predictable and surely a two-child limit in this scenario is judgemental in the extreme. The attitude echoes the Victorian and surely we should not revisit those attitudes. The benefits system including free healthcare was designed to help in an emergency, not to be an assumed state.
My daughter is aspiring to grow her own vegetables, partly inspired by her grandfather with his allotment, but I think it’s also about having learnt how expensive food can be. She’s already acquired some tomato plants and a pumpkin plant, among others bought at a local village plant sale. Let’s see how we get on with our vegetable plot to be created by old fence posts and a few bags of compost. I plan to ‘dig for Britain’ tomorrow to prepare it for her in her absence. Here’s looking forward to our first crop harvest!
I’ve decided to invest any spare cash in the house I live in, and got a new fence and carpets as an initial stab at living in the usual level of normal decoration. Getting out of bed onto plush carpet rather than bare boards has literally changed my life! Small pleasures are my main lesson of living cash poor for a good while. If you fancy a spot of living ‘The Good Life‘ please look at for our story of growing our own on the blog.
All the best in regaining financial buoyancy whatever your circumstances.
Love Ruth x