I know people don’t like to talk about money much. But you know what, this is real life. Some people have also said only single types and rich people can KonMari their lives, or go organic, or be sustainable, or a whole lot of this and that. That only the rich can have plenty of junk. Er .. hey. I just don’t agree. But for me to argue that, I guess I need to explain our circumstances.
My husband earns good enough for us, but I wouldn’t classify us as wealthy. My two careers have been in journalism and teaching. They are wonderful and fulfilling jobs, but let’s face it – one will never be wealthy in these lines, unless one is in the field for the long run, achieves fame, or … does dodgy things. I love these two jobs, so the money aspect has never been a problem for me.
Since I’ve moved countries to be with the Londoner, my earning power went all the way down to ‘starting from scratch.’ It was nothing at all for a while. I’m not having a moan, it’s just the way it is. It was tough for a while. We both took a beating financially when previously we had quite solid disposable incomes on our own.
But we are totally fine and very happy. Husband not only looks like a baby ewok at times, he is as loveable as a panda bear, but far more efficient – all his clients think the world of him. He is doing well. (I think I have to stop talking about him in animal terms like this or he will make me do some edits soon.)
Backgrounds & Values
Our families, bless them, are always supportive. Their support throughout our lives meant that we were and are incredibly privileged. Both sides have come from very humble beginnings – no connections, no elite backgrounds – and they have done well.
My dad has come a long way from drying rubber tapping sheets in Batu Pahat as a child and using just one small Nissan Sunny for our little family back in the day. To this day he is still a workaholic businessman. The only time I ever tangled with a reader as a newspaper reporter back in the noughties was when one Internet troll spewed utter nonsense about my father being an MCA supporter benefiting from (this political party’s) largess. I seem to only get triggered or really bothered by fucktard trolls, but I somehow managed to write an email to this reader, calling him out on his fiction. I was civilised. He thoroughly apologised. Before this segues into another story about my father or trolls or DON’T MESS WITH MY FAMILY, basically what I am saying is – my father is a self-made man and has worked so hard for our family. When he treats himself, I am very happy, because he thoroughly deserves it.
My husband’s family were refugees from Vietnam. My husband spent his young childhood in Covent Garden, where he would sleep in a suitcase under the table while his parents worked. They worked so hard to get where they are, you would just marvel at their story. Self-made just doesn’t even begin to cut it. Our children will have to learn these stories well.
I have to stress that we are well aware we are not poor, we will not starve, and we are so damn lucky to have a good roof over our heads. We can travel and buy our friends a meal or present or two. So yes, we are good, but I guess we are saying, we aren’t … wealthy.
We are just your regular middle class dudes trying to build foundations for our little family, and money is always a concern. As our families have been through rough times, they have instilled some monetary discipline in us quite well. My husband is solid and careful with money. I am not as careful as him (OMG IS THAT AN ANTIQUE TIFFIN CARRIER?!), but I can save ferociously when I want to, I loathe debt, and I have not had a credit card for years. I’d like to think my husband and I have distilled the very best from our families’ lessons – we know the value of money and working hard, but we also know that it is nothing if we do not spend it on things that truly matter.
So I guess to sum up where we are:
We are rich enough to have a good house over our roofs, and live our lives comfortably, without hardship. We are not wealthy enough to eat out that often (meals at restaurants here in London average from £15 – £25 per person), consider Business Class flights, have our house look like an interior design catalogue, or spend money in Chanel. We are not in the 1% of the world – oh trust me, I have checked the math! But that isn’t our lifestyle anyway. Yes, we had a wedding celebration in Tuscany, but that was our honeymoon combined into one, and we really had to cut many corners, let me put it that way.
HABIS TU, AND THEN?
Here is the problem. Or issue.
Childcare here in London. It is so expensive. We only just recently put our child in for three days week into nursery so I could teach again. That costs us about £800 a month. The thought of a second child, and having to stretch that three days to five for our first … it was enough to spend our one precious swanky date night in Singapore recently talking about budgetary concerns for this year. We even had budgeting meeting nights later, complete with notepads and bullet points. I guess this differentiates a bit from some of our friends here, who have powerful double incomes in the finance or money sectors.
So yes, money is a factor when it comes to me not wanting to buy anything this year. With a Little Two on the way, I won’t be able to work for a while. Little One will probably have to be in nursery five days a week. The math is real. We noticed when our favourite restaurant hiked up its prices recently, and we don’t even go often. I had to have a rethink about how we consume if we are to keep living the lives we want – comfortable, with a few treats here and there. And this money spent on … stuff. It’s bullshit! It’s just … why do we have all this stuff? Why do I have to buy more when I already have all this stuff? I don’t expect my family to be a holier-than-thou, hippie organic minimalist, let’s go vegan-type of family. I’m a weak creature of habit with passions and flaws. But I’d like to try to see how best our family can fare with this. I don’t want to teach my kids, I want to show them and let them learn for themselves. Our families’ immigrant and refugee backgrounds are even more reason for us to try and sustain this awareness about work, money, savings and prudence, and pass it on.
My no-consumption goal did not materialise from this financial consideration of things, but it certainly fit perfectly into my overall mindset. Everything has been clearer for me. These considerations made me happier I was doing this in 2017.
I don’t know why I am sharing all this, to be honest. Perhaps I also felt from some comments that some people thought we were rich enough and this goal of mine was just some flight of fancy stemming from boredom or something. I also think I felt all over the place for a while for a number of reasons, and this goal has rooted me to some core lessons that are real and true. But this is not the main reason why I am doing this. The main reason …. is in the next posting. (sorry!)
To be continued …