June 15, 2012 by Rhi
Sometimes, when you don’t have much money, things can seem over-whelming. All you can think of is how awful things are, and you can’t see how you can possibly manage. But sometimes, you have a day when you can be happy with your lot. When things are just working, and you can see the positive in your life. Fortunately, for me, the good days outweight the bad.
Today has been a spectacularly good day, for once. The weather has been dreadful (that special kind of horizontal rain that Glasgow does so well), and it’s chilly even for a Northern June. But, I’m looking on the bright side. A trip to the dreaded JobCentre Plus is less depressing, as it means a trip on the Subway. As an EastEnder, used to travelling everywhere on the top deck of a No.41, going underground on the Clockwork Orange is always a signal of something fantabulous happening.
Mister Bint and I have been living somewhere around the breadline for most of our time together. There was a brief period of 4 months in Ipswich when we were both employed at the same time. But our struggles to find long term employment in Glasgow soon ate up what we managed to save. Since then, we’ve been surviving, on and off, on an average of £150 a week. We’ve become experts in robbing Peter, and paying Paul.
There’s a skill to living on a low budget. You can’t stockpile. You can’t save for a rainy day. You live in the moment. Each day is a challenge in itself. You can either go under, or you can tried and see the best in things. We’re lucky. For us, this isn’t forever. And it’s just us two, and we’ve got a roof over our heads and food in the cupboard. We have our health and we’ve got each other. We’re constantly aware that, for others, things are so much worse.
Today is one of the good days. Today is one of the days when I get to be see the best of what I’m learning from living this way. Today, I rode on the Subway to look for a second-hand cooker. And although I didn’t find one, I did find a vintage Laura Ashley dress for £1.50 (which would sell for 10 times that at one of the trendy vintage shops only 500 yards away on Byres Road). I’ve embraced charity shop chic – a winter coat from M&S (via Barnardos) for £5, for example, not only helps the charity, but cuts down manufacturing costs and the landfill space that coat would have taken up). Not only that, but the furniture comes with a tale. The 20s and 30s wardrobe which sell for peanuts in the British Heart Foundation have come not just from someone’s home, but someone’s family. Goodness knows the history these things have witnessed – which suits our Victorian flat perfectly. You can’t buy that in Ikea. If money was no object, I doubt I’d be the kind of person who would think twice about where I bought things.
I can tell good people from how they understand our situation. The local church I have joined have a supper club, who welcomed me with open arms and understanding hugs. There’s lots of us in the same situation. We don’t need to suffer in silence. There is no stigma in being poor anymore.
We have simple pleasures. A cup of coffee in a cafe – less that £5 for us both – is a massive treat. And we enjoy it at the weekend if we splash out. There’s a real adrenaline rush, too, when we raid Waitrose at 5pm for their reduced goods. Call me sad if you like, but getting a whole chicken for £1.50 made me smile all the way home (ESPECIALLY because it’s Waitrose! As we say in Glasgow, get it rrrrrrright up ye, posh folks!). And one chicken goes a long way – it makes three different meals. I’ve learned to be a creative cook, using every last scrap. We scour the supermarkets using a sixth sense. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Lidl – we’re not fussy. We actually THINK about what we buy. Nothing gets wasted. If I had more than I needed to live on, would I be the person throwing out bags of salad gone black and mushy in my salad drawer? Would I be eating ready meals every night and ordering takeway? I think there’s a good chance I might.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m speaking from my own experience here, and from my own situation. Not having money is horrible. Sometimes I cry with fear at what faces us if things don’t improve. Not long ago, we were nearly homeless – it’s hard to get help from housing associations and charities when you’re a couple with no kids. Quite rightly, their money goes on helping children to have a safe childhood home to come back to. But mostly, Mr Bint and I realise how extremely lucky we are. We’re graduates, we have prospects. This state can’t last forever, and things have a way of working out for us. We are learning important lessons right now – no matter how much we earn in the future, we will always ALWAYS know the value of money. We have friends and family who love us, who look after us. Important things like hugs, and love, and attention, and concern. We could not ask for a better bunch of people in our lives.
Tonight, we went for coffee across the way. We both have seen developments in the last five days, and we have that “we’re on the cusp of something awesome again” feeling. There’s a Chinese buffet round the corner who will be supplying our meal tonight at the princely sum of £1.50 each (as long as we wait til 10.30).
I’d love to be rich. I’d love money to never be an issue in my life. I’d love to be able to buy what I want, when I want. The food that I want, clothes from wherever I want, a car outside my front door. But if that was how it was forever, how would I ever know how much of a luxury those things are? And how would I realise that I don’t need any of that to be happy? If I never wanted for anything, how would I know what I actually needed? Honestly, truthfully, I’m grateful for these life lessons. They make me better. They make me realise I’m the luckiest girl in the world. I have a home, I have a husband, I have a cat. Food, clothes, family, friends. I have everything I need already – everything else is just making life shiner. I’d like it, but I don’t need it.