I’m not terribly good with money. Actually I’m terribly bad with it. My mother, I am fairly sure, realised this from an early age and rather than use with me ‘a fool and his money are quickly parted’ generally referred to my attitudes towards pecuniary matters as like a man walking along the edge of a cliff whistling and not looking particularly where he is going. So generally, things look and feel OK, until you put a foot a little too close to the edge, when you can probably guess that the results would be less than ideal.
She probably felt confident in make this judgement on one of her son’s many deficiencies because – for one – it was clearly true and – for two – she shared some of the same ‘something will come up’ attitude that I have, much to the mild annoyance of my much more careful father (who, I am pleased to see, has since thrown caution and thrift to the wind and is happily, as we joke, ‘spending the inheritance’ and getting things the way he wants them at home and garden. Coming through cancer certainly gives you a different view of life).
The problem I shared with mum is what I might call expenses creep.
Rarely will any money go out from me on a big purchase. Those are a different world closely negotiated affairs in collaboration with the Lovely Wife, who will make sure that we’re getting the best fit at the best price, a counter check I value and need. No sudden new TV or tablet, and the car I drive away in will be the same one I drive home in.
No, the source of the problem is the little purchases, the ones that could not possibly get you into any kind of financial trouble. You know what I mean, the ones that cost ‘less than a pint’ (although I understand that what this means in London in particular might be different to one, say, in Wetherspoon’s in Coventry). It might be a book. Maybe a second hand CD or three from Amazon or some other virtual or indeed real outlet, or a cheap wood carving set (A recent, as yet unused instant purchase. I found an interesting stick).
However this is only part of the story. The other section could be headed ‘he never learns’. So despite the fact that my jaw can drop at the end of the month when the credit card bill arrives bringing with it the unpleasant news that all these little purchases do actually add up – I was never any good at maths concepts – I still can fall into that same trap month after month.
Why this weakness keeps manifesting itself is a question I sometimes ask myself. Certainly like many well off people in the West I’m fascinated by stuff and the acquisition of stuff (most of which I do not need). The fact that if you take a step back and look at that behaviour in the context of people who cannot afford to eat it may be bordering on the obscene is something I can conveniently overlook a lot of the time – with a lot of other people. Second, I’m honestly suckered most of the time by the innocence of spending small amounts of money. Increments always literally creep up on us, whether it be my Amazon spending, the annual train fare increase or the final (of many) tiny annoyance that marks the end of a relationship. I do not beat myself up about it too much, apart from on my own blog – after all this also comes out of trait I have of spontaneity that is very much part of what makes me, me, and brings lots of other things that I am much happier about when I reflect on what I do. But it is just as well that the Lovely Wife is patient with me; in that sense I am very glad to be in debt to her forbearance.