This month has been pretty rough money-wise, since we had some expenses that ‘happened’ all in the same month (car insurance, the 2 year car checkup, husband’s gas analyzer check etc.). I started October with a nice budget, which of course didn’t contain all these expenses. Now we’re going at least 50% off the set expenses and it drives me nuts. I groaned and moaned for quite a while, until I came to my senses and understood that my ‘perfect’ budget is not set in stone and that emergencies do happen.
I did afterward realize that a big web design contract I got these days helped me save the money I’m ‘losing’ with these expenses, not to mention that we’re actually doing OK, even with this situation: we don’t have to go into the savings, it doesn’t mean we don’t eat this month, not to mention that, even without the design contract I would still be able to save. And the next month will probably work way better, once we take care of these issues.
Talk about overreacting …
A chat with my mother-in-law made me recall all the stories my grandmother had for me as I was growing up. They left their small villages (her and my grandfather), somewhere in the 40′ (after the war, so it’s mainly closer to 1950). She was orphan (her father died when she was 10, her mother 4 years later). The country was slowly recovering from the Second World War and famine was something ‘normal’ for everyone.
Since food was scarce there and the West part of the country seemed to fare better, she was sent here, to live with her older brother. All she had, when leaving her native village was a blouse, a skirt and some ‘home made’ shoes (made from felt) – yes, they were ‘wonderful’ when it came to rain or cold. At 14 she got on the train, alone, to try and see what life has in store for her.
Life with her brother wasn’t easy, he was also struggling, raising kids and trying to make ends meet, so her main focus, once she was close to the legal work age, was to find something to work. She started half an year earlier than legally permitted in a furniture factory. It was hard work and her hands were bleeding. Fortunately for her, some of the people who were running the factory noticed she’s a pretty smart girl. She knew how to read/write (something not that common back then) and was pretty good with math. After some weeks ‘in the trenches’, she was lucky enough to be moved to the ‘offices’ and start working there.
My grandfather was a bit luckier, he joined the army as soon as he could, so at least they would clothe and feed him. Yet another poor young man, who came hundreds of miles to this ‘richer’ area of the country, he met my grandmother and started a life together.
When my father was small, they could barely make ends meet and having food on the table each day wasn’t this easy. But they made it. Slowly they started getting better, both had decent jobs and moved to the city we’re all living in today. This was 50 years ago. With a lot of hard work, budgeting and getting in debt, but paying it promptly, they were able to get their own apartment, furniture and all the needed household items. They also helped many of their relatives and raised nephews and their grandkid (me).
Even when the times were hard (we did go through some hard years when I was a teenager), they never complained. Sure, we’d discuss that we don’t have money for this and that, we’d plan to spend for my education for instance and not a nice trip etc., but I never heard them say ‘life is hard’ or anything like this. We weren’t able to fill our closets according to the latest trends, many big household items were paid in few months, the savings weren’t too big. We did eat well and my education never had to suffer.
Every time I chat with my grandmother, who’s almost 83 now, she tells me about her expenses, the small pension etc. Weird enough, with all these she still manages to pay for everything and save little each month in her own emergency fund. While she does sometimes complain about the increased prices and the fact her phone bill is again bigger than she expected, she does think her life is good. She is grateful for her life, for having so much, compared to the poor girl she was back in the ’50s. Everything they have is their doing, no one helped them, no one gave them inheritances, they were never lucky with the lottery (I presume one has to play it anyway :)).
They worked like crazy and slowly build their lives together, helping others and even giving me a start in life. It’s so refreshing to see this woman, who literally had nothing, see life in such an optimistic way. All she’s wishing for herself and us is health, everything else can be achieved through hard work.
I have many friends my age who keep on complaining about how hard life is. Even I play the ‘complaining game’ sometimes, even if I never knew what real starvation feels like. I never knew what cold feels like, or sleeping wherever you could. I never left the table hungry, my boots were always thick enough to keep me dry, my clothes were protecting me from the cold, I had toys, I had everything needed for someone to study and never worry about tomorrow.
Yes, times are tough now. Almost the entire world is going through a bad economy. We’re no longer sure tomorrow our job is still there for us. Some are deep in debt, others are struggling to pay the bills or save some money. But 99.9% of us are not starving. We have good cars, we have our homes, our TV, internet connection, clothing etc. We are eating, we can even have a nice drink, we have gym memberships and smartphones.
Before we start complaining about how hard life is and forget to be grateful for what we still have, maybe we need to think about how lives were for some of our older relatives. It puts all in a different perspective and even makes me laugh, when I think about that darn budget I complained about this month.