This month is no different. What can we really say about kids? They get up, get dressed, make a mess, they annoy you, you go out with them, have fun, you feed them, bath them, you love them to bits, they go to bed, you drink cocktails and then the cycle starts again. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
I might not even try to shoehorn any kiddie stuff into this. But you’ll know anyway that they’re lurking in the background like a mission of monkeys feeding in a puzzle tree. Take that as a given and we’ll be about our business shall we?
The topic for today is money and how it is, as Simply Red would have it, "too tight to mention". But mention it we did in our house recently. At all costs we like to ignore the preaching’s of the ginger one who shall not be named. My wife, with the aid of both the Pie and the Gantt charts, illustrated to me, in a most convincing presentation, that we are, in fact, relatively speaking, not to put too fine a point on it, quite poor.
This was a most alarming piece of intelligence, I can tell you. For some years now, I’ve been labouring under the misconception that we were well off. Relatively so, anyway. And I’d been spending accordingly. I bow to no man in my appreciation and enjoyment of fine food and wine, expensive clothes and weekends away on which, bizarrely, I always spend precisely one thousand euro. No more, no less. A rare skill, I feel, for which I find increasingly little demand.
I don’t think for one minute we are alone in this position. What’s more, I use the word "poor" advisedly (and also for comedic effect, of course) as I’m well aware that we aren’t really poor. We’re actually relatively well off but what’s to write about there, eh? Undoubtedly though, there has been a marked straightening of our financial position in recent times. The reason why this is happening to us, and many families like us, are well documented. Salaries, generally speaking, have remained stagnant for the last five years whilst the cost of living has done anything but. The cost of living cannot be accused of stagnating.
My wife’s presentation informed me that looking at year-on-year figures “going forward” (not backwards), amortised using ECB published, er, amortisation whatsits we are 33.3% worse off than we were 5 years ago. In real terms. I suspect she made this exactly a third to look good on the pie chart. A nice big, evenly sliced chunk of pie. But look good it did not.
Now, around 5 years ago we did start a family (do I sense a kids angle?) but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Sure, having kids does have an impact on how much you can earn and, of course, on how much you have to spend. But as prices of food, drink, clothes and, perhaps most importantly, borrowing continue to rise, salaries, for most people, stay largely the same.
Again, I need to stress that my current "woes" are as nothing in comparison to genuinely poor people. People who have no house, no family, no hope.
That said, life is getting tougher for normal "middle-class" families like my own who are supposed to have plenty money. I read that the average Irish family are likely to spend one thousand euro on Christmas this year. I can only imagine they are getting into debt to do so.
Silly, really. I’m not sure if this is well documented (perhaps I’ve just invented the idea) but money cannot buy happiness. It’s even less likely to buy happiness at Christmas. If it’s happiness you want look no further than Vaughan Williams’ "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis". Splendid, uplifting piece of work although sadly has very little to do with money. Or children for that matter. Anyway, I digress.
A most welcome spin off from my new found "poorness" is how liberated I now feel. I’m telling people about it. Sharing the news. And they are telling me things are the same for them. Which miffs me slightly as this is supposed to be "my thing" to wallow in. No seriously, it feels good to hear people sharing this stuff as everyone knows its happening but nobody talks about it. In this post "Celtic tiger" society it doesn’t do to be a failure. Everybody must glide smoothly along the surface displaying the trappings of their success whilst underneath they paddle furiously to keep up with the debts. Like a swan. Except for the debts and, I suppose, the trappings of success.
I’m also liberated by simply being able to say "no" to things I don’t really want to do. Previously, I might have said “ok” or come up with some half-assed excuse. Now I can simply say "I’d like to but I’m poor now, you see". It’s great. I’m sharing my misery and actually making money (spending less) as a result. It’s win-win. I wish I’d known about this ages ago.
So if you want to invite me out ten-pin bowling or for a meal on a Tuesday night you may be out of luck. If however, you have a ticket for the next Celtic CL game and all I need to do is pay for my own flight, hotel and spending money (thousand euro) you may find that my financial worries have miraculously disappeared.
(Note: The editors would like to re-assure readers that no actual poor people were, in any way, harmed in the making of this article.)