The weakness of thrift

Attitudes towards spending money can seem directly connected to outlooks on life, often in strangely distorted ways.

One of my oldest friends has always been open about his less than healthy bank balance, being up against overdraft limits when we were students and still regularly in his overdraft today, despite a reasonably well paid civil servant job he’s had for the best part of ten years.

I have, comparatively, always been healthier in my balances, throughout student days and working life.  Mostly due to nurture (those painful holiday evenings spent hiking from restaurant door to restaurant door for an offer that would strike my father as reasonable), combined with a natural reticence towards risk, my in-built frugality has been evident for as long as I can remember.

But the marked difference is that I generally spend little, worry more and enjoy less – in the broadest possible sense.  Whereas my friend spends more, worries less – at least ostensibly – and has more fun.  He says that he and his fiancée live lifestyles they can’t really afford.  So what though?   His credit rating might not be sky high, but his happiness rating seems enviable.

Will old men look back over their lives and think, I was a miserable bastard for most of that lifetime but hey: my bank balance was always fat and my credit rating kicked arse?

Doubt it.

Relying on clients to supply me with work and then pay me money is not conducive to financial security.  I have no guaranteed income or salary.  Yet for the last eighteen months it’s gone ok and my balances have largely been as good, if not better than when I was in regular paid employment.

So much fretting and paranoia about the work roadmap and the next payment can make you forget to Live, do things, see things, to spend money on things that can genuinely enrich and give new, authentic experience: more than a new record or a book.  If you have no Other to prod you too, to say: can we go here or do this? – then you mightn’t spend much money on anything.  It’s less of a risk to sit and moan about being a boring man with no life.  But infinitely more depressing.

Petrol, car maintenance, rent and bills, moderate alcohol and coffee: that’s about it.  By purchasing that pricey packet of honey-glazed roasted cashew nuts (over TWO POUNDS!), you’re really bloody pushing the boat out.

You surf on the wedge of balance, just in case there’s a delay in the next payment, or the one after that, or if the work suddenly dries up, or or or..  Careful now.  The News says we’re all doomed and should batten down the hatches, do nothing, stay still, don’t move.

From time to time you muffle a small voice in the back of your head, perhaps while browsing someone’s Facebook pictures.

You could do something too, you know, if you wanted..  More than just a day trip in the car.
Yeah but what if..?
*Fuck* what if.

This was the altercation I had with myself whilst in bed reading last night: an urgent, hedonistic tale of a young man apparently on the brink of suicide.

Morning brought an alien sensation of faint optimism, the idea somehow survived through sleep and dream.  I was buoyed by the levity of fuck-it fatalism.

The early ‘core working hours’ of today were squandered on, then I took a breath and booked a week in Chicago over New Year.


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