I got paid yesterday. It was my second pay since starting my job, and the first pay for a full month. Today I checked my bank balance. I’m £1400 overdrawn, and have no savings (unless you count the three pence in my ISA, and I can’t say transferring that to my current account hasn’t crossed my mind).
A lot of people are very secretive about money; I have no idea what my parents earn and never had, and have always been under the general impression that it is rude to discuss earnings and debt, much like asking women their age. I asked my parents if I could borrow a few hundred pounds last month, and I didn’t know if I was dipping into loose change or taking a chunk of life savings. But being secretive about something you don’t have seems bizarre, and unhelpful most of the time too, so I’m going to talk about it.
This is what I know: I was a student for four years, had a gap year of travelling and temporary jobs after that. I’m now working full time in a permanent job. And I’ve never had less money.
OK, so never having had less money may in actual fact mean never having had more outgoings, but either way, I have never been so consistently overdrawn to the level I am, never since before I was 16 had no savings (I was an avid saver since my first part time job), and never been so clueless as to how this situation will change.
Before now, not being able to buy a book to read was down to not having the time to read it, and not buying Heinz beans was down to the £10 per week food budget I had, but both of these things, and plenty more similar financial pickles, were fine. Why? Because I was a student, working hard for a degree, and once it was over I’d be able to buy books, beans and all the other Bs I wanted. Perhaps even some items beginning with other letters of the alphabet too! Clothes, furniture, pot pouri, maybe even a car one day.
In reality, it’s the first day of the month and I can’t help but think about the end of it, and how little I can spend in the mean time. When my friends and I were finishing university there was the usual talk of whether anyone was staying on to do a Masters degree, and the general consensus that further study would be too expensive and most just wanted to get on with earning some money. If I could rewind time two years and tell everyone who wanted to stay at university to do it because they’d likely have just as much money, I would.
I don’t enjoy the thought of sounding pessimistic, and I am very grateful that I have a job I like a lot, but the enjoyment of a job is something I think should be separated from its financial aspect or the two become reliant on each other. My complaint is that I don’t see a way to improve my situation. I cut down on personal spending months ago, and never shopped particularly extravagantly in the first place. I buy clothes from Primark and shop around for food. When I indulged in books they would be secondhand, now they’re borrowed from a library. My outgoings are nothing beyond the normal things and I think I pay the average price of rent and bills for someone my age, so how do I ever get out of my overdraft?
I had envisioned saving at least a couple of hundred pounds each month, going on regular short breaks away and taking advantage of living in an area not short of nice restaurants, but it doesn’t feel like this will be the case for a long time to come, if at all, and I wonder how anyone manages it? Are those that are stood in expensive heels, sipping a glass of White Zinfandel right now in a nice bar just adding to a mountain of credit card bills they already struggle with? Do others just find it an easier situation to ignore? Or are they all in much better financial shape than I am?
Whichever it is, it’s hard to find an answer while living in a society that keeps the contents of their purses as secret as the Da Vinci code.