Friday, 26 March 2010


Sometimes the best way to teach someone something can be through a bad example.
Sometimes the best way to learn is to see how not to do it.
Sometimes you have to look for the positive in the negative. I think that's the best way to live.

For as long as I can remember I have grown up with parents who carry the burden of money issues around with them. We have moved house several times because of it and my Dad has had 3 jobs at a time to try and make enough money so that he could pay bills and buy Christmas presents for my brother and me. My Mom has dipped in and out of her savings and me and my brother have grown up for the earlier part of our lives in hand me down clothes from family friends. Until the age of 13 I had never been abroad on holiday, and even then it was a school trip that allowed me to travel, not a family holiday, I have not been abroad again since then. My brother, now 19, has been abroad twice, both times with his friend and his parents, both times he had to pay for the majority of it himself out of savings he had. Family holidays we have had have always been cheap Sun holidays or camping in Wales, at times my Dad has had to get a credit card simply to pay for that.

By no means at all have I grown up in poverty, we have always had food on the table (maybe not things we like) and for the better part of growing up we have always been able to have the heating on in winter.

We haven't always had a car and our first 'proper' car was given to us by my Grandad when I was about 9, which we finally ran into the ground about 4 years ago. Since then we have had one other car which cost us £300 and even that was a breaking-into-savings job. Before that we had a car we looked after for a year or so for some friends while they went to Africa to work, then we had a teeny tiny car for about a week before it broke down and we sold it for scrap.

I have always been aware of the money issues my Mom and Dad have. I remember seeing their bank statement when I was younger and seeing a figure in the early thousands and saying to my Dad "Wow you have a lot of money!" to which he replied, "No Poppet, that's what we owe." and I have always been careful when asking for things, whether it be a birthday or Christmas present or simply a brand named chocolately snack. My Dad has been very good and always looks out for the offers, where my Mom has never really been able to get her head around how much things cost compared to how much money she actually has. She can be quite materialistic, but a lot of that comes from her literally growing up in near poverty. She grew up without a bath or shower for a lot of her childhood, lived in at least 13 different flats or houses, and put cardboard in her school shoes. At Christmas while the other kids went down the hills on sledges, Mom and her sisters would go down in an old bin bag. So to come from that to being able to afford a mortgage on her own home I can understand why she finds it hard to understand that she still has to be sparing with her money.

For me the greatest lesson my parents have ever taught me is to never have a credit card, to never borrow money you do not own, because for them, this is a decision, twenty plus years on, they are literally still paying for.

My Dad used to collect gramophones and records, model toy cars and owned a collection of old wooden furniture, which over the years he has had to sell because we needed the money more. Each time I saw him open his box of records and begin sieving through them, picking out the most valuable ones to sell, I felt a pain inside. It is truly heartbreaking to see the lengths your parents will go to ensure that you have the best possible childhood, and it is even more heartbreaking when you see them realise almost ten years later that the one thing they did, that they thought was the best decision they ever made, didn't work and was the one decision that hurt you the most and still does to this day.

At the age of twenty I began University in Worcester. I was adamant from a very young age that I would never go to uni, simply because I did not want to borrow money and get into a lot of debt for a degree I potentially did not need, yet in my last year of college I was literally forced to apply for uni by a tutor who thought it would be a good experience for me and ensured me that the debt was nothing too major for me to start worrying about. Over a year and a half into my degree and I am so glad that tutor threw me out the class room until I had filled in my UCAS application.

During my time at uni I have both commuted and lived there, both have been invaluable experiences to me. I have made some truly incredible friends who I know I will never forget, they would never let me. I have fallen in love a little and had my heart broken too. I have had some of the most random conversations possible and some of the drunkest nights out ever. I have dressed up more than ever before and slept on goodness knows how many floors during my year of commuting. I have been on my first holiday with just friends, and found out so much more about myself than I ever would have, had I stayed at home and simply got a job. I have grown up a lot and I have become more immature at the same time.

And I have learnt the true value of money.

I now have two bank accounts, one has an overdraft I have never dipped in to, the other has a balance that has still never gone down to zero. I have a part time job and a savings account. I go out at least once a week and, although I know I shouldn't, I buy food out everyday rather than preparing packed lunches before class.

I feel that although sometimes I know I could use my money a bit better, that I am generally very good with what I have. I pay all my own bills, my rent, my phone contract, my contact lenses, my prescriptions and I give my Dad a small percentage of the cost of my laptop which we went eighty/twenty on for my twenty first birthday present.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I have more money than a lot of my friends, and even my parents. I watch my friends struggle a lot to pay rent or buy food, I see them worry as they come closer and closer towards the end of their overdrafts and I know that a lot of them live on pretty much just air during the last few weeks running up to their next loan.

I am so thankful for the lessons my parents gave, and are still giving me, in money. They showed me through all of their mistakes how I never wanted to live and how I never want my children to grow up.

Sometimes my Mom apologises to me for never taking me and my brother on a "proper holiday" when we were younger, and I believe her when she says how much it breaks her heart knowing that she never got to take us to Disney Land as little kiddies.

My Dad is forever telling me how much it still hurts him knowing that making us move from our second house is probably the most painful experience of my childhood, he tells me that he regrets it everyday, and says that he was only trying to do the right thing for us, but that in hindsight it was probably the worst decision he and my Mom ever made. Yet I could never be angry or upset at them.

For all of the ways they claim to have "let us down" I will only ever see a mountain of truly selfless acts of love and the best lessons a parent could ever give a child. I only hope one day I can repay all of the wonderful things my parents have given me, that I can buy them a nice brand new car, or pay off their mortgage for them, clear their debts or send them on the holiday of a lifetime. I hope that they know that as much as a struggle growing up has been at times that they gave me the best childhood I could hope for. At the time I may not have seen it, always being the last in the class to get the 'in' toy at the time or playing with hand-me-down-hair-cut-off barbie dolls from my older cousins, but now I do. They have always done everything in their power to make sure my brother and me were happy, at times they have messed up a little, but what parent hasn't. All I know is that of all the toys or the brand name foods I grew up missing, love was something that was always present, and that is the most important thing a child needs. They have made me the person I am today because of the lessons they have taught me, however dysfunctional they may have been at times, I thank them for every single one of them.

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