The Age of Austerity

Reflecting on the contents of previous posts I realise I’ve diverged somewhat from the essence of this blog. I named it GrowingOnUp with the intention of addressing all the rude awakenings of the transition to adulthood. Finding the perfect mate is but one element of the transition. There are plenty of other things we have to come to terms with. Like saving for our futures. And for our parent’s futures. And our unborn children’s futures.

The more resourceful amongst you might already have made the link between the ‘finding the perfect mate’ and ‘saving for the future’. I think that intuitively, many of us put off saving until we are in a position to merge piggy banks with our soul mate and tackle the pension plan together. Everyone knows that multiplying a pittance by two equals way more than we could save on our own. Worse, as a woman, I think embedded somewhere in our psyche is the remote but reassuring possibility that our perfect mate will be absolutely loaded.

It is this logic that leads me and most of my upwardly mobile friends to live for the moment, take each day as it comes, Carpe Diem etc. We know that it is for this very limited period of time only that we can live and spend completely selfishly. Soon there will be mouths to feed and school fees to pay.

Spending now is of course a trade-off against future stability and if you’re anything like me, as you catapult towards the big 3-OH, you will stop and think: ‘crap, what if I’s just me?’ When will I start saving for my future? At this point, you open up a new Excel workbook and do some sums. A second ‘Oh crap’ moment ensues. Your incomings and outgoings are in frighteningly close proximity. The emotions that follow are a mixture of panic and helplessness. I may not be a mathematical genius but I quickly conclude that without doing anything fun, purchasing groceries or going for a wax, I can start a very small savings fund each month. I’m talking miniscule. Next conclusion: I need to earn more money. Lots more. Or move to Queens. If I waitressed one night a week I could save enough to give me some financial freedom. But I hate waitressing. I did it when I was at university because I thought it was a standard sacrifice to help me get the education I would need for future employment and stability. Here I am, five years into the world of professional work. I have a ‘good’ job, why should I have to take on a second one? Before feeling too sorry for myself, I think about Gloria, the barista en route to work who whips me up my morning cap at 8am Mon-Fri (note to self – must make café at home – savings of c$80 a month) Gloria and I are a similar age and she must be earning next to nothing in comparison to my consulting salary. She’s still there when I saunter past at 7pm. That’s a long day for a small wage. She must definitely live in Queens and feel even more panicked and helpless than I do.

I’m annoyed by this sorry state of affairs. I am not an overly extravagant spender. Brought to light by my sister’s recent visit when she exclaimed: ‘You’ve had that cardi since 2008!’ I know and it’s from H&M.  Doing a quick stock take, the same can be said for most of my belongings with the exception of a few notable ‘because I’m worth’ it indulgences:

  • Black leather La Furla bag £230 (on sale), 2010
  • Snake skin Jimmy Choos €200 (on sale), 2011
  • Road bike  £1350 (£700 after tax thanks to Bicycle Boris), 2011
  • My new Canon SLR and BF $400 (Craigslist), 2012

I should include the the real budget killers on the list: bi-annual holidays to Europe, flights to South Africa and bars and restaurants. But to be honest I’ve always seen those as essentials, in the same category as a wireless connection at home.  Flawed thinking perhaps, but those are the things that make me really happy. Meeting friends at home for cheese on toast and staycations are just not the same!

So I ask you, what am I to do?

  1. Wait for the perfect mate and hope he’s loaded?
  2. Throw caution to the wind, enjoy my youth and rely on the state when I’m old and fragile?
  3. Cut out the cappuccinos and holidays and start my solo nest egg as soon as possible?
  4. Start waitressing and move to Queens to augment my income?

I return to one of the central tenets behind GrowingOnUp – ‘I’m not alone’ and turn to you for suggestions.

How are you living now for the future?