Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Perfect World

There's a bare  space of a wall on the way down the hill from our house. Ironically, it's on the way into town. It's where a window has been bricked over.  Someone has painted a picture frame in the square and inside in tidy, stencilled lettering, written, "the best things in life aren't things".  Over time it has led to the mantra, "Experiences not Things" as I try to save my money for holidays, not stuff.

I have been pretty comfortable for a while now. I earn a reasonable amount of money. I live in a modest house with damp problems but I like where it is and I can afford to buy what I want. I take my job very seriously, I work very hard, sometimes too hard. I don't have to, but it helps, if I want to do well and earn more money. At the same time, I was unhappy. Despite my situation I couldn't afford anything major - the repairs to my house, a stove installation, a new Vanu. Why?

Because when I say, I can afford to buy what I want, I generally did. I moved a bunch of socks into a partially full drawer and weeks later, my sock drawer was overflowing again. I have 2 cycling waterproofs - summer and winter - in excess of £200 value and two less breathable ones that fit in pockets. I have so many sports baselayers I have nowhere to put them and casual tees are reaching breaking point.  There are then the two three windproof tops - 2 for running, 1 for biking as well as gilets and excessive levels of club kit for both biking and tri and duplicate items for fell running. The expensive Rapha fleece leggings I managed to buy with seemingly only one week of winter left to go and to my shame I finally own a mobile that costs as much as a PC.  I do much of this shopping in the depressing months leading up to Christmas, leaving myself wanting for nothing and leaving me searching to find somewhere to put all the stuff I get at Christmas along with the existing shoes and posh clothes I never wear because I don't really do socialising and most of my friends and family are now married and have their kids.  Work skirts and dresses that I don't wear anymore because trousers are most practical for site.

So if I've told you I am a bit broke this year. I am sorry. It is both a lie and true. I don't have any money but I have a lot of things I want... or I think I do.

Appart from the house, I don't have much debt. This suits while I have a company car. My farming background prevents me from getting loans. They make me feel a anxious. A lot. I watch them interminably until they go away, like they will ever change.

This year someone I work for told me that all the hours and effort I had put in were worthless. Where my big oaf of a predecessor was a leader, I was not fit. I have spent the back end of last year clearing up the shit that my predecessor and his "team" left behind.  The person who told me I wasn't getting a promotion did me a massive favour.

After I stopped crying (partially through disappointment but mostly through frustration) I decided that I could stand to work less, even if it meant getting paid less.  I went ahead and put in a flexible leave request. Women of my age are within their rights to request part time working to spend more time with their children. I have always said that I don't have children, I have bicycles. I have decided that I want more time to spend with my bicycles.

To my surprise, my request was granted and 30 days pay will be taken from my salary pro rata over the 12 months starting from February. The original euphoria: of trying to figure out just what exactly I might do with my extra 30 days leave - yoga retreats, days off before holiday to pack instead of wasting my time together with TSK in a grumpy cycle of hunt-the-tent-pegs, days off to recover from races, solo bike packing holidays... oh, the list.  It started to look like the ultimate backpackers adventure. Globe trotting fuelled by momentary lapses of working except not secretarial work in some dull office but a real job, my job, thrown in for good measure. It started to look like my dream.

Then the anxiety struck. Our HR outsourced. Doing something non-standard. First I get the letter to confirm my leave is signed off and to indicate the amount of money to come out of my salary. It's a significant amount - enough to take me below a threshold that I have become used to.  I reassure myself that this will be taken at source and therefore make a much smaller impact on my paycheck.

Next came the letter from the tax man telling me what I would be taxed on next year. I was confused because I seemed to be earning much more than I thought but that  is just my car and health benefits no?

Then my boss asked if I had heard from HR.  I refuse to get up hopes of a promotion after what happened last time so just say no, except for the leave approval, I've heard nothing. I hear nothing from HR for weeks.

As February drew on, y'know. That month. You've no money left because you used it to pay for January's credit card (Christmas) and you just went skiing so March will be worse and you HATE HATE HATE paying the bank anything because you're a farmer's daughter and the banks are scum but still you do a balance transfer for 12 months because it's cheaper than the credit card fee on the ski holiday which you'd have to pay for in March anyway and every year you insist you're going to save up for it but you never do.

Every time I went near a shop I deployed the mantra: experiences not things. Some things still happened but I did an ok job of managing them.

It was a little too late when I realized that, mathematically:

credit card bill > money I may or may not have at the end of the month. 

Still, I took an immense sense of joy from reducing my spending.  In my determination to spend less time at work, things got fixed, not replaced. I took great satisfaction from being at home doing things instead of going out spending and I aimed to ride my bike more instead of driving. This only transpired this week but, better late than never.

This is serious now though. What, I think, is the point of all that extra time off if I can't afford to go on my long list of holidays. Cheap trips aside, I still have to get to the Alps twice and potentially a ferry to Rotterdam and maybe Canada too. Never mind all those great things I want to do with the house.

So it was with great caution that I opened my pay cheque yesterday and with great relief that I discovered that only 1/12 of my present pay has been docked. Not 1.5/12 as I expected or worse, as implied by HR. The hint is that the deduction is small because I am being paid more. Somehow I have landed a small, unconfirmed promotion. Who knows?

Anyway, it seems my lifestyle is safe with its expectations of Alpine holidays and skiing but also the quiet and inexpensive UK excursions and, I have to say, my new found enjoyment of thriftiness.

And so, still looking forward to holidays and home refubishments and maybe I will save something so I don't feel permanently broke and who knows, one day we may stop living in a puddle and have a lovely wood burning stove to suit.

No comments: