February 6, 2014

The Great British Budget Challenge

I am, as usual, a bit late to the party but this time I have a very good excuse. I have been terribly sick for about two weeks and spent my time in bed and with no internet connection. I am still on my way to feeling human again, but I really wanted to tell you about something so I am taking time off from being sick to tell you about this project I am happy, though a bit surprised, to be a part of.
YourWealth.co.uk have launched a campaign to help Britain stay on a budget in February. Now, I know what you are probably thinking, because I thought the same thing - February is a short month so if you must find a month to pledge some life-changing thing in February is your best bet. All the people who choose January just set themselves up for failure with its 31 long days and depressing weather. February is your best bet, after all it's almost the end of winter, it's short and you have Valentine's Day in the middle as the best excuse for breaking your pledge without feeling guilty about it. We really wanted to stay off chocolate and booze but, you know, it's Valentines.
Which obviously leads everyone here to understand the massive amazement at choosing me to be a part of a budgeting campaign. Truth is I am not a budget person, I don't enjoy finding ways to save money, I don't live a thrifty lifestyle, I avoid talking or thinking or dealing with money as much as possible. Also really enhances the irony of the fact that I have a degree in Economics. For years we lived on what you might call a loose budget, that never really held together. We were young, we were naive (you can call it stupid), we looked ahead and all we saw was a huge amount of years were things will sort themselves out.
In our defence we didn't really had much choice, because after all we did need to eat sometimes, and life in Israel did not allow you to both eat and pay rent. We were never really extravagant or lived beyond our means you know with fancy holidays or designer clothes. It was just that we were a young couple with a child, I was studying in uni and we were both working (Hidai full time and I part time) and we still couldn't quite make it to be enough.
And then comes the question - is that really it? Are we supposed to live in semi-poverty for the rest of our life? In Israel if you say you want more, no, that you deserve more than being able to buy food and pay the rent at the same month, people look at you and sneer. You don't deserve more. Life is not for having fun, life is not so you can actually see your children grow up, life is not for you to enjoy. Life is to win the contest of who suffers more.
You see, we never lived like that, and though I was never really sorry for the things we spent our money on, we did get into debt.
To be honest, when we were young the debt didn't bother me much. Neither did living on the edge of our financial rope. But the years do go by, and faster than you imagine when you are in your twenties.
And today, after seeing how far and how fast things can fall, and after being on the verge of loosing everything, the problem is that once it happens to you, you can never again say "it won't happen to me" or "it will all be ok". And I no longer look at the money we owe in the same way. I no longer sleep well at night knowing we have debt.
I am still not a budget lover, I don't think I will ever be. But for the past year and a half we have been living on a budget, and have started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We are in our mid-thirties now, it is the time to start thinking ahead about pension, about university tuitions, about where we want to go and what we want to be able to give our kids when they grow up. It is our time to start planning ahead and to make sure we will not be in a position where we can fall.
Life, and I say it a lot lately, takes you through a journey you can't foresee. It leads you down paths you never imagined, and it throws things at you you really didn't think it will.
Budgeting is a horrible word, just like dieting. It reeks of no's, of poverty, of abstinence.
It is also the only way to sleep peacefully at night.

If you want to be a part of the Great British Budget, and I really recommend you do (and no, they really don't pay me to say that), just press this link and join. They have a budgeting tool, tips and advice, and prizes to be won throughout the month of February.

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