My husband suggested that we live under the Australian poverty line. The word ‘poverty’ doesn’t ring right to me since we have a house, cars, dogs, lots of electronic stuff (albeit outdated), and postgraduate education. People like us don’t live in poverty; we just struggle financially.
Bills and expenses are looming like a cumulonimbus cloud, and we now have a dangerous budget hole.
I’ve been paid for the training, driving and home work I did the last couple of weeks and got slightly more than expected because I’m under the Australian tax threshold (wow… I don’t think we have such a threshold in my home country… anyway, that is a pretty bad sign).
Most went straight into the mortgage account, and more will follow the bills, but right now I’ve got a bit of breathing room. I could fill my car with petrol without worries. It might even get an oil change. I could fill the fridge and stock up on dog food. I could keep my appointment with a specialist. I can buy woollen underwear and a blanket to combat the cold weather. I’ve gotten so used to the $0 situation that I wasn’t aware how stressful it was all the time. I didn’t realise that scarcity is like a relentless battle, and money is peace.
Frugal with things, greedy with time
I’m a frugal consumer in a material sense. I haven’t bought any new clothes for years, and rarely have money between my hands that I can spend. When I do (e.g. $20) then I tend to keep them; I am so used to not having money that I forget about them when I do have some. I rarely go out. I hate shopping. I rarely buy newspapers or similar niceties.
However, I do consume a massive amount of time.
I’m always busy following my own preferred side tracks; I’ve never been good at prioritising people and their schemes. I get impatient when I can not pursue my own interests. When I can, I loose sense of time. My life is ‘a land lost in time’. That may be my biggest employment problem.
Time destroys everything… eventually
My default reaction to poverty is frugality: when I want something but can’t afford it then I just learn to live without it, and life goes on. However, unfortunately things don’t last forever. As time goes by, more and more essential items break down and leave gaps that cause daily inconveniences, waste of time and barriers to productivity.
Clothes are wearing out, and presentable clothes have become very scarce (plus socks and underwear). And shoes. There are now 3 surviving pairs, of which two pairs are essential but old: my nice shoes for work, and my gradually dissolving running shoes, still on heavy duty every day running on the firetracks in the bush with the 2 spunky dogs.
We’ve had to cancel our insurance policies and have nothing set aside for emergencies: dental visits, vet, technology breakdown (laptop or phone). We just hope nothing bad happens. It it unwise, but necessity has us cornered and it is hard to act long sighted. We also have a broken window (Thank you dogs!).
Freezing nights, trashed mornings
The Australian winter is here. The temperature drops notably around 8 pm, and the freezing night hell breaks loose. Yes, I know I come from a much colder country (everybody keep reminding me), but back home houses are properly insulated, and then there’s central heating everywhere.
We have one heater that works; it is a small intensive-light electrical ‘toaster’ that can be carried in one hand. It looks expensive to run, so until my husband went overseas we only used it for the evenings and the beginnings of the nights. Now it runs through most nights.
The dogs and I currently cuddle up in the office, which is the house’s smallest room and the easiest/only one possible to warm up. Even here, the warmth seems to evaporate straight through the walls as soon as it is made. There isn’t space for the mattress in here, so I sleep on the floor with the blankets over (except the one I cover the dogs with and the one I sleep on) and wearing multiple layers of sweaters, waistcoats and fleece jackets, and sometimes even my long woollen winter jacket on top*.
The mornings are crap. The temperature rises mercifully about 8 – 9 am, and at that time I feel so completely trashed that I just want to stay under my blankets and suck any warmth out of them. We still don’t have hot water because we can’t afford to replace the dysfunctional water heater. I wash by cooking water on the stove and pouring it in the bathtub (usually 2 – 3 rounds), and it quickly becomes cold because the air is cold.
From the perspective of waking up, the day looks like a big hassle and I don’t know where to begin. So I delay the decision. And so, my days start way to late, way too often. I guess that is an employment problem too.
*Most of this post was written last week. I now have warm clothes and don’t sleep on the floor anymore.