I’ve made a few references to 2016 being a shitty year. The universal reasons hardly need mentioning: politics going tits up. The loss of so many amazing creatives. And of course Bake Off.
But for my family and I we also went through a proper deep dark financial crisis.
I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. Until now it’s felt too recent and raw. However the fact we have made it into a new calendar year means it feels ok to share…
Financial crisis affects EVERYTHING.
To be clear, by financial crisis I mean my husband had a business that was in far far more debt than I had realised.
I felt like a mug. How didn’t I know? I knew a bit of it. But maybe I just closed my ears to the grim reality.
I had a 2-year-old and a new baby too. So that some-what distracts you.
I don’t want to go into details but we were firmly up shit creek without a paddle. Loans. Credit cards. Debts with most of our family. 5 figure kinda debt.
As I said being in financial crisis effects EVERYTHING.
You feel sick every morning hoping that the bailiffs won’t come knocking (7 am is their usual call time).
You feel sick every time you return from being away for the weekend. How many dreaded brown envelopes will there be? How much more money will need to be ‘magiced’ from thin air
You feel sick every time you go out and have to split a bill.
“Oh it’s only a fiver different. Doesn’t matter!” Exclaims someone.
Of course a fiver doesn’t matter when life is normal. But when you are spiralling into debt that fiver makes ALL the difference. It’s a weeks worth of breakfasts.
You feel sick when your kid asks “Mummy have we got any money today?”
Those screaming fits in the supermarket over a Paw Patrol magazine? A whole lot worse when you know you couldn’t treat them, even if you wanted to.
You realise how reliant we are on consumerism for a ‘pick me up’: that new top after a big meeting. Dinner out to mark a milestone. Even a coffee to break-up the monotony of being stuck with the kids all day.
Not being able to have these things makes you resentful to all those that do.
It makes you feel like a failure.
To be financially screwed feels really shameful. And impossible to talk about.
It often comes with a lack of sympathy: “you can always sell the house.”
Of course we would have sold our house. But when you walls are caving in. When you are: worried about feeding your kid (and your dog), trapped in you job and unsure about whether your marriage can weather the storm, the thought of losing one anchor, one bit of security; the thought of losing your home…. it’s too much to bare.
BUT of course what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Financial crisis has taught me to be frugal. To make that food shop last. To walk wherever you can. To search for bargains.
To be grateful to those who were there when we needed them most. Not just the ones who lent us cash. But to the mates who hung out with us during those 52 weeks, even though we were no fun.
We are determined to pay every penny of it back.
Money does not make the world go round. But not having it sure as hell makes it feel turned upside down.
I ‘get’ that talking money is awkward for us Brits. That’s not a good enough excuse.
Making it the elephant in the room throws up gigantic size problems.
We need to have the guts to be honest when we are strapped for cash rather than max-out the credit card for the sake of saving face.
We must ask to be paid what we are worth.
And most of all, we must be courageous enough to say to the ones we love “there’s something I need to tell you..”
Aside from the ongoing guilt every time I buy a treat.
And disbelif that it happened to us.
And the slightly shakiness that stays with you after any trauma.
I still feel fortunate.
Financial security is something I have taken for granted.
That monthly pay-check. That bottle of wine bought without thinking. That person who’ll lend you a 100 quid when you need it.
They are luxuries. Ones I now savour and appreciate.
And to those burdened with money worries, sometimes for life. Those forced to put their kids to bed with an empty stomach, who do not have people on-side to help and advise, who are born with the odds stacked against them. That person on the bus or at the play-ground. I see you. I empathise with you and I respect you for struggling on.