Saturday, October 18, 2008

Enough is Enough, Mostly

I'm reeling in the poker a little. It's possible to play too much, to be so affected and tugged by the nuance and dynamic of each hand that you lose sight of the game itself - losing a tournament, once a shrug and a drink away from forgetting, becomes an episode of burning unfairness the emotional memory of which cannot be purged for hours. Winning is little better: rather than celebrate, one ends up berating oneself for not doing better, winning more, finishing higher.

It's a trap familiar to poker players and adaptive perfectionists (there's a Venn diagram for you) - a trap escaped only by stepping back. I didn't, and have no bankroll left through late-night tilting in ring games. But there you go. Fortunately I am cognisant of my own tendencies and took the precaution of only ever depositing small, affordable amounts - it's budgeted for, so I haven't lost anything. A couple of quid a month for hours of entertainment - and the possibility of winning more back - is affordable.

I am all about affordable. My mother was recently appalled to hear that I didn't have any spare cash: I tried to explain that I have enough food in the cupboard to last to the next paycheque, that all my bills are paid and I am breaking even, but this is an alien concept to most people - having enough money to get by is seen as a failure, as not enough at all, and it's because of this we have a credit crunch and a housing crash and all the rest of it. People don't know what enough is.

I am not suffering as others might. I have no pension, having always felt that it's a lot of money for little return (none, if you don't earn enough to buy an annuity, and you can't get the money back) and too dependent on other people's successes. I have no car, and require no petrol. I have no mortgage. I have credit card debts, of course, and the interest rates for these continue to increase entirely out of kilter with national interest rates - but what else is new? They did before the crunch, and will continue to do so forever, at least until the banks can find another scapegoat.

At the moment I can feed myself, pay my rent and not default on anything. This is enough. I don't take holidays abroad, because that isn't a necessity: nor are plasma TVs and anti-ageing cream. Nice to have, but not needed. This slowdown will be hard for me, but I know I can survive it because I've been in my own personal economic slowdown for years: and if food prices come down as they tend to during a recession I could be slightly better off.

Having no disposable income has taught me a thing or two about what's really important. It'll be interesting to see if society can learn these things in the coming years.

1 comment:

Kavey said...

One of the things that most annoys me about "people today" (tm) is the instant gratification culture. People seem to feel they have the right to a fancy kitchen/ widescreen TV/ shiny car and if they can't have one they react as though it's an abuse of their human rights. And, of course, if they can't afford it, of course it's perfectly reasonable to get a loan for it!
The only thing I have ever had a loan for is our house. Paid off now.
If I can't afford a new kitchen, new car, new shoes or whatever, I save up until I can.
Which is cheaper anyway, of course, than paying for whatever it is plus all that interest!
Then again, I used to work with a young lass who spent a fortune on store credit cards buying clothes, make-up, shoes, handbags. Eventually she noticed that everyone else in the department had or were in the process of buying their own place and bemoaned that she couldn't afford it. She determined that she'd start saving, £100 a month.
Except, in order to do this, she'd have to drop to paying the minimum off on her store cards.
I did try and show her (and remember I'm a trainer, I'm _good_ at explaining stuff to even the slowest learners) how she'd be better off paying her store cards off in full first with that £100 a month, and only once they were paid off, putting it into a savings account. We checked the actual interest she was earning on her savings and what she was paying on her storecards so the workings were real. It didn't work.
She just couldn't grasp the idea that she'd be better off over a year paying the cards off first and then saving, than she would doing it her way. In any case, she said, she was hoping to find a rich boyfriend. Sigh.
I left her to it!