I’ve just spent the best part of £150 in a little under two hours. And disappointingly, it didn’t involve a trip to the Cath Kidston shop.
£37 went to Clarks for a new pair of school shoes for The Boy. Thankfully he has slow-growing feet, so they should see out the year. I hope.
£60 was on petrol. Petrol that will last, ooh, about a month. I’m lucky if I get 300 miles out of a tank in my gas-guzzler, which is somewhat galling, given that it’s a Ford Focus, for heaven’s sake, not a Range Rover.
£45 was eaten up by buying disposable plates, glasses, cutlery and napkins for The Baby’s baptism.
So, of the £142 I’ve just spent, £60-worth will go up in smoke, and £45 will go in the bin.
Not so long ago, £150 felt like a lot of money. Pre-kids, hubby and I used to be able to holiday for not much more than that. But – at the risk of sounding prematurely geriatric – everything is so expensive these days. We easily spend £100 a week on groceries, and that’s not including hubby’s lunches at work. It doesn’t seem that long since petrol strikes brought the country to a standstill, as the price of fuel threatened to reach £1 per litre. Now I’m chuffed if I can find a petrol station selling unleaded for 131.9p per litre.
Hubby and I are fortunate to be above-average earners, but while we don’t worry about money, we never feel well-off. We have a very modest three-bed terraced house (ex-council), drive very boring cars (the aforementioned Ford and a company Skoda), and take very ordinary holidays (the Isle of Wight beckons this summer, and even that is thanks to a gift from my parents). We’d struggle to afford a foreign holiday, especially now term-time trips are out of the question, and unless we move out of the South East, we can only dream of a house with a spare room or no attached neighbours.
Now we have two children, life is going to be even more expensive. A lot more expensive, unless I manage to curb my addiction to Monsoon baby clothes. The best things in life may be free, but school shoes and extracurricular clubs certainly aren’t. I’m already having to think twice about signing The Baby up for activities like swimming lessons and music classes. The Boy used to do them, but our incomes haven’t gone up as fast as the cost of living.
In general, we have a very comfortable lifestyle, but every now and then, the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. In the past week, I’ve seen pictures from Turkey, Greece, the States and the Maldives on my friends’ Facebook profiles. How do they do it? Does everyone else earn way more than me, or have they given their credit cards a bashing? I’m no big spender, and feel guilty buying something at full price when there’s a sale rail in the shop, but when filling the car with petrol costs £60+, the cash doesn’t stretch very far.
But then I stop and think, and give myself a virtual shake. Having watched that BBC programme on child poverty a few months ago, I know just how lucky I am. What got me was the little lad who had nothing but two cards and a haircut for his 12th birthday. The Boy was incredulous when I told him that; after all, barely a week goes by without him getting a new book or a coveted Lego model.
So while I reserve the right to moan about the cost of filling up my car, the fact that energy bills are going up (again) and the price of children’s shoes, I’ll also count my blessings. My children are growing up in a warm, safe home in a lovely area. They have clothes that fit them and are kept clean (although not ironed – but that’s another post). They eat healthily, and while The Boy might go on (and on, and on) about how unfair it is that he doesn’t have a DS, he’s had more experiences in his five-and-three-quarter years than some children will in a lifetime. Money can’t buy you happiness, but it definitely makes life easier.
Still, though; £60 for a tank of petrol? I might as well burn money!