lifestyle

Not having enough money to go out on Friday as well as Saturday night doesn't make you 'broke'.

Georgie Dent
Georgie Dent

by GEORGIE DENT

I love reading. Newspapers. Books. Websites. Magazines. Blogs.

Where there are words my eyes are happy to follow. I particularly like it when my eyes happen upon a bunch of words that change the way I’m thinking or feeling.

This happened last week when I read this article that writer Rachel Hills penned, about the privileged poor. It made me realise that I have been carrying on like entitled royalty.

Not out aloud or anything. There have been no tears over tiaras and no tantrums because no one will buy me a pony. My entitled princess tendencies are (mostly) invisible to bystanders.

Actually, until now, they’ve been mostly invisible to me too. They’ve been quietly embedded in my psyche and I’d like to thank Hills for forcing me to burrow them out.

Rachel wrote about the growing number of Australians who consider themselves to be struggling despite being quite well off. She makes the point that it’s become quite commonplace to cry ‘poor’ when something even quite discretionary – a night out, a trip away, a new outfit – is out of reach. In her words:

Rachel Hills
Rachel Hills

“The result is … either you are “poor” and poised on the edge of bankruptcy, or you are ‘comfortable’ and you never have to think about money at all”

“But being middle-class doesn’t mean never needing to make a choice about what you spend your money on. It means having the wiggle room to choose in the first place.”

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Reading that I realised that I’d fallen into that very trap. Of believing that I’m poor because I constantly juggle what we can and can’t afford.

I have two children and being on maternity leave has certainly had an impact on my life in strict budgetary terms. Regardless of the specific trigger for a while now, I’ve been begrudging the fact I have to watch where every dollar goes.

I dislike feeling stressed about money.

I don’t like constantly doing sums in my head and having to say no to things because our bank balance won’t stretch that far. I hate receiving unexpected bills and I dream of doing the groceries without a strict budget looming large.

Now taken on their own I don’t think any of those admissions are particularly ugly. I doubt anyone likes worrying about money. The trouble is somewhere along the line it seems I developed the misguided assumption that I shouldn’t have to host those worries.

So worse than just disliking a tight fiscal policy I’ve been feel slightly affronted by having to run one. Now I realise that sentence is not particularly pretty. It was actually tougher to type and share with you than it was to admit to myself.

I honestly hadn’t realised I was thinking that way but Hills’ article made me see the error at the root of my discontent. Once I spotted it, in all of its unfettered privileged glory, I could challenge it.

Because I’m so far from poor it is ridiculous.

Having to be careful with money doesn’t make me poor; it makes me not rich. And there’s a big difference. I’m slightly ashamed but very grateful it took Rachel’s words for me to see that.

And I’ll be frank about my gratitude; it’s not entirely altruistic. While it’s confronting to realise I’ve been thinking like an entitled princess it’s also liberating.

Because feeling hard done by, even just subconsciously, isn’t nice. And while I know, in all consciousness, that I’m not hard done by, I had fallen into the trap of thinking that in the fiscal department I am. I’m not.

I don’t own a home or have a whopping nest egg but I also never have to worry about not being able to afford rent or not being able to feed the girls or pay our bills.

Who knew that realising I’m not rich would make me feel so rich?

Georgie is a Sydney-based journalist, mum and wife who blogs about life here. You can follow her on Twitter here

Do you struggle making ends meet each week? Do you consider yourself to be poor?

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