Let me preface this post with the background information that I am inherently quite mean. I have had to work really hard for stuff over the years (either physically or mentally), I love having nice things and stuff and I live in an incredibly affluent place.
It is nonetheless a mystery to me how people value money. You see, I happened to be looking at minimum wages the other day. Did you know that if you are 16 the minimum wage is £3.57? Let me say that again, you can be employed for £3.57 an hour legally in the UK today. How much is a copy of Red magazine? £3.50. I guess that’s why lots of people buy the Daily Star at 20p. It’s a salutary thought isn’t it.
I stopped buying magazines on a regular basis years ago. I rely entirely on hand me down magazines. I’m mean. I used to have a Saturday job, I earn’t £12 for a whole day of shop working. This paid for one hours driving lesson. The most expensive things I have ever bought; car, house, flute and a Mui Mui handbag which I bought in a rash moment of desire and I still use to this day. Maybe that’s why I am a bit of a freebie whore, I do really appreciate the stuff.
But what am I getting at? Well, I guess its a sort of difficult thing to explain briefly and probably a whole PHD thesis in itself but I do find it really odd to read in blogs and talk to people about their different perceptions of money. For example, Modern Mother Susanna wrote a really interesting post recently about Making Money from Mummy blogging and how she felt that £2k wasn’t worth the effort she put in. The Cybermummy conference at £80 a ticket has sparked a whole load of tweeting and blogging about cost, including this fab post by Claire. I can also recall frugal recipes being blogged and worries about how to clothe the kids.
It’s all about perception isn’t it? What your current income is, what your background is and how you feel about the value of things in this consumer focused, designer led society. I certainly didn’t feel that we could survive financially without my return to work, and even though I earn £6.5 K less than my age, I don’t actually bring very much money in a month after tax, childcare, pension. However, my return to work is financially motivated rather than emotional.
This brings me to something that has been worrying me for a while and that is how to teach children the value of money. Having read lots of parenting manuals it seems best to bribe and distract your children away from tantrums and naughty behaviour. As a working mum, I have an element of guilt about not being there and tend to compensate by purchasing stuff for them on a whim (I’ve blogged about this before). However, this is not good, they have no concept of how long it has taken me to earn that comic/ pair of socks/ toy car and therefore discard it after a short while. Cluttering my house in the meantime. So, my next parenting efforts are going to be directed at helping them appreciate stuff more. I think though, that perhaps we could all benefit from a moment of thought about the real cost of things and how lucky we might be compared to others.