Yesterday I was contemplating the coming mounting expenses and thanking my stars that I had at least one outstanding payment arrive into my account. Yes, the exchange rate was horrible, but at least it will pay for the upcoming rent and appliances until I receive money from selling my own unwanted furniture and the deposit from this flat.

I went to the cash machine to withdraw money for the nanny, who is looking after Robert at Britt’s house, and at once I saw that I had more money than I should have, not a few hundred, but a few thousand more, and I did not have any more outstanding jobs that amount to a few thousand Rand.

I was so anxious I went to the bank to enquire, and lo and behold I actually got a refund from the Receiver of Revenue. I was so happy I almost cried, it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time !! I also got paid my regular salary on the same day, so I have all the money I need to get my through the terrible expenses of moving, I shouldn’t have worried.

Yes, I am lucky. Somebody out there is looking out for me and I am so grateful for everything I have.

I realize that every day when I look at my son, and when he snuggles against me at night, and says : Mummy I love..


No matter how hard I work I do not seem to be getting ahead.  This does not only relate to small domestic chores and projects, but I am beginning to detect a certain futility in my attempts at getting out of the rut in general. Getting ahead in life and recovering from the setback posed by divorce.

At one point when I was married we owned the place where we lived and we saved our income for something more,  now I am just working to pay the bills. I am luckier than most people, for one I am debt-free, I pay off my credit card every single month, and do not have to procrastinate in payment of rent or school fees.  I can say very proudly that I am doing that without having to rely on the token child support I get from my ex, because that money goes straight into my son’s bank account,  a 30-day account which I am planning to grow into a significant long-term investment for his education.  Given all this, I should be proud of myself and of the astute management of my finances, but sometimes I get mad and resentful against my son’s father, because I know that I let him off the hook easily and he owes me much more that just this measly monthly payment.

I am in a rut because my job and the bank interests are paying off the bills, but there is no growth in sight. The salary will not increase in the foreseeable future as our management blatantly told us – we should actually be glad for having our job and tighten our belts (so that the giant multi-national could recover from making less of a killing than they made last year).  And even if I only spend the interest and preserve the nominal value of my capital, the falling Rand and the inflation is surely shrinking its actual value. I am observing that year-on-year as the price of staples, rent, school fees increase.  The salary which has not been increased will surely shrink in 2010 when deductions for medical aid go up by their usual 10%.

Also, since I am using the interest on my capital to pay my living expenses, I cannot actually afford to put it all as a payment for an apartment.  I have only two obvious solutions: either I buy a really cheap place using half my capital or work full-time for a decent market related salary. There is also the solution of the desperate : Throw in the towel,  pack up everything and go someplace where there is help.

There is no help here, that is for sure. I have arrived to a point where I could not care less about my ex.. I really don’t. But sometimes his lack of sympathy and his attitude of  ” deal with your problems I have enough of mine” makes me want to kick his teeth in.  I always feel that if I had the resources and finances that he has at his disposal I would have at least a plan or a schedule for getting out of the rut.  Instead I am reduced to just waiting for an opportunity to knock me on the head, and this is something that does not happen very often.

In fact I might have missed such a rare opportunity because I allowed myself to be affected by his lack of vision. An apartment was sold in the same block where he has his furnished unit, and it went for exactly half its market price.. exactly half the money I have in the bank. I saw the notice of sale and was tempted to go check it out, but instead I asked my intelligent ex about it. He did not sound too keen, and I let it go. The next time he spoke to me he was berating himself about a lost opportunity, and telling me about the price it went for.

I have calmed down some since my initial intense frustration. Sales in Execution are tricky, and a purchaser has to register before bidding and there are certain procedures. So, there was little or no chance that I could have bought the place on my first foray there, but still. Knowing that these things exist, a window of opportunity for people with a little bit of market savvy. And here is little me trying to get hold of such an opportunity -however passively. While my ex with all his oversees assets sits here, content to work as “project manager” for a solar heating outfit, and paying child support to two households, such a loser.  And to think that I was fooled by the airs he put on for almost ten years.

The First of 2009

It was a pleasant surprise when I awoke refreshed this morning. There were no little people hammering in my head, and I was only a little bit dehydrated. It turned out that I chose the correct sparkling wine for my solo drinking binge, with only 7% of alcohol; less than the regular wine I usually drink.  I was so pleased with my good form this morning that I took  a “morning after” picture to prove my (sober) habits to the world.

The morning after the night before
The morning after the night before

My first priority this morning was to get my online banking out of the way, and start on my New Year Resolution of better financial planning.   I paid the rent then made an estimate of my income and budget for the rest of the month.  The catalyst for these plans is a post I recently read on Dumb Little Man suggesting to keep a spending log to find out exactly where money goes. One of the best pieces of advice in the above blog post is taking out a certain amount of cash for the week and budgeting for purchases from it.  It is a good strategy to avoid the temptation of whipping out the plastic to make impulse buys, because the money booked out of the credit card does not seem real. I thought the ideas were very good and will provide me with a grip on my finances, because I am getting increasingly panicky at the rate our money is spent. Later this evening I started a spreadsheet with my expense categories, and my intention is to fill it out on a daily basis.

Financially I have nothing to worry about. I am firmly in the black. I always pay off my credit card in full, and so far my income covered all my purchases including furniture and laptop. I am debt-free. However,  I can still benefit from some careful spending, especially with the global economic downturn. South Africa runs a little behind global financial trends, so we haven’t seen the full impact of the crisis yet, but the inflation is rampant, we can truly feel it.

Our newspapers are full of optimism. The inflation has slowed down, they claim, and the petrol price is going down. Fine and good I say, but I haven’t seen the price of my bread loaf getting any cheaper, or my taxi fare to work getting reduced.   I do not have a car,  and I do not pay mortgage, so lower petrol prices and interest rates do not put more money in my pocket. Rather the contrary since I get some income from bank interest.  Of course I am not alone,  most ordinary people are feeling the pinch with higher prices of consumer goods, so the bottom line is that it is good to budget, and this is what I will try to do.

That said, I do still have one or two larger ticket items I want to buy so it will be a battle between my buying impulse and my common sense.

Quote of the day: “Common sense is a misnomer given how few people have any”  humorist Colin McEnroe.

Counting the Pennies

I think I am paying too much rent, among my other many problems. When I mentioned an ad hock amount to my friend, I was still in a generous mood, and calculated on the base of an all inclusive rate. Now it comes out that I have to subsidize half of the water and electricity as well. I am already paying for my son’s babysitting and contributing my half share towards the cleaning. My generosity and tolerance are slowly reaching their limits as my limited resources dry up.
I collected my payslip from work today, and I was dismayed again at how little I get paid working part time. My deduction have skyrocketed since my company is trying to recover the salary they paid me by mistake when I was supposed to be on unpaid leave.

Now I am calculating and recalculating again my budget and wondering how the heck my son and I are supposed to manage on around R 900.00 a month for our groceries and supplies. I already suspect that we would pay much less if we were living on our own. I am not a cheapskate but I am very frugal and careful in my use of resources. I do not waste toilet paper, toothpaste, electricity or water. My house mistress on the other hand has grown up in a wealthy household and does not bother watching things like that. Now it is up to me to shoulder part of her extravagance.  Buying groceries is yet another matter. I am always intensely aware of what I buy and consume and never touch what is not mine. My house mistress in contrast is forgetful and digs in into my groceries, assuming they are hers, and forgetting that she used up whatever she bought last week. I try to avoid confusion by buying different brands than hers, but it is difficult when both of us regularly hunt for store specials. My focus at the moment is my son’s health and wellbeing. I do not skimp on his formula and cereal. As for me, I now look for the cheapest brands in the shop, I hardly ever buy meat and when I do I cook it into huge bowls of soup to make it go farther.

I am sure Mr. Negativity doesn’t have such concerns. He always was a carnivore of note, cooking a portion of meat every single day to support his monster metabolism. I am resorting to the humble potatoes, beans, and lentils. Luckily during winter time such foods are acceptable. By summertime I hope we will be in our own place.

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Money Matters

My finances haven’t improved since I agreed to resume my marriage. It really frustrates me. When I was in the single/separated phase, it seemed that I could do no wrong; I bought what I liked in cash and got to enjoy the windfall and the fruits of my labour. Now it seems that I buy things that I do not think are strictly necessary, and do not get to enjoy any treats. In addition to all that, it looks like I have hit a real dry phase in my freelance work, so the money coming in is barely covering my expenditures.I have always been bad at this concept of “our money” in a married relationship. My husband always claims that our joint property and our bank accounts whether joint or separate are OURS. I put this to the test once at the point when I wanted to get divorced and things suddenly got sour. What was ours got suddenly reduced to our relative incomes and what each of us brought into the marriage, and of course I ended up with the short end of the stick. Yes, I could have fought him out in court and chances are that I could have ended up with far more than the meagre settlement he offered, but I chickened out. I found that I do not have the stomach for a long battle in court which will probably make me hate him in the end – although he does deserve it sometimes.

Well, I still have feelings for the man, and I do not want to walk the same road again, but I am angry at the fact that my contributions into the marriage – in terms of money spent far outweigh his at the moment.

Yes, I am the only one with a full-time job at the moment but he has at least 100K Dollars sitting in the bank and earning interest in several investments to my meagre 7k waiting to be spent on rent and telephone bills and electricity. I can’t catch up even to a point where I can have a small amount put aside into a Money Market account.I do not have a good feeling about this. People do not change, and my marriage still has a good chance of turning sour again and ending up in divorce, what then?

It is important for me to have this cushion of security – mine – for all eventualities, and in order to achieve it I am back again, to skimping on my pleasures to have some more security, because I can’t trust him to look after me when things go sour. I will be left out again in the cold, and I am still the same person who does not have the stomach to fight for what is rightfully hers. On the other hand he still might be the same stingy person. Why, he only indulges now in some pleasures because I happen to pay for them.