A Little Bit of Money

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I just realized that a lot more people are bordering poverty than I had previously thought. And for a very long time – I have been there, too. I don’t come from a family who had the mentality to savings, but like so many others here in this country, a family who lived on a loan.

I was still a baby when we shifted from the soviet regime to a more capitalist one. My parents (and grandparents) had earned an apartment for some working points (I guess that was still a socialist thing?), so, they did own something – but they never earned enough or cared enough, just the bare minimum – living conditions were fine – and to me that was normal (I had my toys – and mom even built me some neat barbie furniture – something you can’t buy anywhere!) but once I was big enough to go visit the neighbour kids, I saw how others were living, dressing, eating, what sorts of things they did together with their families – I did find my place “sucked”, and quickly found the difference between my parents and theirs was that of habitual smoking, drinking and games which I later would learn are related to gambling.

Interestingly enough, the only other kid to ever try to discriminate me based on that (called me poor and bullied me in other ways – I cried easily) was one who came from an even shittier household (added to all the bad habits with the adults, they also seemed to be bandits, and it was all dirtier).

The other kids who were better off didn’t really seem to mind or care, they were happy to invite me over and the only time I was excluded from some new form of play was indeed due to a small issue in wealth – but that’s also actually quite a funny story, because they all got into big problems with their parents because of that.

There were some 4 girls who had loads of these Kinder Surprise figurines, and I think it must have been the girl from one of the wealthier families (but still in an apartment) who came up with the idea to sell them to each other. They didn’t trade the figurines (there were these collections you could collect – if you’re an American, you may have missed out ;)) – they sold them to each other.

In any case, the sums reached a few hundreds kroons, I suppose one of the girls may have had regrets, felt scammed or maybe their mother started asking where the money has gone – and boom, they all got lined up, lectured, and had to revert all their transactions. Hilarious.

Another initiative from the same household that had started the figurine selling was one that I was involved in, too. We’d taken over one of the basements of the big apartment buildings, and we had our very own nice underground street festival over there. Some of the older girls (one also from the same “entrepreneurial” household) were involved too – I guess they organized it.

I participated, too – I had my drawings, they were put on the wall and if someone wanted to buy, I got my 1 or 2 kroons from it (I recall it was one of those metal coins), and then at one point I had like 5 kroons even, trading here and there – and then the “entrepreneurial” teen sold me on a haircut.

That was the most hysterical state I had seen from my mother (as sober) when I went home that night. I also was feeling a little sick, because we’d stayed in the basement all day – and it’s not just a funky smell – it’s actual mold. I vomited into the bath.

My mother was really upset about what I had done to my hair, so she had to correct it. A little while later we had the photoshoots at school.

So, while it was a fun initiative on the end of the girls from more entrepreneurial families, it ended up being a little more traumatic me for very different reasons. The very girls who were behind the basement event also were the ones who got me in trouble two other times, by the way – once, when I followed them around over a creek, I fell in and got stuck – they ran away (trauma-learned that ladies be not reliable for help! My big brother heard me release the trauma siren and he came get me!); in the other occasion they were organizing something around my father’s snow-piercer truck, lifted me to sit on the high step (it was a huge truck, you need to climb a ladder to get into the cockpit), and I immediately fell down, and knocked my chin broken to the roadside pavement. BLOOD EVERYWHERE. The same girls – they ran away, again! I still have a scar, but it’s barely visible.

Anyway, none of that had anything to do with money! But who knows in what ways my brain might associate these events with their more entrepreneurial games. I might have an unconscious aversion to… Well, shitty people. They were not responsible in any way – not in their dangerous plays, not with money. And I never ratted them out and they never got punished for it. So, that’s what my brain is rolling on.

***

Fast forward to the end of high school, I lived in a slightly nicer home, but the mentality was largely the same. I had gone through a lot of other non-money related events, too, but I’m going to leave those out, for now, because I’m trying to dissect a little bit of money.

I came from a poor household, but I had options. I had been sponsored with an expensive guitar by people who had no business sponsoring me with an expensive electric guitar, I could go to university if I liked (and for a while, later, I did – and my living got sponsored by brother (you either gotta learn or you gotta work – but you can’t do nothing! is what he said).

The university bored me, and my working options were – to my knowledge – not so great. The world had also recently suffered this recession thing, and I was not at all interested in doing what many others were – going to work abroad.

So, I worked full time and earned so little that alone I couldn’t have supported this activity – I had moved to Tallinn, had some kind of a boyfriend who didn’t seem to mind carrying the rent alone, I had a student loan to repay and I guess I had also leased a laptop (I made a lot of music at the time – but not in an entrepreneurial sense, of course I hoped someone would help me sell it, eventually, but I never knew how to do so myself, so).

There was no way for me to save. I just didn’t earn enough – I had my loans to repay, phone bills, I wanted to eat (I didn’t spend much at all on partying), and occasionally needed new clothes (second hand stores, mostly – these places are GOLD).

More twists and turns in life not directly related to the financial angle, but I must say, the only way I could ask for a salary raise was because I was useful enough for the (psycho) boss, my second ever serious long-term (2 years lol) boyfriend told me to fuck off (right after my 2 bands disbanded), and with the salary the psycho was paying, I could never afford living in that town. So, he made some stupid calculations and added to my salary the worth of rent.

It felt like good progress at the time (it was) – for the first time in my life I felt that I was able to keep myself alive. I did not have to rely on some guy or brother to be able to afford some stupid small apartment, food, internet – and I was quite contend with myself. I didn’t have to take any shit… Apart from the shit I had to take at work!

I earned enough to “make ends meet”. Sometimes I still had to borrow some lunch money from a co-worker. I did buy crap for food and occasionally drank light alcohol when the home entertainment of MMO fell emotionally short – but still I had not the mentality to “spend it while I have it” – I was pretty budgeted… Yet, there was no way I could save.

I felt relatively free, but there was one more squeeze – I couldn’t walk away from that piece of shit boss (the job itself was fine, and the coworkers were increasingly fun and nice, too – I should sometimes see what they are up to, these days, a bunch of us grew pretty close due to the terror). Neither had I any confidence in the marketability of my skills (I had plenty, but I thought the skills were very specific to the job (warehouse, supply chain, operations programming (excel is great), ecommerce, product photography) – besides, I was self taught, I had no papers to show, neither a portfolio).

How I saw myself socially and skill-wise back then also squeezed me, really – of course, working for psycho bosses tends to have the side-effect of starting to think of yourself as a worthless piece of shit, because “the house” never tires of repeating it to you – so getting over that wall, or breaking that ceiling was the next big challenge.

I didn’t know that there was a wall, that there was a ceiling – I didn’t know that the limitations existed, even less so that they were “psychological” – but for very different reasons I did start seeing a psychologist (the prolonged social exclusion mixed with a dramatic schism in my online MMO community (and they are usually as fucked up as you can get, these games generally do not attract healthy, happy people – but don’t let that discourage you from trying them out – ocasionally, and in some lucky communities it can be quite fun) I returned to suicidality (not my first time), I lost sleep; the psycho boss accused me of drinking out with friends late at night and kept going around looking for other things to whine about, I became ill with a mystery inflammation and eventually that “rock bottom” prompted me to start looking for alternative ways to tackle life).

Within the next one and a half year, as I was trying to put myself back together, the employer also offered salary raises as I indeed did prove my work as helpful and having a great impact on their operations. I did a lot in that firm, and it was uplifting to experience that it did not go completely unnoticed. I did things in there no one else would have, could have – it was probably worth a lot more than I was payed for! 😉

I had no more loans to pay off, but instead of saving I spent it on some stuff that I thought, at the time, were nice to have (computer stuff, new bedsheets, better shoes) – I felt a little more relaxed, yet, I still managed to end up at zero more or less every month – not because I could consistently spend 900EUR on the same things over and over again, but because I started getting unexpected expenses. I had to move again – and BOY, moving is expensive when you’re living alone in a city and barely make ends meet!

Other than that, the stupidest place I spent my money was for breakfast in kiosks and gas stations (their shit is very overpriced), and cherry beer (8 eur a bottle). But I had started to buy a lot of books, too; and also started getting some stuff to make my home look a little better, and some good kitchen utensils (even though I didn’t cook almost ever for the entirety of living alone), there must have been some other stuff I really felt that I needed and will serve me for a long time.

At work – we all started looking how to get out more or less at the same time, so I drafted a new CV, I put some things in my portfolio – and boy, was it a diverse one – glamorous product photos, posters, and the re-design of a warehouse ordering system with automated sheets and whatnot. I applied to some places.

Eventually, I got hired by a company to whom I told during the interview that it won’t make sense for me to move if the offer is under 900, they offer me 1200. It got me very excited!

Now, by the time I changed jobs, I had also started dating with the man who I am now married to. He is the kind of a man who can make it work EASY with a whopping 900EUR (and bare in mind, that’s also WITH a car and gas!). My expenses went down with him not because he payed for half the stuff, but I took note of his spending habits.

We lived together for a while and the two of us spent less on living that I had alone – there finally seemed to be a good reason to do the cooking at home – he taught me some really nice cooking tricks and that made it all the more fun (he has chef papers and all!). Other than the decreased expenses, what really boosted my capability to save was the bonuses at the new company. Of course, I did a few stupid moves first with the bigger amount of idle money on my hands – bought a stupid tablet which I ended up never using, and for another bonus I bought a tiny laptop (that wasn’t stupid, actually, but it wasn’t a pro-saving move – I still use that very laptop right now :)).

Quite near at the beginning of the relationship we did talk about money and there I decided that I should try to aim to have at least 2000 eur savings all the time.

It was difficult to start saving at the beginning – mostly because growing out of the habit of buying gas station coffee (and I didn’t drop my daily red bull until recently), or switching buying clothes from second hand stores to those where they sell brand new “cheap” Chinese production – let’s say, I had to go through a few phases. I must say some of the dresses I got (not expensive at all, 8 eur a piece) I’m still happy to own. But at one point I thought to revert back to second-hand stores… And well, now I haven’t visited one for 1.5 years.

The pandemic, ah yes. Thanks to that shit I reached and exceeded my goal of 2000 and having a bit of savings like that has dramatically increased the quality of my sleep. I also started saving because I thought maybe I could save enough to go stay in NY in July 2020 – to enjoy the many thousands of dollars gift from Nassim – so, I had already started saving (FOR SOMETHING) more aggressively right after he commented on my smartass comment on someone’s tweet comparing car accidents to viral infections, that I get a scholarship. I did not want to pass on that.

I ended up not having to spend a cent of what I had saved, because they couldn’t do the course in real life – they had to move it remotely, and boom – the very course that teaches principles of saving, hedging, risks – caused me to reach my very first saving goal. A magical coincidence, I’d say.

It does feel easier to save when you want to do it for a specific goal. It makes you more aggressive. It will be easier for you to cut down on redbull consumption if you seriously want to have enough to survive New York for two weeks (I had absolutely no confidence in reaching that goal – I really wanted, to – I just didn’t earn enough per month – but my husband would have supported, so, that’s fine). Still, I didn’t spend on many things anymore, because I assessed all those things as “want less than being able to go to New York and meet those people and do the course.”

Because of the pandemic, however – I just haven’t had so many opportunities to spend, we mostly keep cooking at home, I avoid shopping malls and hence I accidentally buy a lot less stuff, too. I did “invest” in some biking stuff (and now I have decided I want a different bike, but I won’t get it before I’ve sold the one I have now) – and a table so I can have my remote work stuff here, and I’ve spent a bit to make this rental place a little cosier for ourselves – but that’s about it.

After this critical point of 2k it’s just slowly ticking up. I stopped being interested in buying shit.

However, having a bit of that still doesn’t make me feel like I could walk out from the company on an uncomfortable whim (no psychoes, but conflict occasionally happens for entirely idiotic reasons as it probably does anywhere).

But it feels good not to be in debt, and it feels even better to have a cushion to fall onto, should something happen – I am no longer ruined at the end of each month, and that feels wonderful.

But I just don’t know what’s next. It’s a bit of a mystery, a conflicting problem – I’d like to have a small house. I’d like to make it pretty. I’d like to have it with my family. A house, mostly because I am tired of the tyranny of smokers and late night rude people – with the current rate that I am (we are) making/saving money, I don’t see that a house will be possible without a loan. Most couples around our age seem to have gotten some support from their able parents – that must be helpful… But I don’t feel like rushing into a loan… Unless I see a house that I will want more than I want to avoid the loan.

Other than the home, the other shit everyone and their dogs are raving about is investing. When I listen to some older, experienced people talk about these things – I get a very different picture than when I hear people my age talk about this. You think people are gullible with only bitcoin? Nah… Elaborate schemes cluster anywhere around money, where money can be bought and sold and gambled with.

Now, I get it that the comparison is unjust because the markets are fat tailed, and the casino business is not – and the latter is which I am more informed about for the last 3 years, because that’s just the kind of industry I went to work in (and knowing Incerto, having learned a lot from RWRI) – fat tailed or gaussian – doesn’t matter – I can recognize a fucking gambler (generating reasons for your investment opinions does not make you not a gambler, it just makes you a gambler who likes to tawk).

There could be a threshold, but I haven’t decided where it is. How much savings would I need to keep as savings before I start putting the excess into some kind of investment – because when you have saved your first, say, 5000 euros – and that took a while, the first thing you shouldn’t do is put it away somewhere where you could potentially lose it all (by all means, do what you like, buy the bitcoin, maybe that 5k will turn into a 25k, maybe you never need to touch it, and that will be good) – but as soon as you place your savings away, I think if I did that – I would mentally be back in the state of being squeezed – by my own dumb decision.

Now, I do understand hyperinflation is a possibility – a war could start or whatever. Although I feel EURO is quite okay for now – I’m not a fan of what the union itself does and stands for, but having trillions of contracts backing up trust in that currency makes me feel… Well, not anxious.

***

Getting from there to here or up above is tricky of course – some people will have more limitations than I did – so much is up to all sorts of weird circumstances. We get random options that are ridiculously boosting to us – and when we are in a good enough mindset, we will not blow it, either.

Had someone handed me, idk, 7000 euros when I was working at a music cd store, and earned below the line of even surviving in the city, I might not have done anything wise with it. I might not have saved any of it. Sure, I’d pay off my loans, first thing – but I probably would have spent it on something stupid, like pointless tourist travel to Easter Islands and Sri Lanka, and gotten hair extensions and fake lashes and nails. Maybe I’d try doing the driving school shit again or whatever crap I don’t really want to deal with, at all.

Anyway, I never travelled because I never had the money to do so – not wanting to so was just sour grapes talk – so many other people were doing it, after all! The TV and magazines was full of that stuff! All the local stars were doing it! It felt like some status thing, a good signal! Bleh! I didn’t know why I secretly wanted it. Maybe I wanted to be like the cool girls who could sell their fancy Kinder Surprise figurines to each other and then get in trouble with their fancy haircut moms. x)

But one other thing that’s been good – that I didn’t want some things too early, and I don’t want them at all right now – say, was I a male, with a pregnant girlfriend, wanting to look good, needing to get this grey fresh box of a house in a new suburb to look good and respectable among the other males – how do you skip all the shit I had to go through in between?

Investing? Don’t make me laugh. Business? Please. Most seem to take the option that’ll forever ruin your sleep: scam people for money. I’d rather beg. 

***

Starting a business is another thing that I still feel falls out of my scope – but because I occasionally get into some artisanal activities, bit by bit I might get into it. I could write a business plan, and I could write it in great style – but I just don’t have any idea about what I’d want to do. And I don’t want to start a business just to start a business – I think it would just make me hate everything 🙂

A consultation thing? Help someone else write a spectacular business plan for a fee? Dunno – it’s a cool idea, but I never wrote any actual business plans, and I don’t think it’s the kind of a thing I’d be interested in, anyway – although I’d be delighted to help someone see a better way to frame what they are trying to do. Just not something I’d like to do for a living.

I don’t want to do things for money. I never liked offering to do anything in exchange for money. I don’t know what I can do is worth, and I don’t know what I want to ask. I do want a house, right? So, I could base what I ask, on that. But then – how many people will I have to serve, will they pay with delight or will I have to keep chasing that money for 3 years? See, I don’t feel like doing anything like that. Just not the best use for my time 🙂

Maybe that’s stupid of me, maybe that’s lazy. Maybe I’m leaving money on the floor – dunno. But how I feel about myself or, say grandly – what I stand for – I don’t want to sell it for money. I can’t. I think it would just kill me.

***

I wonder what the real amount of time and money is for an individual – so they get all their basic-ish needs satisfied – they own enough things, they have achieved the kind of stability in which they can easily spend less than they earn. Of course, that bar depends on many things – prices in your area, salaries in your area, the overall economy, the limitations that you personally have to overcome – cultural, familial, commercial, communal – more difficult yet should you have some serious problem with your health – it costs money and often even limits you from earning as much as those who can without such health concerns.

And on the other hand – none of that would be a problem at all – we would not be talking about a bar from which saving starts coming easy – if it wasn’t for the society of strays, hyper-urbanization, nuclear families, divorced nuclear families and culturally getting kicked out of your home, into the water, so you’ll prove your worth if you can swim – kitty cat, will you survive or drown?

Strange times – then again, maybe a layer like this has always existed in society. It’s just getting normalized now that there are so many of us.

The moat is full of stray cats – be careful, some of them are willing to bet on your gullibility, use your head as a stepping stone for a sec to jump to the illusory sleepless shore – scamster scat will wear a tie, share travel pics, get a wife with a hairdo and make a child or two, and pound a lover in a cheap hotel.

And some have made themselves quite comfortable in the moat – they will usually be quite welcoming, even though they’d throw you under the bus if the deed grants them another hit of amphetamine or a steady flow of hard alcohol. The last crowd you wanna get stuck with – because you’ll start feeling too comfortable – the drugs and the alcohol just make you forget about the murky water fucking up your life, your soul.

I am happy for people who never had to worry about money, who never had to figure it out. Who never got tested in the waters – who never were tempted to join the bottom feeders, or never got tempted to get to the sleepless shore over dead and dumped bodies. It’s not an experience worth having, there’s nothing to miss out on.

And those people usually aren’t judgemental, too. Just like back in the playing grounds – the most toxic ones were the ones who came from the same place as you – and are ready to snap your neck if it benefits them a cent, a step closer to the sleepless shore. The meanest girl in the playground works at town council. The meanest boy appeared on advertisements, with a tie. I guess they can say they’ve made it. They can be proud.

I row steady, row steady – and I think I’m more or less prepared for a storm.

Thanks, and…

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