Money can be a touchy subject, especially in a household struggling to put dinner on the table. Here’s how I learned to manage my money effectively.

The 14-year-old’s promise:

When we lived in Hackney and my dad was earning £700 a month and my mum was a housewife, it was inevitable that we would run out of money. One evening my mum dished up my sister’s and my dinner and, supposedly, her and my dad would have dinner later on. My sister’s and my bedroom was next to the living room and, once my mum had finally convinced us to go to sleep, I could hear her laying plates on the table. Being quite inquisitive, I was curious to see what they were eating. I quietly got out of bed and looked through the keyhole, only to find that mum and dad were eating bread and butter. I heard my dad explaining that he was struggling to make ends meet and he wasn’t sure how he was going to put dinner on the table. My mum suggested that she could start sewing again to help bring some money home, and my dad said that he would look for any small jobs he could do.

The following nights we had basic meals. My mum, being the amazing cook, was able to mask this with her culinary skills. She had explained the situation to us and how we would need to work together as a team to survive. Simple things like buying groceries became a family mission. Before heading out, we would work out the currency conversion so that we didn’t spend too much of the small amount of money we had. I was always amazed by the variety of biscuits and chocolates and remember feeling the urge to devour all of them. One glance at my parents and I knew that I had to suppress my sweet tooth so that they didn’t feel like they were unable to fulfill my wishes. We would carry everything home to save money in fuel.

I was so proud of my parents because I could see that they were doing their best with the resources they had available and they were determined not to fail. Then, as a 14-year-old, I promised myself: “from the moment I start working I will never ask my parents for money.”


The 18-year-old’s determination:

From the moment I turned 17 I was looking for jobs frantically like most of my peers at college. I didn’t care what the job was, as long as I didn’t have to financially depend on my parents anymore. A couple of months before my 18th birthday, after most of my job applications were declined, I was ready to clean toilets for a living. I remember crying to my mum and feeling helpless. Luckily, one company called me for an interview and a couple of weeks later, I started my first job as a Sales Assistant at Dixons. I was earning money for the first time! Having not been used to having a disposable income, I quickly and stupidly spent my first month’s pay within a couple of weeks (I’m sure a few of us have done this!). I couldn’t pay for the bus fare to get to and from work but I knew I had to keep my promise to myself. I decided to walk to and from work every weekend as I couldn’t bring myself to ask my parents for the money. This was a 3 and a half mile walk between Walthamstow and Hackney which took me over an hour.

I needed a solution to the problem that I had caused myself. If my dad could study and work as a 46 year old, then why couldn’t I just walk.


The 21 -year-old’s principle:

Like most 21-year-old girls, I suddenly wanted more handbags and shoes than I needed. Being brought up in a household which had never experienced financial security, there was no-one to tell me that living paycheck-to-paycheck is best avoided, so I fell into this trap. This had become my comfort zone. My parents had the good intention for us to succeed but the methods to get there didn’t come naturally. Looking back, despite holding on to this limiting belief, I took my first step into an industry which I have grown to love.

I will describe how I got into the motor industry in future posts, but anyway on a particularly busy day in the dealership, I hadn’t had time to eat any lunch. At about 4pm I managed to get to a supermarket to buy something. Realising that I may not have much money in my account, I figured that I should probably just buy an egg and cress sandwich for £0.70. I could feel my stomach rumbling as I stood in the queue at the till and I just couldn’t wait to eat. As it reached my turn to pay, I coyly handed over my bank card and the payment was declined… I couldn’t believe that I had let myself get into this position. I tried my best to hold it together and apologised to the cashier. I walked back to my car as quickly as I could because I didn’t want to cry in public. I opened the door, got in and just sobbed. I was so ashamed and I felt like I had let my parents down after everything they had taught me and everything they had done for me to have a good future.

After a few minutes, I pulled down the sun-visor to look at myself in the mirror. Tears streaming down my face, I will never forget how disappointed I was in myself that day.

This was the last day I ran out of money.


7 Responses to “Money

  • Shelagh.
    2 years ago

    Good Girl ! You learnt your lesson Well 😘👍🏼

  • This is so touching. It made me remember the times I had to eat plain rice in tea. Because there was no curry… and no money.
    I remember the first time I felt financial insecurity was when my mom and dad went to lift up the mattress to see how much money was there in there little bag made of cloth. There was only Rs 100 which is equivalent to two pounds. And at that time I was like: “What’s going to happen after that Rs 100 is spent? What are we going to eat?” And at that particular time, neither my father nor my mother was working.
    I believe that’s how I developed the fear of running out of money.

    Years later, I talked to my mother about that ‘special event’… and she replied: “That was nothing. We’ve often been in situations where there was absolutely no money at all”.

    • Haamiyah
      2 years ago

      I’m so glad that you can relate to this! Testing times like these define our personalities and resilience.

  • My parents struggled after the war and my older sister’s knew hard times… I think. I guess by the time I arrived the family were doing pretty ok financially. Being human, even when we are well fed, sheltered and watered there were enough “tests” to keep us going. I did struggle a bit through college as like you I didnt like to depend on mum and dad. You and your family certainly refute the idea that immigrants are scroungers. I’m very saddened by the current refugee crisis. Last night I was at a meeting and listened to a volunteer describe her experiences on one of the Greek Islands. I’m proud to be British but didn’t feel too great listening to her stories. Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog.😊

  • Fatima Mohammed
    2 years ago

    I certainly can relate to this. As a child, I grew up in an household that constantly struggled financially. My father had a gambling addition and would often arrive home on pay days with very little if ay of his wages. I am reminded of the days my sister and I arriving home from school to be told that we only had bread and butter to eat and of the days I went to school with shoes that let in the rain. Such experiences never leave you, they create the adult we become, even now I still panic about running out of money. Living on a small pension is, at times, hard to make end meet. WE may grumble but I look around the world and see there are many thousands if not millions of people starving and dying through no fault of their own and thank God I am alive and safe.

    Keep up the good writing H.

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