I have just handed a small fortune to my offspring to help them to buy properties and, in one case, to contribute towards IVF treatment.
We all do it, if we are in a position to, of course. My mother was the same: she was generous to me in her latter years while skimping on herself.
The generation that lived through WWII and its aftermath were frugal to a fault. With rationing and austerity, they had to be. The problem – if it is indeed a problem – is that frugality can become a habit, and a restriction. My mother admonished me time and again for what she viewed as my extravagance: “That’s the second item of clothing you’ve bought this year!”
“I can’t afford it” is a complex phrase which could mean what it says, or it could well mean “I don’t want to afford it” or even “I don’t want to… [go on holiday, go to the theatre, treat myself, do something I’ve never done before, challenge myself].” In other words, it can be an excuse Not to Do Things.
While I’m handing out a five-figure sum each to my son and daughter, I am being ultra-frugal with myself. I hardly ever go on holidays. I don’t take taxis except in extreme cases, even when I am exhausted or lost.
I rarely buy clothes, and I don’t go out as often as I could or go on yoga retreats or join workshops or study courses on new and interesting topics. None of this is because I can’t afford it, although I often tell myself it is. Some of it is to do with indulgence, and some of it, as my mother was wont to say, is because I often think I’m too old.
Perhaps I am too old to be taking unnecessary overseas trips or indulging in expensive dinners, and I have enough clothes to do me for the rest of my life, thank you.
In other words, I have effectively written myself off.
Oddly enough, I don’t think I was aware of this until I handed over those small fortunes. I had genuinely convinced myself I couldn’t afford luxuries, I could barely get by with necessities.
It’s one thing to think I’m becoming my mother, it’s another to realise that I am depriving myself not out of altruism but cowardice. I’m too cowardly to join a group overseas trip. I’m too lazy to take myself out of an evening, and if I did buy myself a slap-up meal at some swanky joint, I would feel too guilty to enjoy it.
I am still fit enough to get out and about without too much effort, and I am aware now that I’m in my late 70s that this may not be the case for much longer. It is far easier to sit back and tell oneself one is too old for new challenges, but we know that is not true, not yet. I still earn a living using my brain and my imagination as a writer and a teacher, I am still part of the world, sort of. But is that enough?
Nowadays, with all the deprivation and hardship – not to mention wars – that surround us all the time, it is increasingly hard to justify any kind of unnecessary spending. What surplus income one is lucky enough to have could go towards a much worthier cause than our good selves.
Or is that just yet another excuse for not doing something?
If you have saved up some money, would you spend it on yourself or give it away to children or worthy causes? If you prefer to pamper yourself, how would you go about it? Do you feel you’re too old or are you scared/lazy to go about doing things you like?
Tags Adult Children