Words of the day:
Parsimony – extreme unwillingness to spend money or use resources
Profligacy – reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources
As a kid I used to love money. Just having it, looking at it, saving it and watching the coffers rise. My Britannia Building Society Young Savers Account booklet paints a picture of financial discipline and restraint: an opening investment of £20 was gradually bolstered with deposits of anything from £10 to £75 (after a bumper Christmas haul in 1992) and not a single withdrawal in the first 5 years. I saved so much at Natwest that I got the whole family of piggy banks.
Was this love of money my natural state or was it something taught? I believe the latter, and that most people’s attitudes towards money change over time. Things that we learn can be unlearned and I’m currently in a process of unlearning. Or maybe I’m learning.
In support of this nascent theory I present Exhibit A: Stephanie Jones. My sister Steph was always a ‘get it, spend it’ kind of a kid – clothes, makeup and magazines would cause her to shell out cash. What’s the point of having money if you don’t use it to buy a Take That pencil case and a massive poster of Jason Orange breakdancing? (She was actually more of a Mark Owen girl but whatevs).
As an adult Steph still spends eye-watering amounts on clothes and shoes but lives well within her means, saves and is far more financially controlled than Exhibit B: her big brother (me). I’m not sure exactly when the switcharoo happened but after saving everything as a kid I developed an ability as an adult to spend spend spend.
In Britain you don’t need to have money to spend it, but fortunately I did. I was earning a decent salary but smashing most of it away on poor value-for-money purchases – usually extravagant holidays and stag dos all over the world. I had an amazing time and have no regrets (apart from that one time in Hong Kong, oh and Miami, and I try not to think about Vegas) but recently decided that a change was necessary.
While I have always appreciated the value of money my approach to saving and spending has clearly changed over time; I’ve travelled from parsimony to profligacy – one extreme of the spending spectrum to the other – and I’m currently trying to settle somewhere in the middle.
It was in this spirit of enlightenment that I approached booking my current trip to France. Using my remaining airmiles was not good value so would it be the expensive, last minute Eurostar train or the cheap but gloomy bus from London to Paris?
I hate long bus journeys so that was a non-starter. With a little help from a friend (hi Marits) I settled on a perfect compromise, buying a Eurostar ticket for £50 (full price £170) on a Facebook resale group. I then smugly told everyone how clever I was.
My 8am Saturday journey was perfect, forcing me to behave on the Friday night and getting me to Paris by 11am to hang out with friends and do some touristy shizz.
Then late last night I saw a sign at a petrol station saying “Old style £1 coins must be exchanged before 15 October when they cease to be legal tender.” Rushing home I emptied my (Natwest) piggy bank, found 53 old style pound coins and put them in a freezer bag in preparation for an early morning spending spree. The banks wouldn’t be open yet but, consistent with my new approach, I was not sacrificing a hard-earned £53.
It’s tough getting up early when you’re shunemployed, and I snoozed the alarm at 6.30am. No bother, we still have plenty of time here. On arrival at St Pancras off I went to Neal’s Yard to buy a gift, then Calvin Klein for 2 pairs of boxers, then Joe and the Juice for a healthy start to the day. As I approached the Eurostar terminal with £3 left to give to the next homeless person I felt like everything was coming together.
You know where this is going – the check-in had closed, I went to change my ticket and was asked for my passport. She saw my name wasn’t Maxime, scowled at me like a corked wine and offered me a new ticket for £190. Merde.
As I write this 6 hours into my 8 hour bus journey to Paris (cost: £19) I am feeling surprisingly pleased about the way today is working out. I spent the first two hours deep in conversation with Spencer who has had a far worse day than me so far (a banana exploded in his pocket which took A LOT of sorting out – see Exhibit D).
I have also chatted to a couple of other lovely people (bus photo credit to Marwa) and noticed a palpable sense of team spirit on this bus. Helping each other out, vacating seats so the tired people can sleep, sharing food. Yes there are better ways to travel but this is fine so let’s be nice and enjoy ourselves.
Every day’s a learning day and I’ve learnt a few lessons already, one being that I should have got the bus in the first place.
Next stop: still Paris
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