For all of those of you who know me even remotely, you may have heard that I have a bit of trouble in the financial management sector. To illustrate this point, I had been nicknamed the “fundloser” at my last school for my infamous ability to make -$10 at a hot chocolate sale (perhaps it didn’t help that it was in the summer). I have forever been trying to rebuild my reputation, but it seems time and time again I set a budget and well, it just slowly slips away. It’s not that I can’t do the math; that’s the easy part. It boils down to the momentary euphoria I experience when I find the perfect pair of shoes or handbag or whatever.
Living in Sri Lanka, I am forced to re-evaluate things and stick to a much more modest budget. This is completely doable in this country and most Sri Lankans would probably laugh at my struggle, but it is a huge adjustment for me. It has made me realize just how much we take for granted things like our daily Starbucks latte’s and weekly movies or other social outings in Canada.
Now, I would have never categorized myself as rich, but Shaun and I have been fortunate enough in the past to be able to spend money on the basics without really considering the cost. For example, in my multiple trips to my neighbourhood Safeway, I never had to worry about the cost of food and couldn’t understand those coupon clippers who held up the line in front of me. Well, the tables have turned my friends. I am becoming a regular cheapskate.
The other thing this experience has taught me is the differences that are inherent when you do not have money. We are in the unique situation of living in a large city in Sri Lanka in which many foreigners live and work. Most of which are making considerable salaries by Sri Lankan standards. This leads to many awkward invitations in which other expats are inviting us to social outings that we simply cannot afford. How do you convey this delicately?
As I think more about this complicated situation I can’t help but connect this to the generalizations we often make about people living in poverty in Canada. We often complain that there are so many services for these people and that they should be able to “become productive members of society”.
After 4 months with no car in the extreme heat, I can only begin to understand the struggles of people in the inner city of Regina to get healthy groceries. I can’t imagine taking the bus multiple times a week possibly with 5 children in tow in -50 degrees to lug home several bags of groceries. I also have gotten a glimpse of life without regular internet or communication channels. How does someone keep up an effective job search if he or she doesn’t have a reliable way to be contacted?
While sticking to my budget may be uncomfortable, it is nothing compared to the majority of the planet who are struggling to regularly put food on the table. I guess I can sacrifice a few lattes for the invaluable lessons I’m gaining in return.