Sunday, July 14, 2013

She works hard for the money...

So, this holiday, in between doing school work, I have done some freelance work. God has always provided the work for me, for which I'm grateful. I earned nearly a month's extra salary this holiday, which is awesome, but I won't really be able to enjoy a cent of it. Why?

In order to supplement our family income, I have always done a bit of freelance work. If I don't, then we don't make ends meet. I don't think we live extravagantly - we don't have DSTV, if we eat out once a month that's a lot (and it will be Spur on a Monday night, or take-away fish and chips on a Friday night), and all our wardrobes are full of clothes and shoes that are falling apart (literally). We can't afford household contents insurance, so God help us if we are ever burgled!

Because we are among the richest people in the nation though (and yes, I recognise that we are), we are fortunate enough to have a solid concrete-and-brick house to live in, life insurance, a medical savings account, a cheap gym membership (as a bonus from our medical aid), 2 cars (although one is really just a rust bucket with an engine and dodgy lights... I doubt it would pass a roadworthy!), relatively healthy food to eat, and can afford a full-time nanny cum domestic. We can afford to pay our kids school fees, buy them a uniform, and pay for a few extra murals that will broaden their horizons and teach them valuable skills. We also believe in saving for our future (so have a pension/ RA) and in giving to those less fortunate (so we tithe, support a missionary and support a child & his family in Ethiopia).

But with the state of the Rand, all of this is coming at a greater and greater cost to us though. Not a month goes by when we don't have to re-evaluate our lifestyle and wonder if there's any way we cut back on our expenditure. In order to stay out of the red (which is a principle we believe firmly in!), at least one of us has to freelance on the side. When the unexpected occurs, as it usually does, we have no buffer. We have no little nest egg to fall back on that keeps us afloat.

But back to the close on a month's salary I have earned. Over the past few months, we have had to spend a little more on the credit card each month, just to stay afloat - to pay for the odd item of school uniform we need to buy as the kids grow, to cover the car that needed a major service to maintain the warranty, the scooter that needed its electrics overhauled, to repair the family heirloom couch the kids broke, to repair the lawnmower after I accidentally drove over its cable, to pay for the doctors' bills and hospital bills the medical aid won't cover, to give my child a birthday party, to cover the increase in petrol costs (and hence transport costs).... the list goes on.

It gives me great satisfaction to work, to be productive. I get a kick out of completing a big task and doing it with excellence. I even get a kick out of knowing that I am providing for my family (a very male trait, I know). But I wish that when I did earn all this extra money, I could spend it on something other than paying for necessities.

I'd love to be able to - for example - pay for the printing of leaflets for Born Sleeping and someone to then go around to all the gynae's, paed's, midwifes, grief counsellors, etc and hand them out. I'd love to be able to help my friends out of financial trouble through retrenchment. I'd love to be able to save up enough money to take my kids on a holiday to the UK. I've love to have enough money to take a holiday around SA and show the kids the beauty that exists in this nation. I'd love to pay off my bond.

In years gone by, a person could afford to pay off a house in 25 years. In fact, by saving hard, it was possible for an ordinary person to pay off a house in 15 years. We've owned our house for 11 years and have hardly made a dent in the bond, even though we're paying back capital.

The value of the Rand is decreasing, which makes life all the more expensive for us. The gap between the wealthy and the poor is increasing, and the people who feel it most are not actually the poverty stricken, but the middle class who are worse-off now than at any time in the past.

[I'm not saying the poverty-stricken aren't feeling it, but it's a bit like the situation with the education system. In 1982 the government used to spend about R1200 per white child, R500 per coloured child, and about R150 per black child. Now, the government gives schools anywhere from R800 to R130 per child depending on how rich the school's suburb is. In most cases, former white schools are able to push up school fees, so their standard of education has not fallen. Former black schools have seen a dramatic increase in their government subsidy. It's still a pathetic amount, but it's better than it was. Former coloured schools however have seen their subsidy decrease and are often not in areas where the parents can afford steeper school fees. The result? Former coloured schools have felt the pinch the most.]

Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. On the contrary, I feel blessed, for all the reasons I stated in the beginning. However, I do wish things were financially easier. I wish I didn't have to work so hard, and have so little time to relax, or to spend with my kids, just in order to make ends meet. I long for the day when the principle of "a worker is worth his wage" would be implemented fully, the day when no-one will lack anything, the day when the shalom of God would cover all of us. I long for that day.
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