Christmas 1998… bank balance… zero

Ritchies supermarket

Coming up to Christmas the year I finished high school, I was met with a shocking revelation – I had no money to buy presents for friends and family. My once-weekly evening job saw me earning more than enough to get by, in a time where my parents were still paying for my essentials, but the office closed over Christmas… and my pay checks would dry up. I had been thoughtless with my money. It’s not that I spent a lot – but I sure spent a lot on things I didn’t need.

I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I did not want to admit that despite pocket money and a job, come Christmas, I would be broke. In that moment I vowed that never again would I put myself in such a position. And I did what anyone would do… I concocted a lavish internet scam.

Just kidding… the internet was barely a thing back then…

I got myself a job… as a waitress in a pizza restaurant… which in retrospect was the worst possible position for me. But I stumbled through my training shift without breaking anything and prepared to give up my evenings serving pizza and pasta.

And then… I got glandular fever. And I got it bad.

After two months of recovery, naturally the job at the pizza restaurant was no longer there for me. Which sucked, but by then, two things had happened. Firstly having spent the entire Christmas period in bed meant no one expected presents from me. And secondly, my usual job was back up and running, so I had money coming in again.

But I learnt my lesson. Starting university, and having more time on my hands, I kept my eye out, and this time landed a job as a check-out-chick in a supermarket, which, as it turns out, suited me far better. Weirdly, I liked scanning groceries for people. I loved packing bags in the most logical way. I even liked memorising fruit and vegetable codes!

I also began writing down everything I spent, and this really helped me stop being so frivolous with my money. When I moved out of home I house-shared in cheap areas, I paid for my first car outright, and I never had to survive on two minute noodles coming up to pay day!

Perhaps I went a bit overboard… because I remember regularly going to the pub with a total of $2 to my name – that was for entry… and since I was often driving I drank only water. And no way was I paying an extra $2 for the cloakroom… even in the middle of winter I would freeze my ass off in a skirt and singlet, walking to and from whatever club or bar I was going to.

So I guess I became a bit of a scrooge, and maybe I still am a bit, because I am careful with my money. I think hard about my purchases, especially expensive ones. But these days I do allow myself some leeway when I want something, because why else do we work?

Who knows if it was this incident or something ingrained in me earlier that has kept me out of debt all these years. Because luck certainly plays a part in these things.

I’m not glad I got glandular fever, but I am glad I never had to work at a pizza restaurant after that one shift!


3 thoughts on “Christmas 1998… bank balance… zero

  1. Monch Weller November 12, 2022 / 1:16 pm

    Well, we all stumble sometime in your youth — that’s part of life. I myself had two savings accounts closed for lack of funds back when I was still a student.

    Having a job, though, changed everything. I learned the value of budgeting and saving money, and I’ve been in a better situation since. The pandemic also helped, as I managed to save up even more with a WFH scenario!

    • debbiekaye1980 November 17, 2022 / 6:54 pm

      Yeah for sure… and they seem to keep making it easier than ever to spend money without really noticing!
      Glad you saved during the pandemic… at least something good came from it!

      • Monch Weller November 18, 2022 / 12:05 am

        Thank you! And with sky-high fuel prices, the WFH setup is of huge help.

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