Rich Burg, Poor Burg: A story about Money

I’ve toyed around with writing this particular blog so many times over the last few years -approaching it from more ways than a multi-angle porno flick. Yet no matter which way I wrote it, I came off looking bad…(no I’m not still using the porno flick reference)

Maybe now that I’ve finally blown the roof of the many skeletons in my closet with some of my more revealing blogs, it feels ok to talk about it.

There’s one thing that can come between any two people. No matter how close you think you are. Family, friends, or even just acquaintances.

That one thing is…Money.

There is the long version of my story, and the short version. This blog will cover somewhere in between.

You know as kid, despite the hell at home, I pretty much got what I wanted (within reason), I was by no means spoilt, by my folks didn’t let me go without.

I always sorta felt it was a decent trade off for the beatings and belittling. I twisted sense of acceptance I’m sure.

When my dad died in 1991, my mom tried to make sure my brother and I never went without. We earned pocket money by doing chores, but of course if we didn’t spend that money on gifts around Mother’s Day, birthdays and Xmas we heard all about our ungratefulness.

When my brother died a year later, by default I fell under the haze of the “only child syndrome”, I was treated often and of course put under increasingly more pressure to be grateful for what I was given in life, despite the glaring contradictions of what was taken away from me.

My mom always put me first when it came to spending, and from toys to VHS movies, she made sure my heart didn’t break too often, plus back then I was a bit of a crier for stuff I wanted. Which, was a fine line of course, because if I went too overboard, I GOT something to cry about…

I got pocket money all the way up till my last year in High School, but by December of that year I started working (and of course you know that journey thanks to my previous two blogs.)

For the first time I was able to earn money to spend on myself, which was great. When you get a certain kind of independence, you tend to see how far you can push the boundaries. I got a credit card pretty easily…and a second one even easier. For the first few years of my working life, I learned the art of rotating credit. You know, maxing out your cards, then paying it back with your salary.

I didn’t care too much, because my mom had a decent savings, no thanks us getting screwed over from my dad’s death payout, but it was decent money, we always had food, and debts were always paid.

As time went on, I wanted more and was earning more. Those who know me well know how much I loved spending loads of money on dvds and things I collected.

I never like to save. Rainy day? What was that? I had seen the worst of life, so it was never something to be concerned about.

Of course, fate stepped in.

When my mom and I both lost our jobs in the space of a month back in 2004, income stopped immediately, and with no “credit” to rotate, debts began mounting up.

What followed, was Hell.

My mom never worked again, and I went from low paying job to low paying job.

I learned the hard way. I ended up having to sell almost everything I owned. From my 1500 strong dvd collection (at bargain basement prices) to my beloved Playstation, and of course that little thing called an “automobile”.

With the interest on debts racking up, the next thing to take a hit was – groceries, mainly food.

Riddled with guilt from never saving, this became my problem to fix.

The finances were bad. Really bad.

I begged and borrowed from friends and family where I could, just to get enough for us to eat. Some days, someone would offer me R50. Not realizing how bad my situation, they of course thought this was enough, and I had to act nonchalant, but thankful about it.

There is a scene in the move The Pursuit of Happyness, where Will Smith’s boss asks him for 10 bucks for the cab, and Will gives him his ONLY 10 bucks and tries to act like its no big deal…but in the mean time he is panicking how his kid and him will eat. That’s exactly how bad it was.

We once had a stale ice cream cones for dinner. Crying from both the hunger and anger towards each other.

I used to get stuck without petrol way too often. Sometimes begging friends to just transfer R20 bucks into my account, and I’d pay them back in the morning. Which of course meant a trip to cash convertors the next day to sell something of value for peanuts.

There were days I was dying of thirst and just wanted a can of soda from the shop, but just couldn’t afford it.

One time I had to attend a function for work which was a launch in some convention centre in the bush. I drove all the way there…fully aware I only had enough fuel to get there. I’d have to worry about getting home after work was done. I didn’t have the heart or guts to ask anyone at the function. When I left I made it as far as the dodgy gas station at midnight, where I had to ask two taxi drivers for R10 each. They gave it to me.

5 years ago, come pay day, every month end I would have to sit at the office until midnight, so that when my salary came through at that time, I could stop at the gas station on the way home and bring home pies for dinner.

I have so many of these stories. Too many, but through the course of 6 years, I learned the value of money.

No. Let me rephrase that, and this is the part were I will look bad.

I learned to hate money. Both having it, and not having it.

I never went out, I never socialized. I simple couldn’t afford to. I had to consider what shopping centre I went to, in case I had to pay for parking.

I’ve ruined friendship by having to lend money to survive, and I regret that so much. I was in such a haze of debt and survival, I ruined the one thing that meant more to me than anything else in this world. My word.

Through hard work, and way too much suffering, I have built myself up, both financially and confidence wise. I gave up my life to fix up our life. And these last 2 years have been better than ever. Sure, I still have the unexpected expense, but I have a good job and people who care, which makes it easier now.

To those who helped me through the tough times. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Every cent made a difference in my life.

Of course there will now be those who say I haven’t learned my lesson and headed for a fall again. But let me clear that up right now.

In the last year my love for Poker has grown, and with that, I have gotten god. Real good. I’ve been able to win. Win big…regularly
I make no bones about. I used to spend way too much money on “gambling” when it would have been best served elsewhere. I made mistakes in thinking that would be the quick fix to sort out all my problems, which certainly delayed my recovery by a year or so.

When I started to win big I did the right thing. I paid off every single debt I had, I invested money, I put money in the safe. Heck, I even bought a second fridge and I make sure both are stocked up.

I may still spend way, waaaaaaay, too much on my dvds, but I feel I’ve earned that. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t go out often, so for me, that’s what I love to do.

Last year alone I won over 400k. Of course I would like to have take this money and run, we all know I’m making plans to leave the country for good, but used that money to give my mom and I a better life. A life we deserved, and life I felt responsible for taking away from us. (of course my deep rooted fear of inadequacies refuses to let me believe there were two people who could of made things better, quicker).

Now at the age of 32, I am debt free, and don’t have any commitments. I haven’t needed a pay day for the last 3 months – but its still welcome.

It’s a weird feeling, and a little scary, but it does also put perspective on your life.

I’m trying to repair relationships with those I love and miss in my life. Some are willing, other’s are not, but that’s ok. I understand. I was not an easy guy to be around, I was a desperate man who just wanted to take care of his family.

This clarity unfortunately also highlights how lonely I am in this world now. I got used to being alone., but the lonely part is what kills me.

I don’t want money…at all, I would rather spend it on other people. The bitter irony now, is that I have all this money and nobody to spend it on.

Maybe it’s a guilt thing that I feel I need to pay back the world?


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One Response to “Rich Burg, Poor Burg: A story about Money”

  1. Burgsworld: The Essential Collection – Part 3: Surviving Love & Life « Burgs World – A guide to cutting through the stupidity of life Says:

    […] Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry…. A terrible year in my life started off with a mugging… Rich Burg, Poor Burg: A story about Money The Riches to rags, to riches story of […]

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