We all dream, so I am told, of winning the lottery – I’ll admit that occasionally I do wish I could win a million or two, which will never happen, because I don’t play it! I have spent time this week trying to work out my annual budget, determining whether the grant I will receive from the Methodist Church will cover my outgoings – some of which have built up over a period of years living in the “real world”. In other words I have expenses an 18 year old student would not have. (I’m not going into what they are here.) Thankfully I can cover my expenses, and have a little bit left over – though I am lucky, since my expenses do not cover such things as food, since Mrs Nomad will be able to afford to cover such things. Indeed, we are lucky generally since Mrs Nomad does a job which pays a reasonable salary that, when combined with my bursary and the fact that we are covering her mortgage through letting the property in London, is certainly enough to see us by.
What does not make this simple is that the bursary is paid quarterly and the first payment is not paid until 1st October. This presents a little bit of an issue since this means that while my income is evenly spread my outgoings are (quite significantly) weighted to this coming quarter, where I will be invoiced for deposits and an additional month’s rent. Over the year I am in receipt of enough money, but in this first quarter I will actually find myself short. How I deal with this is something I will discuss with appropriate people in the coming couple of days. However, it is a situation I have not faced in a few years.
I have, elsewhere, mentioned I am not brilliant with my own money. I spent much of my A-levels in debt to my mates (my best man at my and Mrs Nomad’s wedding used this to great comic effect when he admitted that for the first time in our lives he owed me some money and that he always paid his debts, at which point he handed me a cheque – post-dated about 20 years in the future – he reckoned that’s about how long it took me to pay him back everything I owed him!) When I went to university we were able to select whether we were paid our Student Loan in 1 or 3 instalments – I promptly opted to be paid it all up-front at the beginning of the year, and had spent it all by Christmas! Luckily I was also entitled to a grant as well, and between that and my very kind parents I was able to see myself through to the summer, including paying for a field-trip to the Alps. Since then I have had good times and bad times in terms of where my bank balance has sat but generally over the last few years it hasn’t been too bad.
My problem (or should that be percieved problem?) with money has always stemmed from the fact that I’m not bothered by it, I don’t imbue it with a measure of importance – I grew up with friends some of whom had less money than us and some had more (we did not have a huge amount of money when we were growing up since Dad is a vicar and Mum didn’t work a huge amount while my sister and I were children). The amount of money I or anyone else has was and is not something I use to measure my or their value by. When I workd in FE and complained about the fact that curriculum managers earned considerably more than support managers (and had more significant holiday entitlement) I was always clear this was not about how much I earned (I was quite happy with my salary) but about equity of value to the institution. In my late teens I socialised with kids some of whose families had very little in way of finances and some of whom could afford the fees at one of the country’s top independent schools. Of course, this meant that on more than one occasion I would spend money on a friend or friends then discover that I possibly shouldn’t have because I then couldn’t afford a bill I had to pay.
All this ties quite neatly with the reading we had this morning in church, and the discussion we had afterwards. Part of the reading was the well known quote of Christ: “No slave can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13, NRSV). I do not believe I have ever served wealth – it has never been a genuine goal of mine, despite my occasional daydreams about a competition I never enter, and since I’m about to go into ministry I’m not about to start earning a fortune any time soon. But then, I’ve always been lucky enough to come from a middle-class family where my lack of financial sense was more than adequately counterbalanced by that of my parents. Some of those present at church this morning had been to South Africa and seen genuine international-level poverty (by which I mean poverty that sits below a global average income – though I recognise that poverty is, in many ways, relative – telling a family in a dank flat living off basic benefits in London that they are rich in comparison to the starving in Africa or Asia would be callous, irrelevant and unhelpful!) It was a reminder to those of us who are not poor even by UK standards how much financial wealth we really do have. And while I may not consider myself a slave to that wealth I, we, live in a culture that most certainly seems to be, hence my need to speak to people this week to ensure I might actually be able to have some money in my account once my College bills for the coming quarter have been paid.
As a final point one of the things I’ve had to do is stop my regular donations to charity, since I can’t afford them currently – one of the reasons I look forward to my income going back up so that I can once again start giving – not because it makes me feel righteous but because I really don’t need it, and someone else really does!