In last week’s article I wrote about “money and happiness”. I was basically saying we need money to physically survive but we certainly don’t need money to be happy. We can be happy with or without money.
After this article I noted a money related family disaster and I immediately thought that one of the most common problems that people have in their pursuit of happiness is the culture of living above one’s means. I saw a family sell their property to pay school fees for their children who are in private schools.
First term they sold a car, second term another car and third term household property which included a very expensive fridge and I asked myself but WHY?
I then further asked myself, after the household property what next are they going to sell? I never got to know because they then moved from their house. I don’t want to think that this house was sold, that would be a disaster for the family. Yes, our economic situation is biting, but for some of us we are our worst enemies.
What hurts some of us is not the high cost of living, but is the cost of living high. Most of us have a “champagne appetite, but we have a beer budget”. My heart bled when I saw this disaster hit a family just because they wanted to keep their children in certain schools. Such an obsession with private schools becomes a disease —PSS (Private School Syndrome).
For some people living an extravagant lifestyle is an addiction and it this extravagant lifestyle that has kept them poor. Some people are always in financial trouble, but they never stop wasteful spending. Some of us are even frustrated with our jobs, we think we deserve better.
We look at successful people and envy them and we covet what they have.
We all desire that our children attend these up market schools but if we have to sell our assets to send them to these schools, then they don’t belong there. We labour to keep children in certain schools, we cannot honestly afford. With all due respect to our dear wives, it is most of them who desire this competition with friends. They have said to us the husbands: “Let’s have our children in this and that school like Mr and Mrs X”.
Little do they know that Mr X’s fees are paid by his company, even the car he drives is a company car. We force ourselves in there, we have no car like Mr X and my heart bleeds to see infants being literally dragged by hand in deep winter mornings across the streets in the CBD to these schools.
The little “thing” is woken up at 0500hrs in the morning to catch an ET to school. There is a good school within walking distance which the little “thing” can safely attend and wake up at a “legal “hour but we are abusing these children to boost our ego.
My heart goes to the little ones; our primary school education is basically uniform in the urban areas. Choose, we can choose schools but not at the expense of the child.
There is nothing really happening in some of these private schools. Year end when we read about the top schools, some of the private schools are nowhere near, their results are also “private.”
These schools have lots of demands. They undertake expensive trips and when we can’t pay for our children to go on these trips, we are damaging their self esteem in the school.
There are a lot of good public and church schools in the country, whose fees are very fair. What bothers me again is that some people don’t realise that they are getting old and they need to settle down and acquire things like shelter.
They need to own a house. Time flies and sooner people are facing retirement and you find someone above the age of 50 has not started on the house ownership project because they are busy with private school fees. All I am trying to say here is that if you are a family man and you are still to own a house, it’s better you find reasonable schools for your children and channel your financial energy towards house ownership.
You have to have a decent house for those children. I have seen people who retire at 65 and they don’t have a house in town and even the rural areas . . . I honestly do not understand this. What causes all this is living above our means and forgetting to prioritise certain things in our lives.
It is very important to live modestly, even for the rich. Warren Buffet, the greatest investor and second richest man in the world, still lives in the same little house he bought over 40 years ago.
Sam Walton, the richest and most successful American when he was alive drove a pick-up truck for a good part of his life. Let’s avoid extravagant behaviour.
For example, eating out, it’s good and fun but it must not be a habit, it becomes an extravagant privilege and it hurts the budget a lot. Our tragedy is that some of our wives can’t cook like their mothers.
Drink and wine hurt the budget a lot. Cut on drinking. If you can, limit your drinking to weekends only. Some people have an obsession for dress.
You find a person buys ANYTHING they come across, especially on credit. Some ladies have two wardrobes full of clothes and 20 pairs of shoes, it this necessary?
Some people have an obsession of eating “good food”, some of which is not healthy at all. Stick to a basic menu and teach your children to appreciate what they are used to and teach them to conserve food.
We had a boy visitor once. We don’t have a formal meal on Saturday afternoons and because we had a visitor, my wife made our dear sadza.
In the evening, when the boy saw sadza again, he refused to eat. He said his mother told him not to eat sadza twice a day, it’s very unhealthy. These are the wrong lessons we teach our children.
Imagine a black Zimbabwean teaching their child that sadza is unhealthy. Such ego is very unfortunate.
Some people are so upbeat about their status. Some of which is self imposed and it is not really what they are. I have seen some people come into town carrying an empty Edgars or Meikles carrier bag.
They buy something from one of these unknown shops down town and they put their purchase in the Meikles carrier bag and they walk with their heads high for people to see that they bought from an upmarket shop.
What a waste of time and effort, deep down you know where you bought and you know who you really are. The carrier bag doesn’t change your status, if you belong to those small unknown shops; even if you carry twenty Meikles carrier bags, you still belong there. If you belong to the upmarket shops, carrying a carrier bag from a small shop doesn’t tarnish your status, you remain who you are.
On the issue of private schools, I was in no way decampaigning private schools. In fact, I am also a parent in one of the private schools in town. All I was saying is that let us as parents be honest about our financial capacity. Let us not take ALL household income to fees at the expense of other important things in our lives.
There is need for self discipline when it comes to spending . . . make a simple rule . . . “Don’t commit yourself financially on the things you cannot afford . . .”
Live your life like the flow of water. When water flows, it follows a path of least resistance. This is what causes the meandering of rivers (“O” Level Geography)
When you encounter a hurdle, like water just make a turn and follow the path that allows you to move . . . simple!