Money. The root of all evil. It separates the haves from the have nots.
It’s never been either of those things to me.
I was born and raised without money. My parents had nothing. And with that nothing, they purchased their first and only home in the early 70’s. Having already raised most of their children and sent them on their way, the house was still full.
What my parents did have was respect for money. When you have nothing, every little bit counts. And that they instilled in me – somewhat.
Having nothing myself, I savored what I had. I kept my clothes clean and in good shape. I played with the same Baby Tenderlove for many years. These things meant something to me. When I started college, I had saved enough for a very special sweater. It was navy blue with little flecks, a big manly and very preppy wool sweater. It was over $40 back in the early 80’s. I kept that sweater until I moved to Turkey in 2010. It meant something to me.
People are always saying times are different, but I don’t believe it. Most things stay the same. But money, that’s a different story. There have always been those that respect it, and those that don’t.
Kids are especially vulnerable to money. There are kids who are angry that their parents don’t have money. And then there are the kids to learn to respect it because they didn’t have it. Same thing goes for the “haves”. Some of those kids learn to squirrel it away. They learn banking and finance at an early age. But sadly, I think most of them don’t anymore. They learn to shop instead.
I can’t say I’m truly a saver. But I did learn respect. There was a time when I earned a very good living. No, I didn’t go out and buy a Porsche. I drove reasonable, safe and reliable vehicles. I didn’t spend my money on Coach bags and clothes. Although I did buy a big house and I could spend a lot of money on a really good meal. The thing is, I could afford to and still save some money.
It really bothers me that some of our younger folk are so concerned with showing what they have, when in fact, they have little. Of course, there are older folks like that too, those that can’t pay their electric bills but throw huge parties and drive fancy cars. I fear the respect of the green is going by the wayside.
There are hundreds of books out there on how to become a millionare. There are seminars, videos, and CDs. But there is really only one secret to becoming a millionare – work hard and stop spending!
Living in Turkey has become quite an obstacle for me in this regards. First, there are my fellow expats who are constantly sending out invites to balls, dinners, happy hours, coffee gatherings, etc. I would say a mjority of the Ankara expats (or at least a big number of them) are here temporarily, working for their own governments or corporations from their native lands. This means they are not being paid in Turkish Lira at Turkish rates. So they have a little more money to spend. I don’t. So please don’t be offended when I constantly turn down your invitations. A dinner out at Butcha means my husband has to work an extra week. And there are no extra weeks in the year. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t go for special occasions – like little Stevie’s birthday! I love Butcha!)
An even bigger problem here for me is the constant giving of gifts. At home, if I were invited to someone’s home for dinner, I would probably pick up a bottle of wine for the dinner. I may even bring a small house gift for a party. But I would not constantly give gifts to the same people I see over and over again.
In Turkey, you bring a gift. End of story. When invited to a meal, you may bring flowers too. (If it’s a Turk who has lived overseas – wine may still work!) When visiting family, you bring gifts. Sure, they bring gifts to you too. But it becomes a huge hassle. First of all, with limited space, I don’t have room for most gifts. Secondly, my tastes seem to differ greatly from the tastes of those gift-givers. Thirdly, I just can’t get over the fact that people are giving me clothes and shoes. It’s just weird. Stop it!
Finally, I can’t seem to be able to save a penny because of this gift-giving tradition. I would like to buy a house here someday. But mortgages do not operate the same way they do in the States. I’m not looking to buy anything nearly as big and full of character as what we had in Philly. I just want something that won’t fall apart in 5 years, is a little bigger than what we are renting, and is in a good neighborhood.
It’s not going to happen anytime soon. I have to buy gifts instead. I cut back on our groceries – never buying lamb, rarely buying beef. We shop around for the cheapest prices. I no longer have a list of “must have” name brands. I buy the cheapest Turkish cigarettes – which is about to change with the new tax breaks. I drive to the Metro Markt for wine – and only buy bottles under 8 TL. And I only drink them when I have expat friends visiting. I order food only when a family member gives us Sodexo coupons.
And still, we can’t save.
I don’t mean to sound like I am miserable here. I happily made the decisions to live here. And I enjoy it. I’m fine not having the lifestyle that I had in the States – for the most part. But I would like to be more in control of my finances. So please — stop giving me gifts so I can stop giving them to you. You visit me and bring a gift. Two weeks later I visit you and bring a gift. Don’t you see? We are just spending each other’s money!
I would much prefer to spend my money on things I want — like visiting my Mom.
Happy Birthday Mom!