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!
Boy! That was heartfelt, and I empathise. J and I don’t do birthdays and Xmas – we give a gift when we want to not when we have to. We tell our Turkish friends/visitors that bringing themselves is enough – we also explain that in ‘our’ culture it is shameful to have people constantly giving us gifts – it implies we are little more than vagabonds or street people. It has worked to some extent. Stay cool, dig in, explain and don’t reciprocate – and fill that piggy-bank with ‘Mom’ money!
Ah, the evils of the filthy lucre! We now live on in a month what I used to earn in a week. We manage more or less. We just no longer do expensive restaurants (Bodrum is full of them), exotic holidays, city breaks at the drop of a hat and fancy clothes we don’t need. We’re getting along fine without them. We’re happier for it. Just like you, we like to spend our money on trips back to Blighty to see family and old friends. That’s our priority now.
I do not have much money either since I moved to Turkey – no scholarship, and no work permit – but still the gift-making tradition is so rooted in our culture – most probably it is like this all over the Mediterranean countries – that simply I cannot think of not bringing a gift to a friend if they move or if they invite us over, it is a way of showing people that you appreciate them and it is your part in the dinner too. I cannot say there is a real expectation of people bringing something, but definitely you cause a better impression on your hosts if you do. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, it can be the dessert – baklava, ice-cream and what not. Basically, it is like when people pay each other’s teas/drinks/meals for no particular reason – but spontaneous reciprocity in the future is expected too.
It is not that people does not like money or do no know how to save it, it is really out of custom and it is a way of showing care and valuing friendship, and acting otherwise kind of breaks our feelings.
1. Don’t respond back with a gift if the gifter is older than you.
2. Start a cycle of re-gifting. I shamelessly re-gift. Just make sure you don’t give it back to the person who gave it to you. If you do, just say ” oh i loved it so much, i had to buy one for you.”
3. Baked goods are always appreciated. Perfect gift! No Turk will resist something baked.
4. Discover Nisantasi pazari! 50 lira looking scarve for 5 lira! Seriously!
5. I say no to parties recently to save money and not to go off my diet. I know the post on FB says I had pancakes but today is a free morning day! 😛
6. Why do you think I work 12 hours a day?
7. Rich hubby ship has sailed and I never had the trophy wife body anyways. hahaha.
I love this post. It is indeed heartfelt – but most of all – what a wonderful birthday tribute for your Mom. I hope you get to see her soon!!! I am so glad to see these words of pure gold common sense and old fashioned values ring out. Right on!
Interesting comments. I thought it was boys against the girls until Liz chimed in! I actually love to buy gifts. But I like to pick something out especially for the recipient. It just seems less special if I have to do it all the time. Regarding Nisantsi, I have fun going there, but I do think it’s mostly junk. And there’s always the cost of getting there to consider. And buying for the elderly seems backwards to me. Older people I know usually want nothing and their houses are chock-full of kitschy stuff.
Here’s some food for thought: When I was a kid, my brother gave me a penny jar. (actually and empty crown royal bottle.) As I filled it with pennies, I thought, “there must be a million pennies in there.” Then one day someone told me that a million dollars is only a hundred million pennies.
Every penny counts.