2010 was a watershed year for me. I was forced to take a long, hard look at my life and make some difficult decisions. Breaking out of one’s comfort zone is not easy and the older one gets, the more resistant one is to change. However, it is very liberating once you take that first step and it tends to have a domino effect.
Early last year Peter was forced to close his company down due to lack of work. It was crunch time for us. The empty nest had made me extremely disgruntled and Peter, an eternal optimist and workaholic, wanted one last shot at rural development. We weighed up our options and agreed that I should move to the farm to “find myself” while he remained in Durban to set himself up as a freelance consultant. It was tough financially, as well as emotionally. At first we managed to live on our savings and when we finally exhausted those, we accessed money from our bond, which we had just finished paying off. It was depressing enough using up all our savings to buy groceries and pay bills, and to start paying off a bond again. But the final straw was needing to borrow money from friends and family to keep our heads above water.
Our financial woes were, of course, made worse by the fact that we were maintaining two homes. We owned so much: a beautiful house in Durban, a smallholding in the KZN Midlands, all the trappings of middle class life, but we had no cash.
As we began to cut back on our expenses, I realised just how much money we actually wasted on crap. I now check out specials when I go grocery shopping and actually know whether or not something is a real bargain. I don’t buy what I don’t need (no more ready-made meals and prepared vegetables) and I think twice before I buy something that is a non-essential. I have also completely lost interest in “retail therapy”. Apart from a cheap pair of Woolworth’s jeans, I didn’t buy any clothes for myself last year and there hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve looked in my wardrobe and thought that I haven’t got anything to wear. Of course, it helps living in the country where my daily outfit consists of a pair of tracksuit pants, K-Way fleece and wellies. And no, I don’t venture out in public dressed like that. I lose the tracksuit pants and that’s where the Woolies jeans come in handy!
This experience has helped me to reassess my values and not take quite so many things for granted, including friends (but that’s another story). I also love it now that Peter phones to tell me that Woolies prawns are on special and he’s bought 10 boxes! His way of economising.
Peter did eventually get work and his first cheque arrived a few days before Christmas. Our Christmas dinner last year was very simple but you have no idea just how much we enjoyed it.