Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Living off my overdraft taught me stuff.

A while back I wrote a list of stuff I learnt from nerds with Nerf guns. Consider this the unexpected sequel: stuff I've learnt from living off my overdraft.

Though I will provide some context for this: since June 9th, I've been working in offices. After two paid of unpaid work experience in my favourite office I've been in (shout-out to SFX for treating me like a real person with some measure of writing ability!), I'm now in my fourth week in a different office, on a paid internship, and working two freelance jobs on the side.

My student loan was only supposed to last me until the academic term ended, on June 28th.

I am supposed to be paid weekly for my internship, and monthly for my freelancing. I should be really comfortably off right now, way better than a student has a right to be.

I am owed £500 by my best friend and somewhere in the region of £800 by my internship, but this is increasing every hour.

I budget well and I had £200 in my account before I started my internship. For the first time since starting university, I am living off my overdraft and I genuinely don't know when this will end.

So far, since starting my jobs, I have earned £898.87. I have received £9.37. I've learned some stuff.

- Not having money isn't the hard part. Not knowing when the owed money will come in is the hard part. Living in a state of checking your bank account every day to see when you'll get paid takes a toll on your mind, and you start wondering if you've messed up, forgotten to sign some document, misread the small print and given up 37 hours a week of your time for nothing.

- You have no motivation to work. As essentially an unpaid labourer, in what is a paid contract, you don't have much impetus to fulfil my obligations as obligations to you aren't being repaid. This might be completely self-centred, as you know the company itself is not responsible for the fact you haven't been paid, but it doesn't change the resentment you feel towards them.

- Numbers take on new significance. Expenses all arrive at the same time. Once you're into your overdraft, you just take on all the financial responsibilities simultaneously. Flights that are going to go up in price unless you book now? Heck, you're already in debt, let's do it. The bank doesn't know you're going to Manchester to go to a comic convention: have another £30 on train tickets and entry fees! You're getting kind of reckless because it doesn't seem to matter. The £1500 limit seems bottomless.

- Spending money that isn't yours is a lot easier than spending money that is. When you're already £500 in debt to the bank, an extra £25 on concert tickets seems totally insignificant.

- Lending money is also way easier. After all, it was lending money that got you into this mess. Your best friend's sob story means you felt no qualms lending him £200, knowing full well he'll pay it back the second his monthly salary comes through. Somehow that snowballed, and now he owes you half of his first pay cheque. But he definitely knows he's getting that, while you inexorably creep closer to that £1500 limit with no idea when your weekly income will materialise.

- The people in charge of your money have no idea when your income will materialise. You get emails a couple of times a week claiming to have sorted the issue. Your issue hasn't been sorted. You tell them this, and they are perplexed. Your bank account is still in negative numbers. You have no money.

- Huge quantities of money seem impossible, intangible, inconceivable. How does a country get a trillion dollars in debt? Who do they owe money to? Don't they have creditors threatening to break their kneecaps or something?

- Your dad gives you £100 for a special occasion, a well-done-on-getting-a-job bonus. It makes literally no difference. You're now only £300 away from having money like a real person rather than £400 away.

- Online shopping is easy to blow all your money on, but you know you have a bit of cash from when you got money out. You're not sure you can face the idea of taking cash out of an ATM when your bank account is beyond empty. In the 3D world, you shop frugally, because you have no idea how long you need to make this £20 stretch for.

- Really, money isn't actually that important. You get cynical. It's just a concept that we've all bought into. Take the stock market: who the hell decides how much stuff is worth? Who actually loses these millions when the values crash? Are they people rich enough not to even notice if this money that they never really hard suddenly vanishes? You're living sensibly and not blowing £2.70 on a sandwich every lunch time like your office co-workers. You feel kind of superior. You're saving over £10 a week on food.

- You're still less broke than the government is.