The little things

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but I have become a bargain hunter.

Those booklets that fall out of my daily newspaper and annoy me so much? Well, I caught myself putting them carefully to one side the other day so that I could peruse them later over coffee. All of them, even the inane sporting goods related one, because you never know when an angling rod may come in handy.

I’d love to say this is nothing but the result of getting older, growing up, but I think it’s more than that. Because, if we’re going to be technical about this, I’ve already been a grown-up for 13 years. (Oh my horrors, I think I may need to have a little sit down)

While the growing up thing does play a part, I think this dratted recession we’ve all been harping on about for the last couple of years is the culprit. Yes, yes, I say that like it’s a bad thing. Because, well, it is.

Millions* of people around the world have found themselves without work. Families have suffered and children have gone without food. I haven’t, and many of you haven’t either. When we’re not directly affected by something it’s easy to underestimate the severity of it. I mean, famine is bad right? We’ve seen the pictures on TV. But only once we’re actually sitting in that dry town watching the flies crawl on the corpses of those we love… well, we just don’t know, do we?

So I suspect – no, I’m certain that my sudden concern about whether I have enough cash to buy petrol to visit a friend on the other side of the Peninsula next week pales in comparison to what other people have to deal with. But it would be naïve of me to sit back, sip my box wine and say blithely “What recession? Darling, would you pass the Cheese Curls?”

And now as the price of petrol is set to rise even higher, and people who in the past wouldn’t have been caught dead near a bus stop are actually working out which IRT route would suit them best – we’re finally realizing that perhaps we are feeling the pinch a little.

As I collect up my coins and take them into the bank to change for real money so I don’t have to be embarrassed at Pick n Pay, I am painfully aware that what for me is small change is someone else’s only means to get a loaf of bread.

No, I don’t donate half my pay cheque to charity, and I don’t volunteer at a shelter. But I try to help in other ways. Tomorrow I will be sorting through my cupboards for clothes I can donate to people who either have nothing or have lost what they did have to fires. And when I look at all the “stuff” in my house, the bits and pieces I don’t need, I can’t bear the thought of throwing them away. But I can sort through what is still in good condition and donate it to an organisation which will find good use for it, or sell it on to help raise funds.

That’s what I can do for now. It may seem small, but to the person who is facing a cold, wet and dark winter, a second hand jersey or two is a tiny sliver of heaven. And what sort of person would I be if I had the means to help, but decided not to?

In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye on those specials brochures because I don’t want to live with blinkers on. I know that wealth is not a constant. Money goes faster than it arrives, and I don’t want to be caught out a few years down the line wishing I’d paid more attention to the two for one special on loo rolls.

* This is not an accurate figure, obviously.

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