Two Marshmallows

Aeons ago when I was not the living embodiment of joy and happiness that you see before you, I was a teenager and had to endure secondary school education. (High School for our American friends out there). This blog is about one the greatest lessons never taught to me by a headteacher that loved to cite studies .

The local secondary school for me was called Chenderit, the logo was a big red lion clawing at something unseeable and our motto was “Aim High”. The headteacher there was a portly man that was known as “Sir” to the students or “Mr Mcintyre” if you were discussing him to another member of staff. 
Mr Macintyre tried his best to impart his worldly wisdom but his lessons would forever be overshadowed by one particular assembly.

Mr Macintyre had read a study that focused on psychology, children and their academic grades. The brief understanding was that the children of this study were offered a marshmallow with the express understanding that if they said “no” to the first marshmallow then in time they would be given a second. In this report Mr Macintyre stated that there was a correlation between the students that waited for two marshmallows and the success they achieved in school. It was the express belief of the headteacher that with patience we could achieve great things and that we should not lose our patience for the sake of instant gratification. However what came next was the nauseating exhalation that we should strive to be a “two marshmallow school” and a mocking that never ended, a catch-all phrase that didn’t really help all.

I know you know that we all know what these are but just look at that colourful display!

What our headteacher had failed to teach us that day was something far more monumental and life changing. He could have taught us about poverty and wealth and how to handle finances, please continue reading if you care about this kind of thing.

I grew up in what would be regarded as an “impoverished family”.* The biggest issue for children that are raised in homes with low expendable income is that when the child becomes an adult and finally has job with a stable income they may be unable to handle their newfound wealth.

Due to growing up skint I was not keen to spend large amounts of money. Yet I also saw no issue in spending of small amounts of money, repeatedly, on things that I enjoyed. My reaction from my first job was that £1k a month wasn’t much after expenses, so I just won’t spend BIG SUMS of money to do so would be reckless. I only spent a little whilst telling myself these small purchases made me feel instantly good and did not matter.

Examples:

£2 a day on a small cup of really rich coffee
£1–5 per month on random humble bundles
£??? on books I had always wanted but could never afford
£10 for taxis as I was too lazy to walk
£7 on a lunch per day as I was too lazy to prepare my own food

Any grown adult with a sense of budgeting would have read those things and probably grimaced in horror. £7 per day for a month = £140. So before the taxman has even claimed my his share of my income, I’ve already burned through a 1/10th of it. But why I was spending £7 a day on lunch?

Because I did not want to put effort into my life, I wanted instant gratification and had the naive view that spending little meant I was good with my money.

This is a habit I’ve seen repeated across society and amongst my friends and it is the habit of giving ourselves instant gratification at the expense of our long term financial security. We may not all be spending £7 on lunch but throughout the week we spend a pretty penny on things that we do not truly need.

As it stands the consumer debt of the British people sits at £1.508 trillion.
This is debt that exists in the form of credit we have borrowed from lenders to fund the things that we cannot afford. Some things require assistance such as housing but total credit card debt in October last year £66.2 billion. That’s still an obscene amount of borrowing.

After cutting down all unnecessary spending (buying lunch as opposed to making it, using taxis, buying games every week, etc) I was able to save up £470 in 3 months (£420 alone from not buying lunch every day). I think if we all strive to only spend in areas that we truly need to then we can all begin to save for a better future. Last year it was said that millions of people lack £100 in savings but at the same time “ Roughly a quarter of adults with household incomes below £13,500 have more than £1,000 in savings.” Saving is possible, even on a low income, we just need to be honest, brutally honest with ourselves before we make a purchase.

We need to ask ourselves if we want that single shiny marshmallow right now, or do we want the ability to have some weight in our wallets. Do we want the ability to do something big with our money? Maybe we want an entire bag of marshmallows? :D

Thank you for reading, feel free to share your own experiences.
What was your financial wake up call?

Have a great week!

Michael

*If you want to know more about my life growing up or what “impoverished” means in the UK please leave a comment with a question.