I got my first savings account when I was 12 years old. I remember my mother going to the bank with me and requesting it, and she signed for me and I felt incredibly adult when I was handed the little booklet with my name on it, because we didn’t have these fancy cards back then. We opened it with 20 Deutsche Mark, today worth around 10 Euros. It was heavenly! Imagine all the ice cream I could buy! At that time, that was like one scoop a day!!
The beauty of this account was that you could only deposit money, never withdraw unless you brought your parents with you. And of course, my parents never approved of any withdrawal. Because they were too poor to give me any regular pocket money, they forced me to save all the money I ever received for birthdays and other special occasions. Although I thought it was unfair at the time, I later wished for this kind of strict financial supervision.
So then at 18, I withdrew YEARS worth of savings all in one go. It was a massive 300 Euros, and although it seems meagre to me and you right now, it was the kind of money I had never believed anyone could own, and it was a great feeling. It felt like I won the ice-cream-for-life lottery! In fact, I could get two scoops if I wanted!
Alas, I couldn’t spend it on ice cream, I used it to buy my one-way ticket to London and pay other things you need when you leave your country forever. Needless to say, those 300 Euros were gone quickly and I signed for my first debt, which was my 9000-pound student loan. Trying to sleep with that over my head was certainly a mental challenge, but luckily my excessive working and study hours kept me distracted from any unnecessary sleep. In any case, I was not to worry about this until many many years in the future.
At this point my relationship to my bank account took on a what I call a ‘putting out the fire’ kind of nature, where I worked and worked, and the account burned and burned, until it had nothing left at the end of the month. Maybe sometimes, when I was really hardworking and disciplined, there was some ice cream money, but the boring kind you have in a big tub at home.
Our relationship improved significantly once I had finished studying and got a full-time job with a salary slightly above minimum wage, and my bank account decided to stop burning, still leaving a couple of hundred dollars at the end of the month. I….I saved money!
YES!! ICE CREAM FOR EVERYONE!!
WOOHOO! MAKE THAT 3 SCOOPS!!
What do you mean I owe you 9000pounds?
This was what I call the ‘if you gave me free ice cream, I still couldn’t afford it’ years. A sad state of affairs where all your hard-earned money goes to some faraway place to pay someone for something you have already finished years ago. My student loan. It was back, and it was hungry for my money.
And perhaps it was the years of sacrifice, of not going to parties when all my classmates were, of not buying anything, of not spending anything, and of denying myself all the fun stuff that everyone else my age enjoyed that saw me somehow drift into a huge phase of denial. Who cares!! I thought. When the sun explodes, none of this will matter! I want to LIVE for once!
So my bank account and I had a huge fight, because I wanted to do many things, and he kept saying ‘stop’. Because at 0, it says stop. But I am a grown woman dammit, and I work hard for my money, and nobody tells me when to stop! Do you hear me, society? I will have it all!
So I started my red hot affair with someone very special. His name was Credit Card. Oh yeah baby. Credit Card gave it to me like my bank account couldn’t, and he never stopped giving! With a simple swipe, I could have all the pleasures in this world, regardless of actual numbers. I will have it all! I will not eat $2 tub ice cream any more! I want $4-per-scoop kind of ice cream!
Long story short, what could have taken 2 years to pay off with some rigid discipline turned into 7 years. Irresponsible? Maybe. But dammit, people, we’re only human. And life is hard. Sometimes you just want everything! Beer from a tap, not a can! A pizza that wasn’t frozen before! A cab home because people vomit on the night bus! The juice with the real fruit in it! The cling film that actually sticks to things!
And despite my frequent financial outbursts, I eventually did it. I did it, and I was so proud! I celebrated all by myself, looking around my place and being proud of having done it all, despite my own faults and slip-ups, I did all of this somehow, and reached the light at the end of this what seemed like an endless financial debt tunnel.
I sincerely apologised to my bank account, but he understood. I was young and wild. He was super boring. We just needed a break. But after a good talk I promised to use Credit Card only in emergencies (we agreed that ice cream was not classified as emergency unless I twisted my ankle and the only thing to cool it in the vicinity was an ice cream truck) (beer on the other hand can be an emergency on really rough days, so I don’t snap and get fired).
But my bank account didn’t take me back without laying out some conditions. You see, he forgave, but didn’t forget. I had to agree to have a savings account again. It is invisible on my bank statement, so I can’t see or touch it unless I go out of my (shameful) way to do so. And my bank account automatically deposits on it every month, so I can’t spend the money.
It’s like being 12 again, with parental guidance, and it feels great!