Ronald Reagan once said ‘I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.’
Like Ronald, I too have a budget, albeit slightly smaller and not (currently) a nation’s problem, and am acutely aware of its ever increasing deficit. I do not, however, share in his laid back manner towards it and there is only one thing to do when faced with a financial dilemma which is to spreadsheet the crap out of it and at the very least come out looking like you tried.
A financial spreadsheet, much like the road to hell, is paved with good intentions but inevitably the feelings of superiority that come with creating one soon wear off and the passion for sticking to it wears thin. It usually heralds the dawn of a change in lifestyle, probably the reason that resulted in making one in the first place and this is no exception.
The last time an out-of-towner asked me where they could find a list of London’s bars and restaurants, I suggested they take a look at my bank account (it is pretty bad, but life is short and that coupled with countless other clichés helps repress the guilt) but, at the very least, that careless spending was funded by a job. Times are different; there is no job and a budget more watertight than a frog’s behind.
Barbados is a pricey little number and the supermarkets eclipse London’s prices across the board on nearly all produce. If Waitrose hiked their prices by say 20%, you would be somewhere closer to the mark. As an island that grows little of its own produce and ships in most of its commodities, this unsurprisingly results in higher prices off the back import taxes.
Even the basic stuff like toilet paper is expensive, and going on a budget does make you start to question everything. Dan tried slipping Double Velvet quilted toilet paper into the shopping basket at the local SuperSaver Centre (this shop does not do what it says on the tin) but was quickly vetoed by myself. Here on cheap street it’s single ply all the way. I did (momentarily) silently question how we could cut back on this tedious item, and maybe only use toilet paper on special occasions; Christmas, birthdays, bereavement etc, and should we find any left over money from the weekly spend maybe extend it to public holidays. I know what you re thinking, but when you are living with a fun budget and a practical budget, you spend most of your time working out how to lessen the load in the practical budget and beef up the fun one. Also, after spending a month in Vietnam you see how people cut back on stuff like toilet paper (and hygiene in general) but then I did end up making an earlier exit from Vietnam and checking straight into the Hospital for Tropical Diseases so maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
In the quest to cut back the practical budget, I would probably even stoop to powdered egg, which I’m not even sure what it is or how you powder an egg. It’s almost like re-enacting wartime Britain. Minus the war, which makes it a lot more relaxing. But, perhaps the toilet paper thinking is a stretch too far and you have to draw the bottom line somewhere. Brruudum chish!
Once you get on a thrifty roll, however, it can get a bit out of hand and it starts to take on the same characteristics as addiction, and like with addiction, you get your fix when and where you can. Today we saved $3.50 (roughly £1 just so you get the gist of how farcical it becomes) on car parking fees. Due to getting tricked into spending more money than we had in a rum bar with some friends on Friday, the Saturday budget was completely obliterated. After having worked pretty hard on the app all week, we wanted to get out and have a walk but as with most places in Barbs because of the heat, you have to drive to get there.
We decided to go up to Farley Hill, and take a picnic, it was budget friendly, somewhat eclectic mix of all the food we hadn’t eaten that week, just on the cusp of having the ability to leave the house of its own accord). On one side of Farley Hill there is a free car park but the downside being that you have to pay to go in walk around and see the monkeys. On the other side is a pay and display car park but the grounds are free to walk around in. So we after doing a quick U-y upon realising the charge, we drove back over (wasting yet more costly petrol which I only just thought about now), parked in the free monkey car park, and walked back over the other side to enjoy the free grounds. The folks manning the gate had already seen us arrive, then watched us leave rapidly after reading the charge sign, a few minutes earlier, so we looked like a right pair of tight-asses, but a watertight budget comes free with a super tight-ass.
Most of the imported food comes in from the States, and I forgot about the vast quantities of salt and sugar poured into pre-packaged foods. It’s only through watching a fair bit of telly (we don’t have one at home so that addition really makes it feel like we are on holiday), and thus seeing plenty of American adverts, that you are reminded just how different the UK and America are diet wise.
I bought some American brand raisin bran flakes, because they were the cheapest and out of all the other cereals they looked the least like a dessert. I looked forward to my breakfast as from the offset it appeared relatively healthy, but upon the first bite the raisins were liberally coated in so much sugar, that I actually had to resort to hand washing them individually (hey, so I really like raisins) and then put them back in the cereal. I have washed many things before eating them, but not a breakfast cereal. It did not taste good. Anything pre-packaged comes with a generous helping of diabetes.
I am not sure if anyone read ‘The Enchanted Wood’ by Enid Blyton (which if I stopped for one moment trying to pretend like I am a well read intellectual, I would happily admit to it probably being my favourite read ever), but the story revolves around a magical tree where, at the very top, strange lands come and go. It was also a time when Dick and Fanny weren’t names to be laughed at.
One of the lands – ‘The land of Goodies’ to be precise, had all kinds of magical and peculiar food and it very much feels like we are living in that land. For example, our butter tastes like ice cream, so classics such as boiled eggs and soldiers are very different these days. The ice cream flavour makes the soldiers really sweet so we have the eggs first and then the ice cream toast for pudding.
Eve’s baked beans were also another classic example of what happens when you put too much sugar in the mix, but (as long as you weren’t planning to have them as a savoury main) they would actually make a pretty decent, if somewhat exotic, pudding. Not sure what Jay Rayner would make of it all, but you have to work with what you’ve got.
In other news, as I’m not sure just how scintillating our food budgets and adventures are…
On Wednesday, I went up to chat to the folks at the Hope Animal sanctuary. It was a blisteringly hot day and the sanctuary rests high on the East Coast’s hills, so fundamentally at the closest point to the sun as possible, which does not make for easy outdoor work for these dedicated guys.
I met the full team properly, who are an awesome bunch of hard working, big hearted, Brit expats, who like a stiff drink at the end of the day. So it’s going to work out just fine.
It was the first day that I’ve probably ever done real manual labour and it felt good. I went out looking all tidy and proud in the morning, complete with my own packed lunchbox and came back looking completely destroyed. But it was also the most rewarding thing that I have done in my life as well.
The sanctuary holds an annual Christmas fundraiser and I will be helping to put this together this year. And we do have a SPECIAL GUEST of honour which, to be honest, I’m pretty chuffing excited about…
Pretty good, eh? Let’s face it, even if you don’t give two hoots about the man, that is still a massive deal for a little animal sanctuary’s fundraiser. I might even attempt to join his harem, as it would be the one chance I would ever get to sit on a super yacht. Especially given my current approach to life is work hard but for free and live hard but not for free. So that is pretty exciting news and I’ve already got my dress picked out.
Well, this blog is a bit bitty really, but I hope that it at least gave you 15 mins of tea biscuit dunking time and another snippet into life in the tropics.