At a time when we’re being encouraged to go out and spend money on having fun in the face of an impending recession, one writer reflects on why she has always “lived for today” rather than save for a future.
Yesterday, like the rest of the UK, I woke up to the news that we are entering the worst recession since records began.
Despite knowing how hugely this could – and probably will – impact all of our lives, I barely flinched. After listening to colleagues discuss it throughout the day and hearing the concern in their voices, I started to feel guilty and stupid for being so flippant about something so serious.
But I quickly forgot about things as I put on some lipstick to go meet a friend for a slightly indulgent midweek dinner and drinks, eager to spend money in order to save a tenner.
Maybe it’s because I’ve started to instinctively shut and lock the gates in my mind to any more bad news 2020 continues to bring. It’s also very likely that I’m just living in total denial these days. After months of isolating alone, not seeing my family and spending a lot of time indoors, I’ve been trying to salvage what’s left of this lost summer – I’m determined to feel normal again, to have some fun.
Unfortunately, this comes with a price, but I’m prepared to invest in rebuilding my new normal. I’ve restarted my gym membership to get my body moving again and help my mental health. I’ve signed up to a co-working space to reclaim a sense of community and routine. I splurge on dates, dinners and drinks because it just feels so bloody good to be able to do those things again.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am to be able to do these things, but I’m not exactly swimming in cash. I’m well aware that I could be saving more towards getting a house and paying off my credit card once and for all. And I know that I should be way more sensible with my finances, especially as we head into the recession.
The truth is, after such a mind-boggling, terrifying six months, I just want to live in the moment and enjoy everything I am thankful for being able to do. But there’s also something much bigger at play here.
I am part of Generation Rent – the generation that started adult life at the time of the last recession in 2008. As you have no-doubt already realised: I am no economist; I didn’t really understand what was going on. But I saw the queues outside Northern Rock as I made my way to university lumbered with a huge student debt. I accepted I will probably never own a house. I took low paid jobs because I was “so lucky” to be even be offered one. It’s likely I’ll be paying off that student loan until my dying day.
I guess I just accepted an existence of living paycheck to paycheck, with a rented room and a few self-indulgent perks in between – the typical product of a low-income millennial under a Conservative government. I’ve been encouraged to chase the dream, but only by jumping a hundred financial hurdles to get there.
And here we are again, only now it’s exacerbated by a pandemic.
Rishi Sunak, as far as I am aware, has done nothing to help renters like me – it’s only landlords, first-time buyers and homeowners who are being cut some financial slack. What he is offering me, however, is cheaper dinners out – and if “eating out to help out” is the only perk on the table, then I’ll take that. Because taking what I can out of a bad situation is what I’ve always done.
Titanic’s Jack Dawson once said: “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”. I lived my 20s by this mantra; perhaps that explains why I don’t feel the full fear of the recession yet. But yes, of course I often feel naive and foolish for having this attitude. And sure, I realise I could have a bigger pot of savings if I didn’t try so hard to “make each day count”. There’s also the prospect of losing my job, my flat – I’m well aware of these things.
However, at a time when we live in fear of a second Covid-19 wave sweeping us back into lockdown, it’s hard to ignore this “live for today” philosophy – especially when a financially secure future has never been on the cards for so many of us anyway.