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‘I only have 75 euros in my savings account’

Leonie (33), primary school teacher, is the mother of Liam (9) and Loïs (7).

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“Not a week goes by without a delivery van driving in front with a package. I am the kind of mother who buys herself new socks with difficulty, but whose children always look great. When Liam and Loïs are in bed, I crawl behind my laptop. Nothing makes me happier than scoring a nice denim jumpsuit for Loïs or cool jeans for Liam. If I have time left, I will continue surfing for myself. What I like, I put in the shopping cart, to end up buying nothing at all or just a cheap shirt. But I do have the feeling that I have been shopping for a while.

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I can’t afford too much excess. I work three days as a group 3 teacher. I earn about 1350 euros net. I receive 250 euros in child support from my ex and I also receive some single parent allowances and discounts. Together I come to about 1950 euros every month. In principle, I have to be able to get out of that. My fixed costs including sports clubs are less than 1400 euros. Household money varies depending on offers and how often the children are with their father. But if I keep myself calm with shopping, I should be able to easily save 150 to 200 euros.

Yet I have never been able to put anything substantial away. My savings account shows the pathetic amount of 75 euros, because the dishwasher broke recently. I really hate doing the dishes, so the next day there was a new one at 395 euros. But that immediately decimated my contingency account. My checking account balance is now only nineteen cents, according to my banking app, after I ordered pizzas yesterday. Fortunately, I can still be 500 euros in the red, so that I can still do my shopping this week. And maybe you can also shop online. Loïs needs a new swimsuit for swimming lessons.

A hole in my hand

I’ve always had a hole in my hand. In my marriage, my spending habits were already a huge point of contention. My ex Jeffrey was going crazy. He started to sigh when he heard that I was going “just” into town and commented on every purchase. Did Liam really need three pairs of sneakers? Couldn’t I shop in Loïs’s wardrobe anyway? Finally, I hid new purchases and cut off labels. Or I sold old clothes from Liam and Loïs on Marktplaats, which I proudly told Jeffrey – but I “forgot” to mention that I immediately converted that money into new wardrobe items.

In our marriage, enough came in to fill those holes in my hand. Now that I am alone, I have to make wise choices. But things go wrong with clothes, shoes and eating out. The kids and I love sushi. When they are with me, we usually go to one of those on Sundays all you can eat-tent. Cooking is not a hobby of mine anyway and I always come up with a reason to order food. And that costs money. An entire month of dining festivities quickly rises to 175 euros.

Not to mention the shoe and clothing budget. The child benefit goes entirely every three months to new winter, summer, autumn and spring outfits for the children and I also regularly shop for basics and fun extras. I hardly dare to say it, but sometimes that is more than a hundred euros a month. Money that I could easily have saved to go on holiday with my children to an all-inclusive resort in Turkey or Spain. A dream of ours that I have not yet been able to realize.

Vacation

Incidentally, the children do go on holiday. In the summer they go to France for two weeks with Jeffrey and his new girlfriend and in the autumn or May holidays they often make a trip of a few days to a European city. When I see the photos of my ex and the children on Instagram, it sometimes stings. Then I see smiling faces at the pool, at the barbecue or on the slide. I think I should have been there. With me, the children have not gotten further than a long weekend in a desolate amusement park, won via an auction site.

I am deeply ashamed, because in principle I earn enough money to also be able to make trips. To create memories with my children. Even if it was only two weeks camping in a tent in the Ardennes. But I can’t even do that. Every year when my holiday pay is deposited, I intend to book a holiday, but every time there is something different that gets priority. A new TV, great sneakers for all three of us, or a credit card bill from online purchases that need to be paid off.

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Making ends meet

In part, I think my clothing tic stems from my childhood. My mother was on welfare. My father had flown and she didn’t receive a penny in alimony, so she had to make ends meet. There was no money for extras, let alone nice clothes. At school my sister and I were bullied because we were ‘zebra children’: we wore clothes from Zeeman and de Wibra, and that was not hip at the time. Never expensive shoes for me, but brandless sneakers. I’ve always been ashamed of that. Sometimes my aunt gave us designer clothes, cast-offs from our older nieces, and I preferred to wear them every day. Eating out was also unique. Apart from some Chinese, we always ate at home. My mother could do with a five kilo bag of potatoes for a week and on Saturday we ate macaroni and cheese. A real treat.

Luxury

I don’t want to say that I was traumatized by my austere childhood, but I want my children to be more luxurious. It therefore feels like a failure that I can no longer give them that carefree, luxurious family life. When I was married, we had zero money worries. But to maintain a marriage, you really need two people. My ex-husband was no longer in love. At least not on me. And then it ends. I am not bitter about the divorce, I am at peace with that, but I am bitter about the fact that I cannot live as easily as I would like.

My mother taught me and my sister how to handle money early on. She warned us to avoid debt. Before you spend money, you must have it first and it is best to create a buffer for bad times. Her greatest fear was to take out loan sharks. I follow that advice. Apart from spending a few tens in the red for a month until the next paycheck, I have no debts. But everything else has been said with that. ”

This article has previously appeared in Kek Mama.

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