It’s all about the money

It’s all about the money song

Lyrics:

Sometimes I find another world inside my mind
When I realise the crazy things we do 
It makes me feel ashamed to be alive 
It makes me wanna run away and hide 

It’s all about the money 
It’s all about the dum dum didudumdum
I don’t think it’s funny 

to see us fade away 
It’s all about the money 
It’s all about the dum dum didudumdum
And I think we got it all wrong anyway 

We find strange ways of showing them how much we really care 
when in fact we just don’t seem to care at all 
This pretty world is getting out of hand 
So tell me how we fail to understand 

It’s all about the money 
All about the dum dum didudumdum
I don’t think it’s funny 
to see us fade away 
It’s all about the money 
It’s all about the dum dum didudumdum
And I think we got it all wrong anyway 
Anyway 

Cause it’s all about the money 

It’s all about the money
All about the dum dum didudumdum
I don’t think it’s funny 
to see us fade away 
It’s all about the money 
All about the dum dum didudumdum
And I think we got it all wrong anyway 

It’s all about the money
It’s all about the dum dum didudumdum
I don’t think it’s funny 
to see us fade away 
It’s all about the money 
It’s all about the dum dum didudumdum
And I think we got it all wrong anyway 
Anyway

I remember this song as a nice tune and would sing along with it when I heard it on the radio. I wasn’t much aware of the meaning of the content and also it was not really the kind of music I’d choose to play for myself.

Still, now when I read the lyrics I think that this song has a deep message and even deserves a big like for it.

So is it really all about the money? I would like to think not but I do believe it is a source of a lot of grief. When I grew up money was never a subject that would be discussed very often. My parents weren’t wealthy but we were doing just fine. We had all we need and also some “nice to haves” I knew that we did not spend money on nonsense and we never saw any money wasted at home. My parents gave us pocket money and when we became teenagers even a monthly budget for clothing. We learned to spend according to the budget they gave us and if we wanted more we would be encouraged to get out and work for the money. I see now how important this was and how valuable for us to understand that if you want something you should work for it. I try to do the same for my children but I see that I am somewhat alone in this where I live. (I was born and raised in the Netherlands and now live in Israel)

I always thought that when you become an adult things will turn out just fine. This is what I saw in my family. It all started well for us. I met my husband when I was 30 years old. We both had well paid jobs and thought that the only way is up. We bought a home, got married and 6 months after marriage we became parents.

Now 11 years later we have two sons, and both of us have unfortunately no jobs. We hope this is to change in the near future but this is how it is right now. It is a series of unfortunate events that got us into this situation and it is to us to try and get out of this situation as soon as possible and even more to get ourselves into a financial stabile situation.

I do not feel sorry for myself and I don’t want anyone else to feel sorry for us. Both my husband and I are educated and capable people and we will see better times. There is no doubt in my mind about this. It is a very sad reality to understand that “Happily ever after” does only apply to Disney movies.

I know that managing financially means the following;
You have an income and whatever amount this may be, this is your budget! Then you have expenses, partly expenses that are ongoing and return every month, partly expenses that are unexpected such as a broken window to be fixed and then there are expenses that are not critical to make but simply make our lives a bit nicer such as a visit to the movies or museum.

When I moved to Israel I had to get used to a whole different mentality when it comes to financial matters. It seemed to be very normal even a default situation for most people living here that the expenses were always higher than the budget! The main consequence of this was that a negative balance on bank accounts was seen as standard. Where I come from this is actually something to be ashamed of but it seemed that here in Israel it was almost impossible not to get into this situation.

After 24 years of living in this country I understand how this very unhealthy financial situation became a “normal reality” for a large percentage of the Israeli population.

Income versus Expenses
I assume this is a simple one to understand. When you earn 10 bucks you can spend 10 bucks! If you spend more you will make a debt and will start your next month with 10 bucks minus your debt. If you spend less than your budget you have been able to save up some money.

Challenge number 1: understanding your expenses
I know that I have certain recurring expenses that even if I tried I couldn’t get rid of them. I must pay my mortgage, I must pay taxes, health insurance, electricity, water, gas, education and my family has to be fed and dressed. If I know my expenses I also know how much money must come in every month. So challenge number one would be recognizing how much money must be spend whether I like it or not. If I can make enough money to cover these expenses I am good!

Challenge number 2: Budgeting
Most people I know say they have a budget but they don’t translate it to a number or define what the budget is actually for. To be totally honest, I never used a budget for anything. I would pay whatever required as long as my mind could find a creative and convincing way to justify my expense. It would be; “I need this” instead of “I can afford this”. I now learn how every expense has its budget and that all budgets are planned according to history repeating itself. This is where I share with you that I was never a financial genius, not to say the least. I am actually attending a course together with my husband that is provided by a non-profit organization* to learn how to manage and be in control of our financial situation. So, what we have done is some serious homework were we had to dig up all our incomes and expenses from the past year and learn our average expenses. Based on this we could learn where our money is spend on (for better and for worse) and we could put together a realistic budget for these expenses based on what we earn (we both use to have decent jobs).

Challenge number 3: Pointing the finger at yourself
For a fact I can say that Israel is an expensive country to live in. The prices of groceries are high and when I compare them with the prices I would pay in the Dutch supermarkets on our yearly visit there I can honestly say that we pay a lot more for less. I don’t want to go into why right now but I am sure I have some ideas. Housing whether you purchase or rent is a killer here as well. Overall I can say that coming by financially here is not an easy task for the average Israeli citizen. Salaries can be high or low but whatever they are there is no connection between the income one makes and the expenses one has. This means that living of the average income of an Israeli family that was found by research is actually mostly impossible. Then again, average is nothing more than a number that does not reflect the real picture. It means that some earn much more and some less or even nothing. It does show us that we deal with a serious amount of people struggling financially. So far I did not blame myself at all but I will now! Having pointed out these true challenges I must also admit that all these considerations never caused me to think twice before I purchased a new pair of shoes! Having said that, I am aware that it was not only a pair of shoes and just maybe one of you may recognize it and relate to this.

Challenge number 4: Social standards and mentality
This one is my favorite!!! Because I was not born in Israel and not raised by Israeli parents I always compare between what was there in the Netherlands and what is here in Israel. Though the Netherlands is a multi-cultural society, Dutch culture and mentality is still very much present in society. Israel is of course a mixture of many different cultures as well but being such a young country with so many different mentalities there is a mixture and a lot of the habits are based on the places people came from and less on the reality of life in Israel. The differences between the Dutch and Israeli society and standards was mostly felt during my first years in Israel because I still had to adjust.  It is shocking really how much I have adjusted and adapted myself to habits I use to find insane when I came here. (I still find them insane actually, I just forgot why). I will give two examples that give a clear picture of what I mean. In the Netherlands when a couple decides to get married it use to be very normal to buy a gift. Usually this gift was something the young couple may need for their home. Then times changed a bit and many couples would already live together before marriage. Buying a frying pan for a couple that have been frying eggs for a while now together seems stupid so instead people would have a list of things they need at a store and people would buy from the list. Today also giving an envelope with money is normal but the amount a person will give is primarily based on a budget and of course whether he/she likes the couple at all!

In Israel when you are invited to a wedding this doesn’t mean by definition that you are family or even close to the couple. It means that they know who you are or that one of their parents knows you. So don’t feel special about it. A wedding with 300 people invited is very common here even seen as small to average wedding. While in the Netherlands a 100 people attending a wedding is seen as a big event. When you attend an Israeli wedding you are not to bring a present!!! It is considered stingy. It means you did not want to give money because you didn’t want to give a nice amount and so you got a present instead that was probably cheap or better yet a gift someone gave you in the past and you are now re-gifting it! So showing up with a present is not a good move. You should have and envelope with you and slip it into the safety deposit box located near the entrance of the event next to the happy parents of the couple. How do you know how much money to give? This is not at all based on how much you can spend without bankrupting but on a whole set of criteria. There is even a website that will calculate for you how much money you should give on events. Just to give you an idea, here are some of the considerations:

  • Season of the wedding (winter weddings are cheaper)
  • Day of the week (Thursday night wedding usually cost more)
  • Location of the event
  • Relation to the couple
  • Are you alone or do you attend the wedding with your spouse or children

All these criteria are considered when deciding how much should be given. You also know that after the wedding the couple sits down with the parents and the start counting the envelopes and actually write down exactly who gave how much! (I am most certainly not kidding, and admit that even I am guilty of this hideous habit at my own wedding) Just to make sure how ridiculous it gets I can tell you that when we were invited to a wedding of people that attended my wedding we were to check our list for how much they gave us in order to make sure we would at least give them the same amount they gave us! Also when we planned our wedding some said that we should take into consideration that the money we would receive from our guests would pay for our wedding. Luckily my husband and I agreed that the money we may or not may receive was not to be a consideration while budgeting our own wedding and this probably saved us a lot of trouble. I do know that some couples still pay for their wedding debts many years after.

Another very strange but very common habit here is term payments. Whenever I go to the supermarket and pay with a credit card I am asked in how many payments I want to pay for my groceries. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that payments do not make you pay less and that doing this only causes you to create more debts. People tend to buy more than they need or can afford by thinking that with payments they can avoid dealing with high expenses. I have never been asked in a Dutch supermarket in how many payments I would like to pay for my groceries.

These habits are ridiculous and considered normal. These habits are a huge part of not being able to cope financially. What is more important? Being considered stingy or surviving?

I adapted too well I guess, since I also started to get used to spending money without thinking about tomorrow. Now I have to re-learn how to be in control. The thing is with money, that it shouldn’t be the thing that makes you happy but I am certain that when you lack money and it becomes one of your worries it can make you extremely unhappy.

I don’t want a lot of money I just want to have enough of it so it will never be one of my worries.

 

*Paamonim is a non-profit organization run by volunteers whose goal is to educate families how to cope with and control their financial situation. For more information please visit their website.

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