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No more freebies in my house

By Ruth Lubembe | December 8th 2019 at 09:43:27 GMT +0300

I was still living in my mother’s house when I got my first job and started earning a modest four-figure salary. After I had enjoyed it for a (very) short while, the wise woman sat me down and informed me that things were going to be a little different going forward because she expected me to start contributing towards the upkeep of the home where I had, until then, been living for free.

She had never asked me for any money before because I was essentially a dependent. But now she expected me to cater for the general house supplies while she continued to pay for the ‘big’ items.

This was a growing up time for me as I started to realise the cost of things besides my fare, lunch, shoes and handbags! I remember feeling the pinch of rising costs and sitting down with pen and paper to draw up a budget that would ensure the money stretched until the end of the month. After a few months, I started to wonder how my mother had single-handedly kept a household going for so many years.

When I changed jobs a few years later, I asked Mum if I could use her car for the commute and she had absolutely no problem – as long as I fuelled and serviced it myself! Although back then the cost of fuel and parking in town were a fraction of what we see today, those were still interesting times for me as I learnt to factor different components of my life into one budget.

Now, with two young adults in my house (one working and one in between jobs), it is my turn to sit them down and inform them that things are going to be a little bit different. When our older girl was employed a while back, she offered to take up the weekly vegetable shopping.

What a relief it was to not have to think about that for the time she was able to do it! And just like me many years ago, she was able to quickly identify where the cheapest and freshest greens could be found, and also felt the pinch in her wallet when foodstuff went up. Her brother, rather than do any actual shopping, opted to give me an agreed amount of cash to do with as I see fit. Both options work beautifully.

Still, it has been an interesting transition from fully dependent to semi-independent. At one point before they were employed, I had stopped buying them their personal toiletries and told them to use their allowance to buy whatever they needed.

There was initial resistance but they eventually caught on that I was serious. Meanwhile, their younger sister has a growing love for beauty products, which include brushes of all shapes and sizes (and it appears new ones are being invented every day), primers, concealers, lots of eye stuff (that somehow includes glue!); then there’s lipstick, lip gloss, lip crayon... the list just keeps growing as she builds her ‘aspiring makeup artist’ skills. I have no problem with that except when it wants to involve my wallet. So I’ve told her, repeatedly, that she will have to build her business from her allowance – or how else will she learn to value it?

Then there were days after the older ones had started earning their own money that they would announce to me that we had run out of toilet paper or soap or tomatoes or sukuma wiki... and I’d remind them that they were now in a position to walk to the kiosk and buy the missing items with their own money.

“Buy for everyone??” Oh yes, after all, the hubby and I have been “buying for everyone” for years without complaining and are now in the place where we’ve started anticipating a surprise lunch or dinner treat in a fancy hotel, or maybe even an exotic holiday, the same way they see us doing for our parents – because what goes around comes around, right?

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