When being broke makes you angry
A close friend told me the other day that he can tell from a mile away when I am broke — I am irritable, impatient and moody.
Apparently, this is also the period when I tend to notice all the things I think I should have bought by now but haven’t, making me even more frustrated.
But that is not all. He says that when I am broke, I tend to remember all the people who owe me money, even those who fleeced me more than 10 years ago. His observations startled me, and while my first reaction was to deny it, it turns out that he was right.
Towards the end of the month and during the first two weeks of the month, I normally have this sunny disposition and walk with a spring in my step, a twinkle in my eye (whatever this means) and an involuntary smile playing on my lips. As you’ve correctly guessed, I am usually loaded around this time.
But come mid-month after paying the bills and doing household shopping, the spring disappears, the twinkle fades away and worry furrows appear on my forehead.
Learning about myself and how I react to money or lack of it made me realise that most of us are predictable where money is concerned. We have a staff canteen at work where we buy food at a subsidised rate. At the beginning of the month, the place is almost always deserted. Come mid-month, however, sometimes getting a seat is next to impossible.
I also bet that quite a number of Kenyans only drive their cars to town towards the end of the month and during the first week of the month when their wallets are still heavy. A week and a lighter pocket later, most park their cars awaiting the next end-month.
I long stopped going to supermarkets at the beginning of the month after I once queued for almost an hour, waiting to pay for shopping. By the time I got to the till I was dizzy from breathing in recycled oxygen. Today, even if you paid me, I wouldn’t go near a supermarket around this time.
While standing in line waiting to pay for shopping, you can do two things – look at other shoppers, or dissect their shopping.
I tend to do both, but spend more time on the latter, which is more interesting.
From the ‘intelligence,’ I have gathered over the years, looking into the overflowing trolleys of shoppers, I can’t help but feel we suffer from a condition that urges us to throw away our money.
I once stood behind a woman who had filled her trolley with an assortment of cakes, about five different brands of air freshener, packets of chewing gum, colourful packets of cereal, a huge packet of lollipops, the biggest packet of crisps she could find, and an assortment of lotions.
After all, it was end month. Two weeks down the line, I’m sure the only thing the woman could afford were the basics, good old bread and milk, and maybe the small tube of yoghurt for her young child.
Our curse as a society, I believe, is that we are held hostage by an inexplicable need to spend, even when we don’t need to, and, even worse, a need to buy things we don’t need. As long as we have money in our pockets, we itch to spend it. If only we could tame this need, we’d be in a much healthier financial condition.
The writer is editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com