I was born and raised in South Africa where I grew up with 3 older brothers and one younger. We lost our dad when I was just 14 which made it very difficult for my mom to be able to provide for us all. I recall my mom working 2 jobs to try and make ends meet, but often heard her crying late at night because she wasn’t able to pay all the bills. When we had a celebration of some kind, my mom used to get my cousins to bring the food to our house. I went to birthday parties with very small gifts for my friends. I felt that I did not fit in and embarrassed by our situation. I was not dressed as well as my friends or had the toys they had. We did not have anything luxurious. I felt poor.
When I married and started a family of my own, I wanted a different life for my children. I overcompensated dramatically, always buying them the latest toys and designer clothes, throwing elaborate birthday parties and taking them on super expensive holidays. I had no idea about keeping a budget and was always overspending. My credit cards were often maxed out and we had no savings for a rainy day.
When our kids were 5 and 7, my husband took a contract in Europe and we moved to Luxembourg. Feeling guilty about uprooting the children and taking them away from their home, family, and friends I sought to appease it by overspending. So the pattern continued.
Every time a credit card statement arrived in the post, my husband and I would get into a fight. “The amount on the statement is a limit, not a target,” he would tell me. I was told to keep a budget but I barely knew what that meant or how to do it. Some months he didn’t want to get into another fight with me so would let it go. I saw this as my opportunity to shop again and would then hide the purchases from him.