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'Why I'm sick of being told to save money'

Faarea Masud from the All About The Money podcast explains why she's quit counting the pennies

Faarea Masud, Business Journalist at BBC Business News and co-host of Asian Network's All About The Money podcast, tells us why she prefers to spend big than save every penny.

I’ll spend my money the best way I see fit in this buzzing new economy – and you can’t tell me any different.

I’ve insolently eye-rolled my way through older people giving me financial ‘advice’, as they gloss over the day-to-day realities of being part of the burnout 24/7 workhorse generation.

Think grim commutes (overpriced), isolation from family (expensive), an unending cycle of supermarket trips for small portions of overpriced perishables (practically extortion) and the feeling that Brexit is going to seriously hurt my wallet no matter which side of the European Union we end up.

The running narrative in the background to all of this is the pressure to constantly save money. For no reason. At all. We won’t be able to afford a house thanks to the lack of housing market regulation we inherited, pricing us out for a generation at least. We predominantly won’t be interested in investing in financial products like bonds or ISA’s, because the recession led to nauseatingly low interest rate returns and – also, erm, nobody bothered to teach us about things like that in school, or at home?

That, amid all of the necessary bills that need paying just to keep our heads above water, means the idea of saving every penny can feel distant from our everyday realities.

The Frugal Elder has failed to understand that mental health diagnoses are at their highest amidst millennials, that consumer debt is also at its highest, and that we live in an age where people find it easier to access a loan to buy groceries than they do government help.

Those looking in fail to realise that this additional demand to save is anxiety-inducing. It’s just one more thing we are failing at.

Of course, I don’t have any savings – what a luxury! I feel rich if I’m not in my overdraft – and that’s normal. Economically shaming someone for their financial truth has led to pay gaps and domestic abuse – so much so that the government now spends an awful lot of effort legislating against it. Instead, let’s cut it out of the conversation.

We also live in an age where we need to invest in ourselves. To upskill as the labour market becomes automated; to become tech-literate and get the latest version of gadgetry that connects us to the world. Don’t hold us back if we seem to haemorrhage money on eating out, because we’re investing in our social capital. I can’t afford stocks and shares (having suffered a recession, I don’t trust them, either). So I invest in my relationships with my peers, growing my own community. You might call it partying, but I call it a vital community-building exercise that helps relieve the isolation from my family. The one where, in seek of new opportunity, I owed it to myself to make use of the new world of jobs opened up to me via the Internet, and by a diversifying economy.

Living costs have never been higher – the Internet and your phone are now essential as food, all adding to our necessary list of outgoings.

To relieve myself of these anxieties, I’ve always considered the ‘opportunity cost’ of my big spends. Opportunity cost is an economic concept where you should only go for your first option after considering the next best opportunity foregone. And our lives are stripped back to the bare bones, and we are maxing out our credit and paycheques so much, that financial decisions are quick, sharp and brutal. The ‘opportunity cost’ to our mad spending is… misery and serious FOMO, as well as being left behind in a rapidly evolving skills landscape.

If I had listened to my bank manager my whole life, I’d be at zero balance in love, life and gallows humour
Faarea Masud

Now, I’ve had jobs from selling toilet insurance (promising optimum health for people’s ballcock and floats) to starting and (epically failing at) a club night business. But not matter how hard I work, any time I mention a holiday, the Frugal Elder loves a quick snipe.

In fact, the biggest gripe of the Frugal Elder is probably the holiday - of course, millennials go on far too many, then spend too much at their destination.

So, I did an experiment: I didn’t go on holiday for nine months. The equivalent of one academic year. I didn’t leave the country at all, or my home city. No weekends, no day trips, no excursions, no long walks even in a nearby district. Not even on a cheap bus ride or day trip on the train for a nearby staycation - anything that required money was out.

When I was beginning to feel some cabin fever, I wondered how, in the Old Times, The Frugal Elder managed this psychological malaise that sets in from the daily grind. Then I discovered: mystery bus tours. Cheaper even than a Butlins getaway of its time, the mystery bus Tour was the cheapest form of a getaway for the money-and-time starved worker of the 70’s - my parents would occasionally hop on to escape their grey lives in the post-industrial factory grind of Coventry, for the sunnier climes of Webbington for a night.

These bus tours are still around. Guess how much one cost?... £59. For that price, my generation can go to Lyon or Majorca.

I realised that the disparity in education and communication between generations is vast. I realised that neither of us knew that we were doing exactly the same thing on exactly the same budget - we just didn’t know it. The economy has opened up and now Spain is cheaper than Thursford - there’s no need to beat yourself up about enjoying the benefits of a liberalised travel market.

After feeling more at peace knowing holidaying is no more expensive than back in the day, I broke my one year holiday boycott with a trip to The Netherlands which gave me a flood of relief for only £99 for two nights including hotel. Bang in the city centre. Take that, mystery bus tours from the 70’s.

But ultimately, not going on holiday for one academic year saved me exactly: £0.

Which only goes to further my point: If I had listened to my bank manager my whole life, I’d be at zero balance in love, life and gallows humour.