By Guest Blogger: Margaret Mwewa
One Saturday morning, while preparing to head for the library to complete an assignment, I was looking discontentedly at my shoe rack, thinking it had been a pretty long time since a new pair had graced it. “I need to give some of these away and replenish my rack with…” My thought process was suddenly cut short by a phone call.
It was from one of my cousins. She was calling to inform me that her brother was getting married in two months time so I needed to pay a K500 contribution towards the nuptials. And she added matter-of-factly, “You can even pay double that amount because you are single so you can afford it.”
I laughed and told her that contrary to public opinion in the family, I was not rich. So no, I was not going to pay double that amount. But I assured her that I would try and come up with the set figure before the deadline. I almost added, “Actually, I would rather channel that K500 towards buying the pair of shoes I have been dreaming about than make that contribution because I think people who wish to marry should save up for the cost of the event and not count on other people to make their dream wedding come true …” But, I stopped myself because I needed to keep my spotless reputation of a cooperative family member intact.
You, see, I have learned, through sharing my experiences of finances and family with other single people that in quite a lot of Zambian families, working single men and single ladies are considered to be better than anyone else financially. For example, when family members, be it cousins, aunties, uncles etcetera borrow money from a single person, they feel that they do not necessarily have to return it because they think that a single person does not really need it or can do without it. Really? Who, in this tough economy, can be okay with never getting back their money, even if it is only a K100?
It seems family members generally like to think that when a person is single and childless, they automatically have lots of money to spare. According to them, single people do not have to buy diapers, clothes or pay school fees for any child therefore, they must have quite a lot of money freely available for others to come and borrow or simply get! The truth however, is very different from perception. As a single person, I cannot rely on anyone else to bail me out financially when I need help, unlike maybe married couples whereby if the husband is stuck, the wife can chip in to help him out and vice versa.
Single people fly solo and have to depend on the kindness of friends when the going gets tough. I do not know about the uber-rich single people out there, but I can speak for the ordinary working class ones that I know about. These single people singlehandedly pay for fuel, insurance, rent and the rest of the bills. So, really, there is no left over money lying around for other people to come and get or borrow.
When a situation that requires financial contributions arises in the family and a single person says they do not have the money to contribute towards the crisis, other family members usually find this hard to believe. They simply like to conclude that that person is stingy or uncooperative towards sorting out family issues. But when a couple declares that they are unable to contribute, people are more sympathetic to them and easily believe that the couple is more likely to be broke than a single person.
Alright, let us assume for a moment that there is indeed, money left in my account after all the bills have been paid, as a single person. Why exactly should my brother, sister uncle etcetera feel entitled to it? It is my money and I should be the one to decide whether to give it away or not. People should not automatically feel entitled to it.
I think what most people in our society do not realise is that money problems are universal. They are not limited to married couples. I believe everyone has money issues, even rich people. For instance, they have to figure out how to remain rich or grow their wealth even larger. So, they need to retain every little ngwee to make that happen.
Therefore, when it comes to finances, I think we all need to cut each other some slack. If you need help financially, ask for it politely. Do not act like you are entitled to it because you assume that the other person can afford to give you whatever amount you need, when you have not seen their budget or bank account statement. And if you do borrow money, be a man or woman of honor and return it even if you got it from a single person because, I am sorry to burst your bubble; single people have money problems too!