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'Can't make ends meet' syndrome

By Steven French - posted Thursday, 17 April 2008

Next time you hear someone complaining that they “can’t make ends meet” enquire politely about their occupation. Chances are the problem is that they are just plain “greedy”.

Perhaps some pensioners or those on low wages have a legitimate grumble, but for everyone else, DON’T SPEND SO MUCH! Easy! It’s not complicated is it?

Don’t complain: no, you are not having trouble making ends meet, let me speak very slowly here; you-are-just-being-dim-witted. I repeat, DIM-WITTED.


I know couples, both working, who suffer from “can’t make ends meet” syndrome. They live in expensive houses, drive big 4WD cars, enjoy trips overseas most years, and have huge televisions with amazing sound systems, and so on. And they can’t make ends meet.

Of course they can’t.

When did people start needing all these things? I read recently that in some parts of America clothes lines are banned because they are a symbol of being poor. Apparently some housing developments in Australia have also banned them. What? Has the world gone mad? Hello, is there anyone out there?

I was watching TV the other night (I boast that it is a 15-year-old set with a 19-inch screen), it was a program about quality of life in our cities. They talked to a young couple with no children who lived in a new suburb on the outskirts of a major city, 35km from where they worked, and they had a 42-square house with four bedrooms.

They were spending a huge amount of time and money just travelling to and from work. They were struggling financially, mainly because of their huge mortgage repayments. What idiots. I am sure that they were honest when they said that they had little disposable income and a poor quality of life. When asked why they had such a big house they were rather vague and mentioned that their friends had similar houses.

Well if you are stupid enough to want to live like that on your head be it, but remember, you are not having trouble making ends meet, you are just “greedy”.


Having said that, I am having trouble making ends meet - and I know exactly why it is. My problem is I like restaurants and good wine just a little bit too much for my own good. Serves me right, I have no sympathy for myself.

Getting back to those on a pension or with a low income: I know people who appear to live very well under these difficult circumstances. They grow their own vegetables, cook their own food and maybe keep a few chooks. Perhaps their car is ten-years-old (if they have one) and they don’t have a dishwasher. Never mind. They eat well, have time to do the things that under-pressure commuters can only dream about and they enjoy life.

On the other hand there are some people who fall in the underprivileged bracket who are just as stupid as the striving wanner-bees. I have seen them at supermarkets and discount stores and I sneak a look into their trolleys. These particular low income people seem to favour the Ugg Boot, flannelette shirt look (and there is nothing wrong with that I hurriedly add). They say they are poor and can’t make ends meet. Well it is no wonder! They fill their trolleys with frozen pizzas, other assorted unhealthy convenience food and cans or big bottles of poisonous looking soft drink.

If they are unemployed why don’t they grow their own vegetables and cook their own food? They should have time. Some would smoke - how much would that cost a week?

Last year I was at a discount store that was having a pre-Christmas toy sale. People were lined up with overflowing trolleys that must have contained hundreds of dollars worth of toys; big, battery powered, fragile, expensive toys that would be dead after a week or two of normal play. Even if these toys didn’t break quickly they would chew up batteries at an expensive velocity. And the new bikes! Why new bikes? What is wrong with hand-me-downs or second-hand bikes?

I admit, I just don’t get it. I probably never have.

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About the Author

Steven French is a Tasmanian photo/journalist who has worked on staff and freelance for numerous rural publications such as Tasmanian Country Newspaper and Stock and Land. More recently he was editor of the glossy lifestyle magazine Tasmanian Life until it changed hands a couple of years ago. Steven has also worked as a Community and Economic Development Officer with local government and at one stage was the general manager of one of Tasmania’s peak tourism bodies. These days Steven is working mainly as a photographer and during the last year has been involved with several Fine Art Photography exhibitions (including two solo exhibitions) in Tasmania and Melbourne. You can see his work at:

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