While writing the other posts in this Money Matters series, there were a couple of things I either just mentioned, or wanted to write about, but it didn’t fit into the post. I wanted to say more about mom’s gambling addiction, and about joining in with the gambling. But I also wanted to talk about the lotteries we play, the charities we support and the supermarket savings books.
Somewhere in 1993 I received a letter from my mom, in which she asked me to move to the Netherlands with my kids. In that letter, my mom confessed that she had a gambling problem, because she was lonely, and she hoped that with us here, she would be able to break the habit. In the same letter she said that it would be the only time she would ever confess to having a problem. I told her I would think about emigrating, but two weeks later I told her I couldn’t. The idea of leaving my country of birth terrified me. A year later, I was ready.
Maybe for the first two months we were with mom, she never went to the casino. Until one day she called from her work, said for us to go ahead and have dinner, that she will be home late. I thought she was putting in overtime, but when she only walked in the door at 4am, I knew something else was up
That became mom’s routine. About every other week she would call from work, and then come home at 4am. I knew where she was, because soon after that first time, I told her I need to know where she is, as otherwise I can’t sleep. She would work until about 7pm, and then go to the casino. She always played bingo, and she would play until 3am, when the casino closed, which is why she came home roundabout 4am. And then, at 7am she would be up again, and off to work. Insane!
She did this for many years, and sometimes she went more than once per week. Mom always played big money, playing away four to five hundred euros in a night. Yes, she also sometimes won, but she never won enough money to make up for all she lost. We all know that you never win more than you put in, except when you go only once and strike the jackpot. Mom won three trips at the casino, one for a weekend London where she took my daughter, her then boyfriend (now husband) and my son. Another trip for two to Thailand, where she took my daughter, and another Christmas shopping trip for two to New York, where I joined her.
Mom stopped going to the casino – not gambling – when I told her she needed to get her money affairs in order.
I went to the casino too
A couple of months after we came to the Netherlands and mom started going to the casino frequently again, she invited me to join her. My grandmother (who passed away nine months after I came to the country) watched the kids that night. Mom gave me twenty euros and told me to tell her when I need more money. I didn’t. At first I sat with her at the bingo table, watching what she was doing, but I didn’t like that the minimum input was two euros. I told her I wanted to look around, and did.
That’s when I discovered the one and two cent slot machines. I had a bowl full of coins, and sat down at one of the machines, and started playing. Hours later I returned to mom, and we ordered coffee. She thought I was out of money, but I still had… twenty euros. After the coffee I went to play some more, and eventually went home with half of the money mom gave me.
I’ve been to he casino maybe ten times in total in the 26 years I have been in the Netherlands. Every time after that first time, I would take twenty euros, go to the one and two cent machines, and play all evening. Sometimes I took all the money home with me, sometimes none, but I always had fun.
Mom gambled till the end
Mom already gambled when I was much younger, as she put bets on the horses, and I remember that this was frequently a thing she and my father quarreled about. This was when he found out, because normally she did it on the sly, and also no big amounts so he wouldn’t notice.
Once mom had gotten her financial affairs in order, I thought she wasn’t gambling anymore, until one day she told me that she was gambling online – bingo again. I was worried, and expressed this to her, but she assured me that it were small amounts she was betting, and that she always won it back. In hindsight, I think I chose to believe her, because only after she passed, we discovered how problematic her gambling had gotten again. Yes, she had the money and no, it was no way as bad as it was when she still went to the casino, but she had spent amounts I would never have spent on gambling, and she didn’t win even half of it back.
Yes, my mom was addicted to gambling for the majority of her life.
I was introduced to lotteries when we moved to the Netherlands. Mom played along in the weekly lotto, and every Saturday we watched the balls drop. She played along with the postal code lottery, something I did too when we moved out to our own place, because then you also supported charities. Master T and I still play along in the postal code lottery, each with one ticket. I also play along with the state lottery, with a group of colleagues. Many times I have thought to stop this, because we almost never win, and maybe this is the year that I will stop… except, then the thought ‘but what if they win the jackpot and I can’t share with them anymore’ gets to me again!
Speaking of charities, we give to a couple of charities every month, such as the SOS Children’s Villages, Cordaid (helps fragile people in poverty, affected by war, illness or natural disasters), Foundation Kika (a Dutch charity foundation that brings in funding solely for research to childhood cancers), and the Dutch Cancer Society. As long as we can give to charities, we will, but these and the lotteries are the first that will go if ever we get into money problems.
Now I have a bit of a confession to make. From the moment May mentioned she will one day run the ad hoc Money Matters meme, I wanted to write about the stamp books (see image above) we
When we go to the supermarket, we always buy trading stamps. Wikipedia says: Trading stamps are small paper stamps given to customers by merchants in loyalty programs that predate the modern loyalty card.
For every one euro of groceries, you can buy one stamp of ten cents. These are then glued in a special stamps booklet, and when the book is full – it takes 490 stamps, and you have paid 49 euros for it – you can take it back to the supermarket and get 52 euros in return. We have been saving like this for many, many years. Every year, in December, we would take all the books we have filled throughout the year – anywhere between ten and fifteen books – and bring it to the supermarket. We always arranged a specific time for it, as they had to reserve the money for it, because we brought all the books in at once.
The stamp books have now disappeared, as they have gone over to a digital system since the beginning of 2021. When we scan our digital card at the supermarket, the ‘stamps’ are automatically put onto our account, and we can cash it in any time we want. This is a nice way to save, without even noticing that you are.
And what do we do with the money we get from the stamp books? We put it in a piggy bank. A literal piggy bank of about 25 cm high, which I got form my kids for Mother’s Day, back in those first years we lived in the Netherlands. About once a year Master T counts the money in it, and deposits in our bank account.
Thank you, May!
It’s been wonderful participating in Money Matters, and I want to thank May for hosting it. I am grateful for where I am today. For what I have reached, the lessons I have learned, and the hardships I have gone through. I enjoyed sharing my experiences, and it made me realize once more: never forget where you come from.
© Rebel’s Notes