Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Tale of Two Friends.

I have a wonderful friend that will be referred to as S. in this post. S. and I met through working at the same restaurant together (which we both still work at). I've known her for two and a half years. S. and I are completely different in our perspectives on money and it has a lot to do with how we were raised.

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in her bedroom having a conversation about finances. S. is always talking about moving out, how broke she is, and her feelings of being utterly lost when it comes to finances. She shared with me that she didn't understand how both her and I worked at the same place, yet I can afford to live on my own, a car payment and go to school full time. Meanwhile, it is difficult for her to give her dad a couple hundred a month to help out with household expenses. Furthermore, she has no debt, doesn't go to school and no car payment. Her bills consist of auto insurance and a cell phone. S. didn't understand why she was always broke.

The fundamental difference between the two of us is that we have completely different backgrounds and subsequent mentalities when it comes to money. I never ask my parents for money, nor do I expect them to pay for items in my life. Furthermore, both of them have always stressed the importance of education and being able to provide for themself. I always kid around that I'm independent to a fault. When it comes to money, it is an advantage. My independence and willing to work hard enough to get through hard times is why I've managed to live on my own for the past year and a half on a waitress' income. On the opposite side of the spectrum, S. lives at home (nothing wrong there) and knows that she can fall back on her parents at any point in time. Her parents have allowed her older brother AND his fiance to live in their home for years now, and they contribute less than S. does to the household. Her older brother just barely got a job and I hope he can hold it down for more than a month. Despite their frustration, her parents still make escuses for him. I've been taught that you have to be self-sufficient; S. has been taught completely the opposite.

Due to this, S. doesn't feel any motivation to save her money. Where the majority of my money goes towards bills and paying off my credit cards, S. spends the majority of her money on going out and clothes. She is constantly buying new items when she has a full closet. I pointed these differences out to her in our conversation. I rarely spend money on clothes. Now that I'm in school, I don't go out either. I've gone out twice in the past month and a half. Meanwhile, S. goes out with friends to restaurants and movies at least three times a week. S. acknowledged that this is where her money goes.

Besides spending habits and upbringing, S. and I work differently. Because she doesn't have the motivation to make end's meet, she is more likely to give tables up at work or pay less attention to her customers. S. isn't a bad waitress; she is very friendly. That friendliness also translates into her socializing too much at work. I pride myself on giving the best possible service at work. There are times when we are slow and I can leisurely talk with other servers, and there are the times when I can't afford to. S. has worked at our restaurant a good year or two longer than I have, yet I am higher on the totem pole than she is. Management is more likely to come to me for advice about a particular employee or listen to my thoughts than her. I've brought in doctor's notes to work for every time I've been sick (three times?). S. routinely ditches work at least once a month and uses fake doctor's notes. Furthermore, she shows up a few minutes late all the time. The difference in our work ethic reflects in how much we earn. On average, I earn a little over a hundred a shift; I know she earns significantly less.

Knowing all these differences, I've attempted to guide her into managing her finances. I laid out guidelines and told her to make goals for herself. S. also needs to track her spending and see how much she really spends on consumer purchases, dining out and entertainment.

We are different people because of the way our parent's have raised us. I suppose this is me telling all those PF bloggers who are parents to raise their children not to be codependent and to take a pride in their work. My friend S. is a good person; she just doesn't understand how to manage money because her parents never taught her how to. Teach your children the value of the dollar.

The day after our big "money talk", S. came in to work all excited. She proudly showed off to me a new purse and jacket that she bought for fifty five dollars when it would have cost her normally over a hundred. All I could do is shake my head and say, "That's great you got a good deal, but you don't need those things. You have plenty of purses and jackets." It's going to be a long road for her.


ntbeachnc said...

My former roommate is very similar to your friend. One time she wanted me to go to Vegas with her and I said I didn't have the extra money. She told me to charge it to my credit card like she does. I told her that I don't charge anything I can't pay in full.

Even now, she's making about $170K a year as a lawyer in NYC. Half of that goes to taxes and benefits. Half of what is left goes towards her apartment in Manhattan. While that still leaves her over $40K a year to spend on other expenses, she has over $100K in school loans. She'll be having trouble making ends meet for a while but that doesn't keep her from spending on things like going out and stuff.

gildedbutterfly said...

This is a great post, about a topic that's really been haunting me lately. I think you're absolutely right that our parents in many ways affect how we will relate to our money.

I wouldn't worry too much about your friend; she might not be ready to hear your message, but that doesn't mean that she won't eventually change. Our parents may affect us, but we are ultimately able to break free of that...if we're ready and willing to work at it.

(I fixed my post to link back to yours...Of course you're the organized blogger I was referring to!) ;)

frugal zeitgeist said...

Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it. When (if) she's ready, she'll start internalizing the good things you're trying to teach her, but there's not much you can do to make it happen faster. In the meantime, she's lucky to have a friend like you.

SavingDiva said...

I find it annoying when a friend always complains about how broke she is...then spends extravagantly on clothes, dinners out, etc.

VixenOnABudget said...

@ntbeachnc: That's absolutely amazing to me that someone could find 40k hard to live off of.

@gildedbutterfly: Heh. I was totally playing around. I really am not THAT organized.

@frugalzeitgeist: I'm just afraid that that day won't be for a very long time.

@savingdiva: Exactly! And then they wonder why you can't afford to go out.

Kris said...

Great post, Vixen! That last paragraph elicits an out-loud "D'oh!"

Ms. MiniDucky said...

It's good of you to share the information with her. Maybe she'll actually even start hearing what you're saying and understand the difference between bored spending and necessary spending.

the baglady said...

It's hard to change a friend just by talking to them. I think one of my friends got more frugal after reading my blog, though. In one of the posts I wrote about the useless things people buy and i listed one of the things he bought. He says now he hears my voice when he buys things and has spent a lot less money.

mariam said...

Hi Vixen,

I just discovered your blog through the carnival. Nice post.

I was sort of aghast after your money talk that she went and blew money on a new purse so soon. Yeah, yeah, it was on sale but talk about in one ear and out the other, eh?

Sometimes, people can complain all they want but I really don't think they want to change...

SJean said...

Interesting post. It is weird because my sister was somewhat like your friend, and I never was, yet we were raised by the same people.

Jennifer said...

I can relate completely. I was a lot like your friend, before I finally came to my senses earlier this year at the age of 39!

I have a friend who has always been good with money and she is in great financial shape even though she is 5 years younger than me. Even though I am on the right track now, I will never catch up to her.

I wish I had come to my senses a lot sooner.

Good for you for trying to help your friend to see the light. :)

VixenOnABudget said...

Thank you everyone for all your comments.

@Jennifer: Don't think that you won't ever catch up to her. It will just take a bit longer. :-D

VixenOnABudget said...

Thank you everyone for all your comments.

@Jennifer: Don't think that you won't ever catch up to her. It will just take a bit longer. :-D

fathersez said...

Very valid post.

Like father, like son and Birds of a feather stick together are such apt sayings. Parents have to take a firm lead.

I am just like Jennifer, merrily coasting along, till family responsibilities just hit home and forced me to take very hard looks at my finances.

For my children, I wish I could do more on educating them on PF, am trying hard now. In fact, made my two elder girls sign a pledge that they would never lend or borrow from any of their friends when they left for Uni.

Hope your friend reads your post and let the lesson sink in.

Financially Broke said...

One of my best girlfriends is always complaining about being broke. It drives me crazy. Case in point: Last Tuesday night she said that if her boyfriend wouldnt go to Outback with her Wednesday, that I had to go with her. I said, "Are you paying?" Her response? "I am as broke as you are!" So I said, then why are we going OUT to eat?

That being said, when she complains about money to me, I try to listen and not judge her, because it isnt like I am a financial expert. But she has a live in boyfriend who pays the rent... all she has to earn is for her personal spending(which does include her car note, half of the utilities, and groceries) I am a single parent of two children going to school full time and bartending at night. If I have a string of cruddy nights, we could lose the car... or the house... or many other scenerios. But when I try to talk about my money struggles with HER... she doesnt get it. She thinks our financial dealings are the same, when I would argue that my situation is much more precarious than hers.

But knowing that we are both broke doesnt stop her from trying to get me to go out to eat with her all the time. It drives me nuts. We can cook something up at home and spend girl time together.