Thursday, 3 September 2015
Friends don't let friends go broke
One of the most enjoyable parts when writing the $21 Challenge book with Fiona was compiling the chapter on 'Minor Hurdles'. This was a section dedicated to all the different types of people who for whatever reason do their best to sabotage your efforts to save money and get ahead. Some of them had no idea what an effect their behaviour was having, but others knew bloody well. In hindsight we probably should have named the chapter 'Selfish Bastards' but 'Minor Hurdles' was more politically correct. By identifying the people around us into different 'types', readers were easily able to identify who their own saboteurs were and how best to deal with them. Once you become aware of who is affecting your financial progress and how they do it, they no longer have any power over you and their future efforts to trip you up become just that - a minor hurdle. Let them try their darnedest! You just keep doing your thing.
Like many parents, one of the greatest things about being a mother to my kids is being able to give them the gift of my hindsight now, in the hope that they will use it to their advantage a good 20 years earlier than I did and learn from the mistakes I made. Of course in my case it particularly comes down to money - Ali and I talk about money a LOT. In fact as I said to Rob Stock earlier this week when he was interviewing me for an article about teaching money skills to kids, I feel sorry for the poor guy! Since becoming the only child still living at home with me, he gets bombarded with it 24/7! But boy, what a valuable insight he has also got. Whether he decides to take any of that knowledge into his adult years and make the most of it, well that's up to him but I was pretty chuffed the other day when I went into his room while he was at school and found a wishlist neatly divided into two columns: 'Things Alistair Wants' and 'Things Alistair Needs'. Looks like somebody learned something from his mum's class at school the other day! At the top of the 'Needs' list was 'Pay off car', which as of this morning was proudly ticked off as he made the final payment to his brother. One goal down!
'From now on all your money is your own!' I told him. 'Yeah, except now I don't have any. I only have around $10 left from my last pay', he said. 'What? But you worked three days last week and you only had to pay Liam $50! Where's the rest gone?' 'Gahhh at the frigging cafe!' he grimaced, 'I spent like $30 there yesterday'. 'You did WHAT? What the hell did you buy?' I asked him. 'Well it's $5 each for a large coffee and then I shouted two of my mates something as well'... he went on. That explains why he didn't eat any of his lunch yesterday, I had to throw that away this morning too, even more unnecessary waste! 'Oh Ali we've been through this before - you DON'T have to spend all your money on your mates! That is not what you work for! I thought you learned this last month when you complained you spent all your wages on Red Bull and Indian food!' I reminded him. 'Ugh, yeah I forgot about that', he sighed. 'I can't believe I spent $60 at the Indian restaurant!' 'So when you put it like that, you worked four hours at the fishing shop to buy you and your friends lunch. Is that what you slog your guts out heaving gas bottles and ice around for at work, to spend it on coffee and lunch?' I went on. 'They have jobs too, they can bloody well pay for their own stuff if they want it!'
I didn't want to go on any more about it so left it there and drove him to school. Normally he drives himself but as he didn't have money to put petrol in his car I offered to drive him in mine. We hadn't long left home when we got a text. 'It's my friend, she says can I bring her and Hayley a coffee and a hot chocolate to school' he said. 'No you bloody well can't because you don't have any money and you can text her right back and tell her that!' I growled. 'Three coffees at $5 - that's $15 before you even get to school! That is INSANE! I don't even spend that on a bottle of wine! Don't get me wrong, everyone likes a treat and I know you like making your friends happy but YOU are the one losing out here. You guys are making these things a staple and it's you who is footing most of the bill!' God I was angry. I still am. I hope he's learned his lesson, I really do but it's one I'm going to keep on at him AND his friends about until it sinks in. You don't have to spend money on other people for them to like you. You don't have to spend money on people just to be nice.
I probably sound like a right grumpy old cow but heaven knows I sabotaged myself for long enough to know how financially damaging it can be. On the one hand Ali is doing really well and trying to focus on paying off his commitments so that he can be independent and afford to buy the things he needs. On the other he is sabotaging himself big time and letting others do it too by throwing even more money away on absolute shite. Stuff which at the end of the day has an instant gratification value of all of five minutes yet can put him behind for a good couple of weeks. Just like I said to his class recently, from the moment you start earning your own money you have to make choices with it and one of the things which is hardest for teenagers to master is being able to think any longer term than today. When a 17-year-old boy has money in his wallet and has a passing whim for a Red Bull and a Subway NOW, he doesn't think 'Now if I spend this now, I'm not going to be able to put petrol in my car next week'. But he'll learn.
And let's face it, a lot of us have the same problems in our adult lives too! Many of us have people in our household or social circle who constantly drain our bank accounts and sabotage our efforts to save. Even more of us are our own worst enemies, saving hard all week only to think 'Ugh, what a horrible day, I just can't be bothered cooking tonight' and go and blow all the money we just saved on takeaways. The only ones who can put an end to either of these scenarios is our own sweet selves! We all have those friends or loved ones who 'lead us astray' and if it's a problem, it's up to us to grow a pair and pull them into line instead. No point complaining about it if we never do anything about it! The one good thing about teaching this lesson to Ali is at least I am able to lead by example; for many years I didn't.
This week is NZ Money Week and if there is one lesson I would really love for parents to teach their kids this week it's this - Friends Don't Let Friends Go Broke. Don't take advantage of your friends and don't let them do it to you. Stop throwing your money away on meaningless rubbish and go and find something else to do together instead. Look after yourselves and each other and nobody ever has to miss out. Save your money for all the amazing stuff you still have ahead of you because you will not BELIEVE the cool things will be able to do in the future if you just stay strong and hang onto it. Here endeth today's lesson :)