A rich kidís quest to live like the rest of us
There are two types of people: those who are good with money, and those who are not. I am one of those who is not. So before I begin to describe myself and my experience, try to conjure the least bit of empathy for me.
At first glance, you may be inclined to think that I am well-off. By no means am I rich, but at the same time I am far from poor. My parents both work full-time jobs, and are the epitome of the word ďfrugalĒ (only with themselves). My mother hunts for things at garage sales and my father takes my hand-me-downs. They may drive new cars, but theyíre base models and entry level. They seldom go out to eat, rarely go to the movies and are reluctant to spend money on things that they donít absolutely need. When I bought my father a Burberry polo for his birthday, he cringed at the idea of spending $90 on a shirt. My mother likes nice things, but always waits for coupons and sales before considering a purchase.
My sister and I both attend the University at Buffalo. Neither of us will ever have to pay a penny toward our education. Tuition, room and board, food, and incidentals are all covered by mommy and daddy. For this, I am grateful. Saving money seems to have paid off for my parents; they have control over their money, enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.
Comfortable isnít good enough for me. I prefer to live a lavish, frivolous lifestyle; champagne and caviar, if you will. My mother always tells me that she took home the wrong baby, and that I belong to a family that lives on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. I donít cut coupons; in fact, I wouldnít even know where to get them. I drive a Volkswagen Jetta (I didnít pay for it), which is a more expensive car than my parentsí. I go out to eat all the time, and I have a penchant for quality wine. I have a Christian Dior coat that cost more than some of my friendsí cars. I donít have any money in the bank, but I owe a nice amount of money to American Express. I work at Tanning Bed because my parents donít give me any spending money for clothes, gas, or entertainment. Iíve worked since I was fourteen and have never minded it.
Last week, I put myself on a budget of $25 dollars for the week. The $25 was allotted for food, gas, entertainment, and basically anything else I wanted to buy. No credit cards. I was less than thrilled. I spend $25 dollars on decent bottle of wine. Cigarettes alone are $25 dollars for the week. The Hawaiian tuna steak I get at Le Metro is $25. You can see my dilemma. I knew this was going to be a difficult feat. The week brought about many unusual surprises. I did things that I never thought I would, or could.
I started on a Wednesday. I had a full pack of cigarettes, a bottle of Beringer 2002 Private Reserve Chardonnay, and plenty of food in the fridge. That didnít matter. I was starting fresh. That day, I drove to Wegmans to get my rations for the week. No gourmet cheese, no fun recipes to make for my friends; this week was going to send me back to the basics. I spent $16.24 on food. I bought a variety of things: four boxes of Wegmans brand macaroni and cheese (four for a dollar), six Liptonís Asian Sides (99 cents each), some apples, bananas, and even though it was expensive, Edyís ice cream ($4.99).
I then decided that if I was going to not be able to spend more than $25, I was going to need a drink. The cheapest bottle of wine I could find was $3.99. I didnít even know they made wine that cheap. The employee at the liquor store said that the wine I chose was predominantly used for cooking. Not this week. I bit my tongue and purchased.
My last stop for goods was to Wilson Farms, where they happened to be having a buy-one get-one sale on cigarettes. It was my lucky day. Two packs of Camel Turkish Golds later, all my money was gone and I was well on my way to living within a budget.
The first few days werenít bad at all. I was busy with school and work and didnít notice that I wasnít spending any money. When day three came, my cigarettes began to run low, and I panicked. I couldnít smoke the last few and leave myself with nothing for the rest of the week. Many of my friends smoke, and were reluctant to give me cigarettes after ďlendingĒ me the first few. I was usually the one giving them cigarettes, so they owed me.
I had a small problem on day four that I didnít tell anyone about until now. I ran out of shaving cream. I then remembered that I had 40 cents left from my budget. Although shaving cream isnít that expensive, it wasnít going to be enough for me to make the purchase. I gathered some bottles and cans and came up with just enough to buy it. I was actually short three cents, but the nice cashier at Wegmans was generous enough to let me slide.
The last couple of days were tough. I hadnít gone out to eat, gotten fast food, or made any of my daily visits to Starbucks. I was a little on edge. I couldnít smoke as much because all the cigarettes I was smoking were other peopleís. I drank the wine, barely, which tasted like something you would put on a cut to clean it. I now know why itís for cooking. Although my food lasted me the whole week, I was craving things other than pasta and fruit. I wanted some meat, and I was ready to eat the first person who fell in front of me. My animal instincts were kicking in and I became ferocious (ok, it wasnít that bad, but you get the idea).
I didnít realize that everything cost money. There are very few things in life that are free. Sleeping is free, but itís hard to find things other than that. The lovely Flint Village that I call my home costs $600 a month, so showering and all the things we take for granted really come at a price. The conclusion I came to after this week of budgeting my money was this: I greatly respect anyone who pays their way through college, taking out student loans and working to pay for books. Although I knew I had it good, I never realized how good ďgoodĒ actually was.