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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Parkinson's Law

"Expenditure rise to meet the income available."
When I was a kid, my bestest bestie friend in the world was Andrea. We spent most of childhood and young adulthood together before she decided I was too mature for her and I realized she was never going to grow up.
My parents gave us allowances, small ones. Mine was $7 a week for many years and it eventually bumped up to $12, briefly before I got my first job at 15. At which point it vanished.
Andrea grew up in a single parent household with lots of siblings. My family was considered middle class and hers was considered poor, but I never really saw any difference in our abilities to get through life and the day. The only thing that reminded us of her "poverty" were not the lack of things, but the lack of attention paid to things. After all, mom had to work, which meant she had little time for grocery shopping, yard work or cleaning.
The house always had stuff in it, lots of stuff, new furniture, new decorations. The kids had new clothing and toys. I remember Andrea always  had the coolest new clothes and interesting things for her room. Her mom regularly bought her and her siblings things or just gave them large amounts of cash (granted usually for xmas or a b-day).  My parents would screen the things I bought, esp clothing, and her mother did not.
Several red flags waved in my face during our friendship. The first was when we were kids. We both were obsessed, I mean absolutely obsessed with legos. She had a large collection when I met her, and I had one measly bin. This gap decreased and I overtook her collection dramatically in just a couple years. I saved all my pennies for legos, asked for them for xmas and birthdays. She did the same, except for the saving part.
We would walk to the mall and I'd but a small set at Kaybee toys. She would blow her entire wad of money at The Sweet Factory.
This would have been fine and dandy except she began to become upset that I had "more" things than her. I would point out that she was eating her money in candy and she didn't want to hear it. She just wanted to go on and on about how privileged I was and how she had nothing.
This taught me early on that happiness and wealth is a matter of perception rather than an actual dollar amount. Andrea always wanted more, more, more and was never happy with what she had. She also spent her money on silly things. As kids it was candy, as adults it was still candy and overpriced make up and clothes. She was never satisfied. She'd also blow her entire paycheck and then complain she didn't have money to eat and it was never her fault. Granted, as I learned to budget as an adult I occasionally overspent and had to scrape by for nessessities. But I never, unless I was unemployed, starved or spent so much money I had to beg and guilt others to feed me.
I often wonder if shes still stuck in the endless cycle of buy (stupid things) and be broke, buy and broke, buy and broke. I know I learned a lot from watching her over the years, and learned a lot about myself in the process.  I can only hope she came to an realization at some point that true happiness is from within and not the mall.

1 comment:

  1. Be happy with you have; you can't buy happiness; you can't take it with you