Talking About Being Cash Poor
by Mike Dang and Logan Sachon
Logan: This has been a week of not spending for me, because I already spent all my money and we don’t get paid for … some days. And this is fine. This is how it works, for me, for now. I spend my money and do what I want and then I have some days before payday where I eat rice and tortillas and stay home and it’s good. Rejuvenating. The only tricky part for me is, when friends ask to hang out, I never know quite what to say: “I wish I could but I have literally zero dollars?” Does that make it sound like I’m asking for them to cover me? I don’t want it to sound like that.
Mike: I think rather than say, “Hey, I can’t go out to dinner or to the bar because I have no money,” you can say, “I’m low on funds at the moment until I get paid next week, how about we [insert whatever fun activity that doesn’t require money] instead?” Money is required to do things that require money, but it’s not required to just hang out with your friends. One of my friends just returned from a trip, and we haven’t seen each other in about a month, so if I don’t get snowed in this weekend, I’m planning on heading over to her apartment to catch up. “Just bring yourself!” she said. “I have wine!” I also think it helps to have friends who are just as happy to stay in and have a glass of wine and catch up on old episodes of Nashville, or Downton or Top Chef. I do have friends who are more than happy to go out and spend to have a good time, as well. It’s a balance, right? Some weeks you go out, some weeks you don’t.
Logan: I think there’s a difference between saying, I’m saving for this thing, and saying, my bank account has only enough money for my bills in it, that is it. Is it smart or good to be that vulnerable — to admit, I spent all my money, I’m low on funds — or if it’s something to be kept “hidden.” I mean, everyone knows everything about me because I tell everyone everything about me. I’ve just been thinking lately about other ways to live life. Like maybe, not tell everyone everything. And why one might do that. It seems novel, to me. Keeping a secret. Saving face.
Mike: I think it really depends on what kind of relationship you have with your friends. You and I have the sort of relationship where we’re completely candid about everything. You know all about my money and I know all about yours, and it’s all very good and fine. When we do go out, and you offer to pay for a drink or something I say, “Nope, I will pay for myself!” Because I know that’s not something you should be doing. And that’s completely fine and normal and nobody feels bad about anything. I also have friends where they don’t know all of my business and I don’t know theirs and it’s a completely different relationship. So maybe the difference here is that I only tell close friends everything, and you are just completely open to everyone about everything? And yes, I think having a lot of these matters posted on a website makes it a little more difficult to keep secrets — they just have to read our site!
Logan: Ha yes. I guess I’m thinking back to the Before Times (when I was using lines of credit), I used to get annoyed with people who were like, “Oh I can’t, I don’t have the money.” Because to me that just felt like an excuse. Haven’t you heard of Visa? Yuk, yuk, yuk. But then also it gave me an opportunity to be say, “Oh that’s all? I will pay!” Because I had heard of Visa.
Last night a friend bought me wine and pizza, but that didn’t feel bad because we sort of take turns having no money. Plus also I hate it when I offer to pay for you and you say no!
Mike: I’m trying to recall times when friends have said they couldn’t do something because they couldn’t or didn’t want to spend money, and what my reaction was. You know, it’s never been a big deal. My reaction has been, “Oh, okay, next time!” And we do have next time. And that is fine. I look forward to those next times! And I think it’s never been issue because when friends have said they didn’t have the money to do something, they always had a very reasonable qualifier for it. “We can’t go to dinner this time, because we’re saving money for our trip to Egypt.” Or because they’re putting money in a wedding fund, or whatever else. I think it’s important to recognize that there will be next times, and those times will be just as fun. And Logan, you know completely good and well why I turn down your offers to pay.
Logan: Ha, well, yes. This all basically comes back to self-loathing, I’m sure. Because you know, why am I out of money this week? Is it because of some actually really good reason? No. It’s because I had a bad couple of weeks and took myself out to too many dinners, oops. And then took a car home from a party, oops. And then went to the bar, oops. So I feel like, yeah, this is punishment in a way, not being able to hang out with friends, but also … it just seems weird to me not to tell people why. I don’t want to come off like I’m saying woe is me because I’m not. I mean, I am, but not in “pity me” way. I know I did this too myself. In other news, I no longer have a journal and am just using this website for that, apparently.
Mike: I do think “I can’t go out to dinner tonight because I spent all of my money and am waiting for my next paycheck” is a good reason to say you can’t do something. And let’s be honest here, the jig is up. I’m sure your friends know what the deal is. A number of faceless strangers reading our conversation right now know what the deal is. Not being able to go out to dinner because you spent it all shouldn’t feel like a punishment. You can’t punish yourself for not being able to go out to dinner because … you already went out to dinner! That’s where that money went. We can’t always go out to dinner (unless you are like Yaffa and work two side jobs to have the funds to do so). This is the truth of the matter. The reason I can go out to dinner with friends tomorrow is because this is a monthly thing we do with each other. We’re not going out to dinner every week, so we have the funds to have one nice one a month. You could say I punished myself by not going out to dinner last weekend so I could go out to dinner this weekend, but I don’t see it that way. So I think it’s about perspectives here.
Logan: Well thank god this has all just been hypothetical. I mean, I am out of money, that’s not hypothetical. But worrying about what to tell people when they ask me to do things I can’t afford to do? Have you looked out the window?! It’s a blizzard! No one is going anywhere tonight. Maybe it will last all weekend.
Mike: Forced austerity is sometimes the best austerity.