Thursday, January 18, 2007

Remembering Financial Roots

Today I experienced a rite of passage: I got coffee. For someone else.

I also got $20 worth of bottled water. I can't decide if I found this experience sort of charming in a paying-my-dues kind of way, or just kind of embarassing. Nevertheless, I guess this is why I have a credit card--because I need the money in my checking account, and hopefully, if my (already-submitted) expense report is processed quickly enough, I can pay the credit card bill with my employer's money right away (otherwise, there's enough float in my checking account to cover it for a couple of weeks). Then I'll actually come out a little ahead, because I get reward points (or cash back--I use a Chase Freedom card).

Really, though, what this makes me wonder is when in your adult and financial life you forget that $25 meant something at some previous point. Both of my bosses were a little embarassed and were sure to remind me to file an expense report, but neither one of them thought it was important enough to warn me beforehand that it might come up (so that I could order in on the corporate card, or even just so that I could have cash on hand), and certainly not important enough that they'd open their own wallets and scrounge up some cash (that's how it usually worked in my various internships--the boss would give me cash, and I'd bring back the receipt and the change).

I don't think I ever want to forget that $25 can mean something to someone. It's hard. I know that it's the easiest thing in the world to assume that your baseline is everyone's baseline, that if a $25 bottle of wine is "cheap" to you, it's cheap to me, too (um, not so much). I just hope that as I get older and hopefully freer with money, I can remember that $25 used to be a lot, and that to some people it still is. This isn't really about finance per se--it's about the things to which finance is connected: our worldviews, our assumptions, our treatment of others. I'm not complaining--nothing terrible is going to happen to me even if I don't get that $25 back, which I will, eventually. I'm just resolving to try, in my day-to-day behavior and thinking, to look outside the blinders that my financial situation offers me.


S/100/30 said...

This reminds me of my senior year in college, when I was traveling from Boston to NYC for a day-trip job interview. I had, at that time, $28 to my name, but I was too embarrassed to ask the firm to front me travel costs (they had paid for my plane ticket themselves, and promised to reimburse me for other expenses). I found a shuttle that would get me from the airport to the city and back for $20. Once in the city, I snagged my hose -- luckily, I had time to buy more, but there went $6. I was completely alone in NYC with $2 and a voucher for a trip back to the airport to my name.

The good news is both that I got the job, and that I learned a lesson I'll never forget about assuming what costs other people can float. This was a very rich firm that tends to hire very rich kids, so I bet it never occurred to them how precarious that f-ing $20 left me.

(Actually, once I filed for the reimbursement, I got an email from a woman in recruiting -- "It was nice of you to cut costs, but in the future know that we happily pay for cabs!" Heh, as if I could have afforded $40 each way!)

mOOm said...

Sometimes, I often wonder how people get to be the way they are. How do people say get to be very conservative and judgmental about other people? Weren't they poor themselves some time?

i heart staging! said...

so aptly said: "I just hope that as I get older and hopefully freer with money, I can remember that $25 used to be a lot, and that to some people it still is."