Monday, April 23, 2012

Sometimes I get mad about money.

I think most people understand that money can be a topic and an EXPERIENCE fraught with tension. After all,  you've heard that most arguments between couples are about money, right? Sometimes I worry about money: fear and sadness are occasionally big feelings to deal with. But sometimes I get just ANGRY.

The anger comes out over unexpected expenses. Sometimes it's just a little spurt of "grr" -- like when the lock on your storage unit breaks and you have to pay the company $18 to take it off and give you a new one. Maybe the utility bill this month reflects the heat wave or cold front of last month's wacky weather, or a slowly leaking toilet tank. Little stuff like that happens. I don't get too upset.

Slightly larger: the cat needs a tooth pulled. Or your kids get sick twice in a month and antibiotics add up. The car gets a flat. You try and plan for it with a savings cushion, because you can't predict how these things are going to fall into your calendar and your budget. They provoke in me a kind of fatalistic overdramatic woe. But, hey, I have an emergency fund now; I just plan how to cut back in future months to restore it.

I get really mad, though, when other unexpected expenses are... well, kinda my fault. At least partly. Like when you go out to lunch with a large party of coworkers and you order an appetizer 'cause you're not really hungry and you're minding your pennies. Or you agree to split an $11 combo plate with the person seated next to you, but she ends up ordering an extra side and it's big and she eats that and has maybe two bites of the shared dish, so you're stuck with the full cost. Okay, that's manageable. But when the guy who suggested everyone meet up and chose the restaurant grabs the bill and divides the total by the number of people at the table? (Including several drinks and appetizer plates "for the table", that you didn't try.)  Then your total comes out to $17 instead of the $7 or so you were planning on spending or even the $14 for your combo plate plus tax and tip. THAT SUCKS.

It also sucks, I think, when you (I) don't speak up and say, "Oh, I didn't know we were going to split the bill like that. Can't we just pay for what each of us ordered?" because it's awkward and it looks cheap and it makes for more math that no one really wants to do. It sucks that that guy probably has no idea why you might find his approach problematic, because he makes twice as much as you do and doesn't do that whole frugal thing. And it sucks that the whole thing could have been avoided if you had just politely refused the invitation because you BROUGHT YOUR LUNCH anyway, and it's sitting in the office fridge mocking you. Me. While the month's available dining out budget has just shrunk considerably. ARGH.

Yeah, that's my rant for today. I could have clarified matters when asking about the restaurant, or confirmed before we ordered that we'd split the "right" way even if we couldn't get separate checks. But I didn't, and so I'm mad at myself. I'm mad about feeling restricted and deprived (which is just silly!) and kind of cheated (which is less silly, but still probably not worth arguing about).

Also, I have realized that there are people (friends, not coworkers) with whom this happens often enough that I really shouldn't go out with them, because no matter how much fun we have, something like this happens when it's time to pay the bill, and I get really upset. Quietly. Privately. (Or passive-aggressively on my blog.) It may not even be as clear-cut as the coworker example. I just feel anxious about the aspect of spending an amount of money that hasn't been predetermined. And when it happens, and I'm over budget, it really ticks me off.

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