Thursday, April 27, 2017

Story 183: I Don’t Spend That Much

            Friend 2 appeared on Friend 1’s doorstep one morning, like a newspaper: “Hi.  I think I need help.”
          “OK, get in here,” Friend 1 said, pulling her inside.  “This must really be bad: you never admit to anything.”
           “That’s not tr– yeah, you’re right, I don’t,” Friend 2 admitted as they sat at the kitchen table; the necessary mugs of tea appeared at hand.  “The truth is, I keep leaving myself short each month and if I keep going on like this I’m probably going to debtors’ prison.”
            Friend 1 ate a biscotti to buy some time.  “Right: you’re not in a Dickens novel, so no worries on being sent to a no-longer-existent prison – ”
            “Phew!”  Friend 2 slumped back in the chair.  “That’s certainly a load off the ol’ mind.”
            “However,” Friend 1 continued; Friend 2 unslumped herself, “if you’re in extreme debt then you’ll probably have to pay creditors for – ever.  And it’s possible you could wind up in regular non-violent-offender prison, which is a step up from the other kind.”
            Friend 2 tapped her fingers on the unsatisfyingly rapidly cooling mug.  “Well, if those are the worst case scenarios, I’m not so bad off.  Bye!”  She stood to leave.
            “Hey!”  She sat back down.  “I thought you needed my help?”
           “Oh yeah, sure,” Friend 2 remembered.  “I’ve been having the awful feeling for some time now that, even though I don’t spend that much, sometimes I may actually be spending a little too much.  Money, that is.”
            Friend 1 gave a non-committal “Uh-huh.”
            “And I may possibly – just possibly, mind – need to cut down a slight bit, but I don’t know where to start, everything seems necessary, and I can’t seem to stop!”
            “Fine: won’t seem to stop.  Will you help me, please?”
          “Now this is something I can work with,” Friend 1 replied, materializing notepads, pens, calculators, and a reference book on household budgets onto the kitchen table: Friend 2 did not see where they came from and did not know where to look first.  “Right: you need to make a list of your income and a list of things you spend your money on every day and every month, and then we’ll work out which ones you absolutely need and which ones you only want.”
            “OK.”  Friend 2 was still in shock as Friend 1 unnecessarily sharpened all the pencils; a visor had appeared on the latter woman’s head as the former one was blinking.
            “So!”  Friend 1 was poised with a pen at the ready.  “Tell me what you make each month.”  Done too quickly.  “Now, what are your regular expenses that you absolutely cannot do without?”
            “Oh that’s easy.”  Friend 2 began ticking off of her fingers: “Water, electricity, gas, rent, Internet – ”
            “Hmm on that last one,” Friend 1 said, holding her pen in the air as her brain worked, then resumed writing, “yep, that went from luxury to necessity in a generation: proceed.”
            Friend 2 had to find her place again: “Laundromat, phone, cable – ”
            “Aha!”  Friend 1 pointed the pen at her.  “There’s your first opportunity: cut the cord and be free!”
            “But if I bundle the services – ”
            “Never fall for that!  It’s decided: away it goes.”  Friend 2 saw her draw several lines through the condemned word.  “Next?”
            “Um, groceries – ”
            “Practically goes without saying.”
            “Car payments – ”
            “Pay it in full and be done with it.”
            “But I can’t, that’s why it’s on a plan.”
            “We’ll see about that.  And?”
            This was getting harder.  “Insurance, shoes – ”
            “I’m sorry what was that last one?”  The pen had dropped.
            Friend 2 knew that she had awakened the beast.  “Shoes.  I need them!  Everything’s made from such garbage that they wear out before I’ve barely worn them.”
            “And how many pairs do you buy each – week?”  Friend 1 thought she was overdoing it: no one was that bad.
            “Two.”  Friend 2 dodged the pen thrown at her.  “I can’t wear the same pair every day, people would notice!”
            “And… it’d be embarrassing.”
            Friend 1 stared at her as if she had never heard anything more inconsequential in her life.  She stared until Friend 2 could no longer meet her eyes, then pronounced:  “There will be a moratorium on your shoe buying, to be revisited in five years.  Make do with the 300+ pairs you currently have.”
            “Yes’m.”  The actual number was not far off.
            Friend 1 returned to her notepad with a new pen: “Continue.”
            “Um, I do buy coffee every day – ”
            “Not anymore.”
            “But I really do need that!  It helps me wake up in the morning!”
          “You’ve addicted yourself to it and need to stop cold turkey.  If you need that much help waking up in the morning, try going to bed earlier the night before.”
            That made some sort of sense.  “Maybe.  Let’s see: I like to buy expansion packs on some games – ” Friend 1 stared blankly at her – “which I will now hold off doing for a while.”  Friend 1 went back to the notepad.  “That’s probably about it.”
            Friend 1 stared at her again.  “Don’t lie to me.”
            “I’m not!  I really can’t think of anything else I spend my money on that regularly.”
            “What’s that all over your face right now?”
“Ditch it: nobody cares.”
“Oh come on!”
“The whole industry is a brainwashing scam!  The only people who need it are performers and funeral home viewings!”
This was too much: “You know I have an acne problem!  And at my age!  What am I supposed to cover it up with?!”
“Try acne medication!”
“Yeah, well, I think make-up makes me look good, and who are you to judge?!”
“I’m the one you came to to save you money, and this would be at least – ” she tapped a bunch of numbers into the calculator – “$195 a month!  And I’m just referencing the cheap brands!”
“Fine!  No more make-up, I’ll just be a giant ugly pimple!”
“A pimple who’ll have saved at least $195 a month!”
Friend 2 was not finished sulking and crossed her arms to prove it.  “Anything else?”
Friend 1 was finalizing her spreadsheet and looked up suddenly: “I don’t know, IS THERE?”
Friend 2  thought for a moment: “No, that’s it.”
“All right then,” Friend 1 said, handing her the report.  “Immediately cease buying, renting, and/or subscribing to the items in column C, and follow the attached payment plans for the items in column D."
Friend 2 scanned the papers.  “How could – you didn’t even know I was coming over today!  How did you do all this just now?!”
“Being organized solves nearly every problem.”
“Except acne.”


  1. Hilarious and sounds familiar. Well written and good advice.