So, I was treading water during the slow modelling season as best I could, but shit started going sideways – and because this city is so godawfully expensive to live in the sideways skid gained momentum terrifyingly fast. I got on government assistance just in the nick of time to pay September’s rent. Unfortunately, although I’ve been working my ass off during September, almost every gig I’ve done is paid by mailed cheque and I won’t actually have the money until October. The gigs that did pay cash amounted to enough money that I don’t qualify for assistance – but that cash went entirely toward groceries already.
Long story short, I’m putting $800 of my rent on my line of credit this month.
By October my cheques will start flowing in and – based on my pattern in previous years and how my calendar looks so far – I’ll be able to support myself until next summer at least. But the way things are going I’m afraid I’ll never be able to pay off my line of credit.
So I debased myself and asked my parents for money. Just a little one-time boost to help me catch up so I can get solidly on my feet again.
Let me tell you some things about my parents. When I was growing up, they were super cheap. Like, suuuuuuper cheap. As in, we’d all take turns bathing in the same water. As in, my parents screamed at me one summer for leaving a small desk fan on while the family was out shopping. As in, my dad got a great deal on a pack of 500 cotton swabs one time and when we got home he dumped them out and made us count them to make sure there really were 500.
My parents didn’t make a whole ton of money (or so they say, and I’m inclined to believe them) but when I was a little kid we moved into a townhouse that they’d bought, and when I was twelve they got a pretty big, nice, three-bedroom house custom made for them.* They firmly believe that their stinginess is how they were able to save up the money to do this. They (or maybe it was just my dad) had a lot of really shitty ideas about poor people – that they’re poor because they spend money too impulsively, blah blah blah. My dad told me once that basically if an unemployed white trash-type person won $1,000 in the lottery they’d probably buy $1,000 worth of lottery tickets with it, hoping to score even bigger so they’d never have to work again, whereas a smart, good, non-trashy person who was unemployed through no fault of their own (I don’t remember what actual terms my dad used but this was definitely the idea he conveyed: trashy slackers vs. noble downtrodden folks who’ve just had a bad run of luck) would diligently spend the money on a used van and start a moving business to work their way out of poverty. I internalized a lot of ideas about poor people being responsible for their situation (hey Dad, what if the “white trash” people couldn’t afford a van even if they wanted one because the $1,000 had to go toward bills? What if the fine upstanding human who did buy a van and start a moving business didn’t get enough customers to make a living? Also, where is the moving van person gonna get the money to hire some helpers and pay for insurance, advertising, gas, and other costs?)
I kind of want to apologize to poor people because I get it now. I really do. There are things I could have done this past summer to bring in more money, yes. But many of those required money, or required emotional resources that I just didn’t have, and I’ve been paralyzed by anxiety and a bit woozy and fucked up from never eating enough and it’s just too much, okay? It’s too much. I just feel so pinched and rushed all the time that I can never stop to catch my breath, let alone formulate some awesome plan to make more money. So yeah. I went to my parents hoping they could take that pinch away for a bit so I could regroup.
Anyway. The thing about my dad, I’ve realized, is that saving money is a hobby for him. His only hobby, in fact; he doesn’t golf or fish or do any other typical “dad” stuff. But his hobby is not a logical one. Ultimately it’s not really about saving actual money; it’s about being able to see a lowered dollar amount at the cash register. What I mean by that is that when I was growing up he’d buy our groceries at two or three different stores sometimes to get the best deals on everything. Once when I was a teenager I called him out on that: “But dad, you’re driving across town just to get a carton of eggs – doesn’t the price of the gas kind of negate what you saved on the eggs? I mean wouldn’t it actually be cheaper just to get the eggs here, at the store we’re already in?” He basically put his hands over his ears and did the LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU thing.
And these deals he got were negligible, btw. When I first lived on my own, I’d always buy milk at a particular store because dad said it was cheaper. This store was about a mile away from my apartment, I didn’t want to spend money on the bus, obviously, and I was in shitty, shitty shape back then, so this was an ordeal. (In my defence, I was buying the milk in bags, which are way heavier than a carton.) For ages I did this, on autopilot, because my dad said it saved money. Then one day I thought to actually compare prices with the grocery store nearest me. TEN CENTS MORE EXPENSIVE. I WAS WALKING HALF AN HOUR ROUND-TRIP AND MAKING MY ARMS HURT TO SAVE TEN FUCKING CENTS. And probably eating more than usual once I got home because the exercise made me ravenous, so there goes the shiny dime I saved and then some.
It’s taken a long time to undo the stupid money-saving shit my parents (especially my dad) instilled in me. Actually, I haven’t undone all of it. I have however devised a formula to determine whether a money-saving thing I’m thinking of doing is worth it. The formula is: if someone offered me [amount of money] to do [thing], would I do it? “Hmmm. I should go to the far-away store to get milk. It’s ten cents cheaper there. Buttttt…the store is like two miles, round trip. If someone said ‘Here’s ten cents to walk two miles!’…yeah that would be ridiculous. There’s no way I would do that. I’m gonna get milk from the store near my house.”
SO ANYWAY I emailed my mom explaining my situation and grovelling for $2,000 to kinda reset my debt and get me on my feet again. My mom was like “ummmmmm hold on, I need to ask your father” and then came back saying “how about $500?” Now, my dad has been bragging for years now that their house is all paid off and he’s alluded many times to having a nest egg of several hundred thousand dollars, so unless there’s been a major change I didn’t know about, I’m gonna go ahead and say that this lowball offer is not about them not having the money to help me. It’s either about them not liking to see their huge nest egg sink by two grand at once, or else it’s meant as an oblique lesson in pulling myself up by my bootstraps, So that’s irritating, but five hundred bucks is still a huge help so obviously I just said thank you. But it really irks me thinking of my dad sitting there all self-righteous, doling out just a little money because he wouldn’t want me to lose my work ethic or snap and buy a bunch of lottery tickets or whateverthefuck he thinks I’d do if he actually gave me enough to get me financially caught up.
But it gets better: I asked for the money via Interac e-transfer, which is simple and instant and would get me the money before my rent is due. But my dad is insisting on mailing me a cheque instead in order to avoid the e-transfer fee. Which is A DOLLAR FIFTY. A Canadian stamp apparently costs somewhere between 77 cents and a buck, depending. The envelope costs a few cents. The cheque itself costs money (it was $30 for a book of 100, I think, last time I checked). Plus there’s the actual time taken to write the cheque out, address the envelope, and trot the fucking thing over to the mailbox or post office (that’s the other thing – time is money, and my dad never figures that into the equation when he’s hellbent on frugality. He only looks at the concrete numbers. I swear if someone buried a dollar coin eight feet underground, he would spend three days digging it up and then go around crowing about his “free dollar” and feeling pleased with himself). So this mailed cheque is pretty much saving him nothing and inconveniencing me, but he has indeed avoided a $1.50 service charge and this pleases his weird Aspie obsesso-thing and that’s all that matters.
To be honest when my mom first asked “would a cheque be okay instead? Your father wants to avoid the bank charge” I was this close to snapping back “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE JUST E-TRANSFER ME $498.50 THEN.” But it behooves me not to be snarky to them when they’re doing me a favour so I just said fine. It doesn’t make that big a difference to me to put most of my rent on my line of credit and then pay $500 of it back a few days later vs. putting just some of my rent on credit.
*They went with a building company whose estimate was twenty thousand dollars less than everyone else they spoke to. There was (of course) a reason for them being so cheap. The builders fucked up and cut corners on a lot of stuff. They weren’t done in time; when we moved in, there was a big fucking hole in the side of our house where the fireplace was supposed to be – among a bunch of other annoying unfinished things. My parents were going to sue them for all their fuckups but they filed bankruptcy.