Let’s Talk About Money, Baby

Let’s talk about money, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about money

– My version of Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Let’s Talk about Sex”

There are some things that it’s ok to worry about publicly. Whether your hair is doing something weird–acceptable. How your kid will handle her first day of preschool–totally fine. What you’ll make when your new boyfriend’s mother comes over to dinner for the first time–stress away, friend. If you can really afford to go to happy hour with your friends when you have rent due tomorrow–shut your mouth, that’s rude, keep it to yourself!

For whatever reason, a lot of people feel that talking about money is not appropriate. Sure, having a talk about money with a spouse is probably fine, and maaaybeee with your significant other, if you guys are real serious. But friends? Coworkers? That dude you had a Tinder date with last week? Those people are assumed to be no-gos for the money talk.

That’s why I really love that some sites (like The Financial Diet, a personal favorite) are trying to break down the stigma of talking about money. Many bloggers post monthly income breakdowns, and while I really appreciate that, most of them only started doing it once they made $1000+ per month. (One notable exception is the wonderful Pinch of Yum, where Lindsay and Bjork have tracked their income since their first profitable month, in which they made $21.97.)

You don’t see a lot of bloggers writing about the weeks where they ate nothing but rice and beans while they were getting started and simultaneously working a “real job,” or how they couldn’t afford tools and programs that would make their lives easier or boost their reach and social footprint. They don’t mention how much money and time they spend on their nails to make sure that the fingers clutching their latte on Instagram are tipped in the perfect, on-trend shade of unchipped pink. The food bloggers don’t always say that they spent hours hunting flea markets in order to find that perfect piece of reclaimed wood (that may cost more than any piece of beat-up wood has a right to) for their ~rustic~ shots.

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bitter towards all the successful, financially comfortable bloggers and other internet creatives out there. I’m truly not. I think that 99.9999% of them worked hard to get where they are today. I just think that too often its easy to look at an established blog, a flawless Instagram, or even just a friend’s Facebook pictures from their trip to Barcelona and either: (a) forget that money was involved or (b) think that the money involved came easily/thoughtlessly. The former is never true, and the latter is almost never true.

Outside of the internet–IRL, if you will–this weirdness about money continues. Just think of that obligatory moment at the end of a first date when both people reach for the check.* Or when one of your friends wants to take a Spring Break trip to Miami, and the only thing you can afford to do is sit at home and maybe order a pizza, but if you say that you can’t afford it? Or that you are trying to save money? Or maybe you technically could afford it but would rather allocate your financial resources elsewhere? Well, that would just be lame, right? And then there are the things that you can’t turn down without being perceived as rude. Women are *supposed* to feel honored when someone asks them to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. In reality, she probably feels a little apprehensive about what a cash-flush it’s going to be. And if she isn’t worried about that going in, she definitely will be by the time she’s pitching in for a luxury suite in a Las Vegas hotel for a 4-day bachelorette party.**

I’m currently at a rather rice-and-beans point in my life. I have money in my savings account (which doubles as my emergency fund, at the moment), but I am trying not to touch it. I have a job earning over minimum wage (though not by much). So I know that I’m doing better than a lot of people. Plus, I am living with my boyfriend and paying less than half the rent (because he makes substantially more money than me).

I have it pretty good, all things considered, but I’m still not living the life that I imagined I would be after graduating from college, summa cum laude, with a degree in neuroscience. Turns out that doesn’t get you too far, and I feel like that is something we don’t talk about enough. For some people, the realization that a diploma is not the golden ticket to success doesn’t come until about a week after graduation. Maybe it comes a tad earlier, during the second semester of senior year when they’re applying to jobs.

Money affects you and me, and it’s good, and it’s bad, and that’s a part of life–so let’s talk about it.

*That situation is especially complicated, as it involves not only matters of financial situation and socioeconomic class, but also of sex and gender.
**When did bachelor and bachelorette parties become multi-day events at faraway locales? What happened to an actually 1-night party?

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