There are few things that bother me more than stupidity and people wasting money. And financial waste bothers me even more when it is partaken in by those closest to me -- especially when they can't afford it. However, I don't like to go meddling in everyone's financial matters, as this can lead to strained relationships and feelings of tension or resentment. Therefore, I've learned to do certain things in an effort to better handle my family money wasting. While I'm far from perfect in this area of family matters, I've certainly gotten.
The Crazed Grandparent
Over the years -- and with plenty of frustration -- I've come to the realization that sometimes I just have to let a family member waste their money. They're just not going to be happy otherwise. And there's really nothing that I can say or do to change their feelings about it.
For example, when my mother recently came to visit, she was insistent on visiting a nearby town that she'd heard good things about. While it was only an hour's drive away, she desperately wanted to rent a room at a hotel with a pool for us to stay in, largely because she wanted a place for her grandson to swim.
First off, being crammed in a small hotel room with my mother, five-year-old son and pregnant wife is not my idea of a good time. But beyond that, it drove me up the wall that it was going to cost $130 for us to stay overnight at a place that was less than 40 miles from home. Second, doing so would cut almost a day off my productivity as a self-employed individual. Third, we have much nicer pools, much closer to home and that cost much less to visit. And fourth, having worked in hotels, I know the low down and dirty about hotel cleanliness.
However, I realized that this wasn't about us -- or really even about our son -- it was about my mother. She wanted to do this, and it meant a lot to her, and saying it was for our son was just a way for her to justify doing it. Therefore, I did my best to let it go, ignore the money and time wasting aspects and just go with the flow for her sake and for our son's.
My in-laws eat pretty well. They're big fans of steak, fish, roasts, take-out, and similar delicious meals. However, I was not raised on such items and initially had difficulty not feeling guilty about partaking in such costly events when they would invite us over to dinner (which happens quite often). I would even go so far as to sometimes avoid invitations due to such feelings of guilt.
However, I eventually began to realize that they wanted us there and for some reason actually enjoyed our company. Big family meals are just something that's been done for generations in their family. Even then, knowing this wasn't enough to truly ease the tendency toward guilt and moochery that I felt at partaking in their free meals.
Therefore, I began to look for ways to "earn my keep" while there. And so, I began to cook for them. I started making more of the meals, trying out some new, and often lower cost dishes. I would do little (and sometimes not so little) projects when over, and I would clean up for them before we left by putting food away, clearing the table, and doing the dishes to help cover the cost of my meal. While none of the other kids besides my wife would take part in such activities, it would make me feel better and ease my fears of feeling too much like a mooch when we visited.
Turning Experience into Stories
Even though my work largely revolves around personal finance, I've found that people often get funny if or when I make an attempt to give them financial or money related advice. However, I've also learned that if I turn a particular experience I've had or knowledge I've accumulated into a story in which I've personally made a mistake or found success, and then let people take from it what they will rather than just advising them, they're more apt to listen.
It seems like people (at least the ones closest to me) prefer to make the discovery their own rather than feeling like they were told to do something. It makes sense, since I'm kind of the same way. Therefore, when I see money wasting going on around me -- whether it's with family or close friends -- I may work a story of sorts into the conversation that relates my experience without forcing it upon them, thereby allowing them to make it there own and hopefully learn or grow from it.
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