My friend, also a nice writer-type woman, had been told that “of course” she should lie in an upcoming salary negotiation, and she was surprised to receive that advice.
One night at a business-class hotel here is like a fifth or a fourth of a night at a hospital; there it’s like the other way around.
Nicole: Hi! It’s the first day of spring! I’m wearing pink. Are you still dealing with the miserable winter weather thing? Winter Storm Aziraphale or whatever?
Ester: Yes, thank you, it’s very unpleasant. I went out anyway to get a free salad, though, because I was so excited to have earned it. What have you done / what are you going to do to celebrate?
Nicole: I haven’t done anything yet, but I am going to go see Cinderella tonight with friends, and I’m also really secretly excited about the Frozen Fever short that they’re running before the movie. (Yes, I am a grown woman.) Are you doing anything to celebrate?
Ester: Hahaha that sounds nice! I really want to do something like that, something that involves going out, since I realized Ben and I have had one date in two months. It’s not coincidental — the one time we went out in February, for our anniversary, friends came and stayed with Lara; it’s just so expensive to get a babysitter, and as it is, when we added up the figures for tax time, we realized we spent over $20,000 on childcare in 2014. When I saw that I laughed til I cried and then I cried til I passed out. It was fun.
Nicole: That is incredible. I feel like making one of those old-person statements: “When I was a teenager I only charged $5 an hour for babysitting!”
Ester: Yeah, man, THOSE DAYS. They are gone. We don’t want to pay someone sad, gross wages, but unfortunately that means we end up not paying anyone at all, because $15 an hour or more adds up. But clearly I am the only person worrying about money in the city of New York right now, because did you read that article in the Times about how children are helping their parents pick up fancy apartments?
It’s a lot to ask a normal teenage kid to not spend $30,000 that mysteriously appeared in his bank account.
Even though the numbers are bigger, an apartment is still just another Thing that you’re buying. A Thing and an Experience: a Home. You realize by doing it than you can do it and then it’s like, hey cool, this was possible after all.
“I was working full time at a clothing factory lifting boxes, but the company closed down and I was out of a job. Then I was walking by Times Square one day and saw the dressed-up characters. I asked one of them about the job, went out and bought an outfit, and I’ve been here for six months.”
Ester: How’s being back in Seattle after vacation? Have you adjusted your spending habits any, post-vacation, or are you just back to normal?
Nicole: Well, I mean, I didn’t go see Fifty Shades of Grey or The Last Five Years, so that’s a start. But I did end up at a bar with a friend where it was cash only and the ATM was oh-so-conveniently placed next to the bar, so… you know, you try to cut back and everything erases itself.
Sometimes I feel like both weight and spending have a “set point.”
Ester: Ooh, intriguing! Please say more.
Nicole: Well, the “set point” thing is how our bodies naturally gravitate towards specific weight ranges, and some people are naturally fatter or thinner than others. And then if you go outside of that range, over time you find your way back to it. That’s a really rough explanation of that. But it’s kind of the same with spending; there’s a point at which I will be all “NOPE TOO MUCH MONEY,” and so I’ll find my way back to a spending equilibrium, and if I am spending too little money, I’ll … well, you know, I feel like I spend around the same amount of money every month, no matter what happens.
I don’t ever end a month with, like, an extra $800 that I just didn’t spend.
I wasn’t someone who was addicted to shopping or addicted to spending. I just was really bad at managing money. I never had a budget, I never knew how much was in my account at any given time, and I didn’t build any credit.