First, your site has helped me so much. I was raised by a family who loves to step on toes and delights in being nasty to others. My grandma, rest her beautiful soul, was my one example of etiquette and grace, and she gave me my first Emily Post when I entered high school. Now that she’s gone, the stories on your site remind me to think of others and to leave an example of grace to anyone who may be watching.
Here’s my story. About a year ago I began saving for a car. After a few months of discipline, I had about $3,000 saved up. My stepdad advised me that I should leave some money in his safe so I had cash in case some severe bank-closing catastrophe left me without money. I thought about it, and decided to leave $800 in the safe. I definitely didn’t have a safe place in my apartment where I could stash that much money. I told him I keep my money there until I bought a car.
My mom started charging me $25 a month for my part of the family cell phone bill per my stepdad’s request several months later. I didn’t mind paying the money, but it bothered me when she added that she knew $25 was more than my share, but I wasn’t going to find a plan that cheap anywhere else. I paid $150 in two installments in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for 6 months.
Fast forward to this month, when I moved to the next state with my boyfriend after I lost my job. I intended to get our new house settled, buy a car with some money I had saved up and the money from the safe, and get a job. We moved and made plans with my mom to get the money. I came to my mom’s house on the day and time we agreed upon, but she told me the money was in my stepdad’s savings account now (which really defeats the purpose of having your money in a safe). She promised to send me a check for several weeks. Nothing came. She planned a visit to my house last week. I reminded her about a half dozen times in the day prior to and the day of her visit, “Please remember to bring a check or cash. I really need my money.” She promised she would.
Right before she left my house, she went to dig the check from her purse. Surprise, no check. I begged her to mail it when she got home. She promised she would.
Then she dropped off the face of the earth for 3 days. Didn’t return my calls, texts, e-mail. Finally she called me and told me they didn’t have the money. I forgot to pay my cell phone portion. So my stepdad took my money and put all of it toward the phone bill. My mom was incredibly sorry, but she didn’t even have the money to fix what had been done by my stepdad (although she had the money to go across the country on vacation for a week with my little sisters and my stepdad last month).
I was wrong to be late, I know that. We had just moved, my mom or my stepdad never mentioned it and I completely forgot. It’s not like other obligations, where you get a notification. And if he had taken $25 from my money, I wouldn’t have blinked; it would have been convenient. But $800 isn’t $25. Even if he had used the money to pay my portion of the cell phone bill until the contract runs out, he would have only spent $450. But he insists he is justified. My mom has hurt me financially before, but this one is the one that makes me want to keep my distance for good. I’m heartbroken that my stepdad would do this and that my mom lied to me, and I really needed that money. Is there any polite way to go about getting my money back? Or was I wrong to leave cash in someone else’s possession?
You need to reconcile within yourself that you will never see that $800.00 again. It’s an expensive life lesson that you cannot trust certain family members with anything of value. I think you can still have a civil relationship with your mom and stepdad but if the subject of money ever comes up, you simply ignore the topic and decline to entertain any thoughts of transferring wealth from you to either of them. One can smile pleasantly and talk about mundane things with family while inwardly thinking, “No way in Ehell you’ll ever get a cent of my money.”
If in your shoes, I’d be inclined to document the money transfers starting with the $800.00 “deposit” on the specified date followed by each month’s “bill” for phone service and then communicate this statement, in writing, to your parents with a note that says, “Just so we’re all on the same page, this is my understanding of what occurred in regards to my $800.00 I left with stepdad and my payments of my share of the cell phone service. It appear from my records, that I am completely paid up through the end of the cell phone contract and I am due $350.00 upon termination of that contract.”
Don’t expect you’ll get a civil answer or see a cent of that money, however.
I’m sure there will be comments on this post encouraging you to file a police report or sue your parents. People making those kind of suggestions have probably never actually done what they are suggesting you do because if they had, they’d know what a huge pain in the rump it is to pursue legal action and how much money it really costs. Mentally write off the parents as your personal bank and move on.