Etiquette School is in session! > "What an interesting assumption."

s/o of "You Can't Afford This"..."They/You Can't Afford That!"

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nuit93:
What do you do when the person telling you "you can't afford that" is a relative?

My mother has a tendency to be judgmental about how people manage their money/finances.  Growing up, she was very careful about budgeting and rarely spent money on anything indulgent--Starbucks once a month was a special treat and anyone who drank it more often was irresponsible/destined to be broke, etc.  To be fair, it wasn't like there was a lot of money anyways but it always bugged me that she had to have such a...TONE about it.

Throughout college, me or my sisters would sometimes make mistakes with money or perhaps spend money on something we shouldn't have...a haircut somewhere nicer than the $20/cut chain store, an accidental overdraw, lunch out with coworkers instead of brownbagging a PB&J...nothing over the top but just a part of the learning curve.  Based on how she would bad-mouth my sister's mistakes to me, I could only imagine what she said about me to them.  Later, when I made plans to move out at 24 (I lived at home through college to save money), she talked constantly to my middle sister and her friends about what a stupid mistake I was making, how I had no idea what I was doing and would just end up broke and back at home again.

Middle sis confided this to me, and I promptly wrote mom an email (since I was too angry to say anything to her face) explaining that 1) it was NOT okay to talk to talk to sis and especially not her friends about what I was doing, 2) that I was an intelligent person who knew how to create a budget and live by it, and 3) while I'm addressing my list of issues, the snide remarks about my religious beliefs were extremely offensive and inappropriate and would no longer be tolerated by me.  She later gave a half-hearted apology and admitted she hadn't realized she was being offensive or inappropriate in her actions.  I'm not sure how she couldn't, but whatever...

Fast forward to now, some eight years later.  Middle sis and Mom have both gotten married to men who are well off--as in, able to pay cash for new cars, own their own homes nearly outright even though we live in an expensive part of the country.  As such, when traveling for family events they usually book rooms at a hotel.  Since BF and I are of more modest means and wants (pretty solidly middle class on paper but we've been dealing with medical bills, plus I'd like to be able to retire before I'm too old to work), we usually opt to make them day trips or stay somewhere cheaper/with friends. 

On the most recent trip for my sister's graduation, we made it a day trip even though it was four hours each way.  We probably could have swung for a hotel room, but we had each booked other travel plans for this year already and while gas and food were well within our budget, a hotel would have been pushing it. 

I don't like telling the family about money issues because I don't feel it's appropriate, so I explained that we were making it a day trip since BF was on call for work (half true) and that we don't sleep well in beds not our own (also, kinda true).

There was something of an attitude shift in how mom regarded me and BF compared to Middle Sis and BIL.  At one point, she discreetly handed me a gas card for much more than we really would have spent in traveling.  I thanked her profusely and told her she didn't have to do that, and she said not to worry about it, she'd given one to Baby Sis since she was broke and just out of school.  When I asked if she'd given one to MS she said "heck no, they can afford their own gas and then some...don't tell them I helped you".

I was still grateful to accept the gas card, but it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.  We aren't poor by any stretch, but we certainly aren't as well off as MS and BIL.  BF told me I should just accept the gift and not obsess over the motives, but I couldn't help but feel like a bit of a charity case.

Is it so weird that I felt a bit degraded?  I certainly did my best not to show it, and it's not like I ever ask Mom or her husband for money (and I wouldn't).  Do I just need to get over this?

TurtleDove:

--- Quote from: nuit93 on June 17, 2013, 02:49:30 PM ---BF told me I should just accept the gift and not obsess over the motives, but I couldn't help but feel like a bit of a charity case.

Is it so weird that I felt a bit degraded?  I certainly did my best not to show it, and it's not like I ever ask Mom or her husband for money (and I wouldn't).  Do I just need to get over this?

--- End quote ---

Your BF is right, and you need to get over this.

NyaChan:
You feel how you feel, there's nothing wrong with that.

I would note however, that you did ask specifically if she gave middle sister a card - that really wasn't your business and it opened you up to the comment.  After being asked, it makes sense to explain why she left one daughter out of this gift.  I suspect the added on comment about not telling middle sister about it was meant actually to reassure you that she was no longer chatting about her perceptions of your finances to others so that you wouldn't feel bad.

Also, as far as obsessing over motives, weren't her motives pretty obvious anyways?  It wasn't a birthday or Christmas and she didn't owe you money.  She gave you the card to help you out with an expense she though might be hard on you.  That's nothing to be ashamed of.

wheeitsme:
It sounds like your mom was trying to help.  And you said she was discrete about it.  It sounds like she was just trying to make things a little easier for someone she loves.

nuit93:

--- Quote from: NyaChan on June 17, 2013, 02:54:57 PM ---You feel how you feel, there's nothing wrong with that.

I would note however, that you did ask specifically if she gave middle sister a card - that really wasn't your business and it opened you up to the comment.  After being asked, it makes sense to explain why she left one daughter out of this gift.  I suspect the added on comment about not telling middle sister about it was meant actually to reassure you that she was no longer chatting about her perceptions of your finances to others so that you wouldn't feel bad.

Also, as far as obsessing over motives, weren't her motives pretty obvious anyways?  It wasn't a birthday or Christmas and she didn't owe you money.  She gave you the card to help you out with an expense she though might be hard on you.  That's nothing to be ashamed of.

--- End quote ---

I was actually a bit indirect about how I asked if MS had received a card, the conversation was more like this (paraphrasing):

Me: Thank you!  That was very generous of you, you didn't have to do that.
Mom: Oh, we wanted to help out, gas prices and all...
Me (kind of jokingly): Well, we do get better gas mileage than BIL's car by a long shot.
Mom (also laughing a bit): Oh, heck, they can afford that and then some! (more serious) You didn't tell them about this, right? I wasn't going to give them anything...
Me: No, I wasn't going to, it's okay.


You're all probably correct, I should really just get over it and accept a gift for what it is.  I just hate having to admit when something is out of my budget, even if it's something that most people would find ridiculously expensive anyways (like a $50/head restaurant when we can more reasonably afford $20-25/head).  I just prefer to make a polite excuse as to why we can't do X or Y activity.

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