So I’ve wanted to write this post for quite some time but was very apprehensive because discussing personal finances is a very sensitive issue. Sure, it is something that we deal with every day but it’s just not something we really discuss...
I was having a Whatsapp conversation with a new friend of mine, and it was because of that chat that I finally found a way to write about this topic (thanks DDR, super amped you’re getting married by the way).
The financial gap between all of the various social classes continues to be quite large, and growing, but unfortunately that is something not only happening in South Africa; it is something that is happening all over the world.
We live in an age where the rich people are getting richer, the poor people are getting poorer and the middle class people continue to struggle in their attempt to make ends meet.
I wanted to speak about this in a way that hits a little closer to home for me though – being the poor friend in your group of friends.
Sometimes life happens. Circumstances that are out of your control result in you being the least financially stable friend. Your friends don’t intend to make you self-aware of the fact that you are the poor friend but it’s just something you pick up on.
Being the poor friend is extremely shit...and I know this because I am THAT friend.
Before I really get into this, let me just say that none of my friends are wealthy. Some are better off than others, but we are all suffering under the high price of living.
I have been very fortunate to have friends in my life who are accommodating and understanding of the fact that I oftentimes don’t have the money to go out as often as I, or they, would like.
I owe them a great deal and shall one day make it up to them - buying my best friend a house (if I’m making millions and it doesn’t bankrupt me), chocolates and treating the others for meals when I’m finally earning a steady income; but until that glorious day arrives, my poor friend status is still in check.
So the most obvious question is that since I’m the poor friend, why haven’t I done something about it?
Well mainly because I was studying (doing a triple major actually) and I was already struggling to find a balance with my studies. I almost bombed out in second year of varsity because I felt so overwhelmed. I could’ve have got a job in the holidays but I was required to fill the role of babysitter looking after my youngest brother whenever it was needed.
When you come from a single parent household who has to provide for three kids on one salary and still pay for university fees (I was on financial aid but that only covered a portion of it) it often became very exhausting and overwhelming for my mother. Money was tight, and so to save on paying for crèche fees, I chipped in to look after my brothers whenever I could.
In some ways, I think, it was why I have been late to reach certain landmarks – not having my driver’s licence for example, because it was R200 that had to be paid to take the damn test; never mind the driving lessons fee. All I kept thinking was “that’s X number of breads, X many litres of milk, X days of bus fair and X amount of electricity units”.
Being neurotic has made overtly aware of being the poor friend, and because of this, there have been times when I was invited out with my friends and I would lie about my availability.
An excuse such as “I’m not feeling well” or creating some illness to avoid going out with them was something I would often do... I sometimes still do that, but more because I hate the fact that my friends have to cover my part of the bill sometimes. If I have money then I’ll gladly pay my part of the bill or chip in with tip or pay the car park fee but those days come around about as often as a blue moon.
You try your best to make it all the parties/birthdays/dinners that they invite you to, because these are people who you’d give a kidney for; but still there are times you have no money so you do the only thing you can - decline their company.
When declining their company often enough, you feel bad about it; but there is nothing you can do except settle in and watch TV series in your pyjamas.
I know that I’m not the only one to have experienced being the poor friend, which is why I felt so strongly about writing this. I just want to specify that being the poor friend doesn’t mean you are the bum of the group. The bum of the group is usually the person who can afford to pay for stuff but is just too cheapskate to add their part.
No one likes that friend.
I am very grateful for the fact that my friends have been so patient and understanding. I have on many occasions had heart-to-heart conversations about this issue with them and they just make me want to cry because they’re like “it’s cool”, “we understand” and “stop stressing so much”.
They don’t make a thing about it, and that fact just causes a lump in my throat.
I’m very lucky to have people in my life who love me as much as they do because it can only be an act of true love to put up with me – and not just the parts of me they like.
One day when I find myself in a steady job, earning a lot of money (shh let me believe this fantasy), I look forward to being able to make it up to all my really awesome true friends for all the stuff they’ve put up with.
Theo. Over and Out.
PS – To all my friends who have stuck with me during the hard times and been there for me, I love you lots like jelly tots.