Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's Not That I Can't, It's That I Don't Want To

Doesn't this look lovely!?!
This is something that I noticed the other day, not a new thing, but just something that caught my attention.  I was locking up my bike at work, and the custodian, who was taking out the trash did a double take before he waved at me.

Once I got inside, he asked, "You can't afford gas?"

"It's not that I can't afford it," I told him, "It's that I can better afford the calories and don't want to pay for gas."

Likewise, I kind of got into it with a library patron one day when he asked for help downloading a book to his smartphone.  I referred him to my older co-worker for help, because she actually has a smart phone and downloads books all the time (in return, I field the patron questions about eReaders--it's a nice balance).  This patron looked at me and asked, skeptically, "You don't have a smart phone?"

"I can't afford one." I told him. This has been my go-to explanation for years, and I've never had issue with it before.

"But they're only like $50 a month!" he told me, "You'd pay that much for a regular, non-smart phone."

I didn't want to debate with him about the cost of the actual phone, data plan, etc., but it really got me wondering: why do people find the need to try to spend your money for you?  I'm sure he was just trying to be helpful, and I'm sure if I hunted around I could find a decent deal on a smart phone, but I genuinely do not want one.  I should have just said that instead.

I'm sure I'm guilty of this as well.  I worked with a few cellphone holdouts back in the early 2000s, and even though I can't remember specifically, I'm sure I said to at least one of them "you should get a cell phone."  Is this a distinctly American trait, or does this happen everywhere?

In the small town where I grew up, almost any time you saw someone out walking, you offered him or her a ride.  I remember one night, a friend of mine just wanted to go for a walk, and she got stopped several times by people offering her rides and who seemed confused when she said "I just want to go for a walk."

It's kind of a Catch-22 because people do these things to be nice (kind of), but it's also a bit condescending.  I guess it's similar to people telling you that you have to watch a certain movie, or you must like the Beatles  Am I overthinking things?  Has anyone else encountered this?


  1. I cant speak for the whole UK (of course) but at my work it seems to be almost the opposite. There is real pride in saying ' i have had this mobile for six years and its still going strong' or even horror of horrors, eschewing a mobile completely. I have noticed that all the directors and senior managers drive the old cars and bring their own lunch too, whereas the juniors are way more likely to waste money on flash cars and lunch from the 'sandwich lady'. Suits me i am mean with my money and suddenly it is fashionable!!

  2. Whenever people encourage me to partake in expensive entertainment, shop, or incur some extra monthly expense, I either say that I don't have money in the budget for it, or, even more accurately, I want to use that money for something else. The something else could be another purchase, or it could be to pay down debt or save. When I give this reason, people usually back off.

  3. @Lizzie--I wish I ran into situations like that! I keep reading about this 'Yankee thrift' where people let the wallpaper peel off and wear the same sweater for 20 years, but I've never really seen any evidence of it.

    @Ms. JD--that's going to be my new strategy I think.

  4. That "only $50 a month" attitude is what gets people into trouble. I don't have a smart phone either because I can't stomach the monthly fee.

  5. I can't believe instead of lauding you for riding your bike that he asked if you couldn't afford gas! What an a**.
    I've been driving to work since I started working here almost 2 years ago. After crashing my car recently, I decided to ride my bike (and found out that the company pays me about $6 a day to do so!) I LOVE it and I think a lot of my co-workers are jealous that they don't have that option. I save money on gas, I get my exercise in (8 miles round trip), and I MAKE money too. I would still do it even if they weren't paying me, but it was definitely a nice incentive to do it more often!

  6. p.s. i hope you can tell by all the random comments I'm leaving on your blog that I LOVE it!