Yesterday, Tim took his mom to the store. We had hashed out a couple of ways to approach the subject that wouldn’t put them on the defensive (hopefully) and would help it feel like a family effort. Mainly, that we also need to change our budget now that our situation has changed.
Tim saw how uncomfortable I was going to be and, bless him, tried to help by starting the conversation while taking his mom on a grocery trip. The end result, though, was them having to repeat a lot of the conversation in bits and pieces when they got back and our not really having a fluid line of dialogue.
Then again, who knows how much better it’d have been if I were there from the start.
Honestly, I’m still not clear exactly how much sunk in. She agreed with plenty and seemed to be positive about a few things: couponing in earnest, weekly meal plans based on the weekly circulars, planning meals so we’re not constantly running to the store, etc etc.
The problem is that, as far as I can tell, she’s still somewhat in denial. Ask her and she’ll tell you about ways she saved money. She’ll happily agree with you about coupons and careful shopping and all sorts of other things that make it clear that she thinks she’s frugal.
Of course, this site is all about imperfect frugality. So clearly I want to give her some room to breathe here. That said, you can be imperfectly frugal so long as you understand the impact it has on your budget. She seems to have given herself a decent amount of permission to be human — not a bad thing, necessarily — but can’t seem to own up to the effects on their current situation.
We kept trying to stress that we just wanted to get them on the path to a financial future, even if it’s just $25 or $50 a month into a car fund. It would be something. It would help them prioritize more if it weren’t an abstract thing they wanted to start “someday.”
She nodded and agreed, but it became clear we’re going to have to pin her down on a date to do this. I mentioned sitting down (for about the 4th time) and she just nodded and smiled. Or, I suggested, you can just write down your expenses, and I can look over them and help you figure out what you can afford. Nod, smile.
I let it go, but only because I didn’t want to overwhelm her. Tim and I have agreed to talk to her about this more on Thursday. As in, getting some definitive results. If we don’t have the actual budget hammered out by Friday, we will at least have scheduled a time on Sunday to sit down and go over things.
But we have a long way to go. Just a budget won’t snap her into a more realistic self-assessment. And there’s really no nice way to tell someone that she’s not half as frugal as she thinks.
She announced over dinner that the applesauce cups we were using were “only” $3.15 for a 6-pack at the store — plus she found a 55-cent coupon. The price was so good, she got two!
I routinely get large jars of applesauce for less than that. Without coupons. But we’d already slammed her with enough “truth” for one day. So I just smiled and nodded and didn’t really say anything.
I wonder, who’s learning from whom?