This is the second installment of a chapter that was cut from Alan Corey’s A Million Bucks By 30  (review ). In this part we get to learn about Kelly, the girlfriend referenced in the title of the chapter.
(This is a pretty long section but reads really quickly and is pretty interesting)
Oh No, Girlfriend (Part 2), Where We Learn About Kelly
A girlfriend of mine, Kelly, would spend most of her paycheck on clothes. Each week, she and her friends would head off to the mall and shop. Not just window-shopping, but actually purchasing clothes until they ran out of money. This was a weekly endeavor, one that thankfully, I was never invited to attend. But I saw the results, in the form of the scores of shopping bags that made it back to the apartment. I never understood the need to have more than one black shirt, but it was Kelly’s money and her choice to buy seven of them in one day. I had already figured out that an Excel spreadsheet wasn’t going to change anyone’s spending habits, so I figured I just had to learn to keep my mouth shut, and boy did that prove to be a formidable challenge. At least she had cable TV to watch whenever I felt like speaking up.
A typical evening went something like this: Kelly and I would have plans, and we’d usually run an hour late because she couldn’t decide between wearing her red pumps or her red pumps with a bow. I’ve come to understand that this is important to many people, but when it makes you perennially late, there is a problem at hand. I think it’s the rare case when a person makes any life-altering choices in preparing to go to the bar down the street. The beer is still going to taste the same. Kelly explained it wasn’t so much the decision making process that made her late, it was the fact that she could never find the outfit she was looking for in her closet. She just had way too much in it to locate what she wanted! To me, this was another sign of a bigger issue, but I kept to my game plan and kept my mouth shut. Plus, she was so much fun when we finally made it out, it was always worth the wait.
Eventually, we’d show up at our destination and get a chance to enjoy ourselves. She would be drinking cranberry and top-shelf vodka and I would be downing water or the cheapest beer available. For some reason, this behavior would embarrass her, so it was just a matter of time until she started buying me “real drinks,” as she called it. (A real drink being anything that cost more than six dollars.) I would try to reason with her that I enjoyed her company regardless of what I was drinking. My thoughts always fell on deaf ears, and after a while it became easier to acquiesce. If she wanted to pay for them, it was fine with me.
By the end of the night, I’d want to walk/stumble home, and she would offer to splurge for a cab. Time and time again, this was the scenario: I would offer up a cheap alternative, only to get outbid by Kelly who wanted to go the more expensive route. She offered to pay every time, because she knew I was completely happy doing the budget-friendly alternative. Either she was really sweet, or I was the biggest mooch ever. (Most likely it was a combination of both.) To her a good night was spending a lot of money. To me, a good night was spending it with her (and not just for the free drinks!)
The thing was, Kelly was constantly complaining about being broke. She blamed her job, her parents, and even her apartment, but she never made the connection between her actions and her financial predicament. To make things worse, when she wasn’t spending money, she was losing it.
Kelly had a habit of losing her bag or jacket whenever we went out. Her date to lost item ratio was essentially 1:1. Complicating matters was the fact that she wouldn’t realize something was missing until about three days later, at which point it was next to impossible to retrace our steps. And I’d be the one calling the bars, restaurants, and theaters trying to track down her gear. We had a blast going out, but the aftermath became a headache. When I wasn’t doing that, I would just sit there, with my mouth shut, watching her cable TV. I didn’t want to ruin this good thing we had going.
Once Kelly let it slip that her parents were subsidizing her rent. Her entire paycheck from work was mainly disposable income. The weekly shopping spree was her pay-off for working a 9-5 job. Kelly felt like if she just had a higher salary, she would be able to make ends meet. While the rest of the world worked 9-5 to live, Kelly did it to pay for a 14 blue scarves a week habit. And when she lost something, there never was the sting of disappointment or inconvenience that normal people experience when that happens. Instead, she would just have another excuse to go out shopping. With her rent basically paid for, Kelly had the opportunity to be richer than all of her friends, but she was squandering it away recklessly by shopping for recreation, losing things with no consequence, and always picking the most expensive options. She made one bad financial choice after another.
Kelly was the first person I’d ever met who just had no value or concept of money. She always had the financial safety net of her parents’ support in case things ever got out of hand, so she never had to think about or manage her finances. Even if I had tried to teach her the value of a dollar, it would have been like attempting to teach her French Bulldog Italian. She was a sweet girl who never had to learn about personal finance, because there were never any consequences if she didn’t.
Yet through it all, Kelly just constantly talked about being broke. She could not see why she was always bouncing checks or having to call her mom for more money. She eventually turned it around on me, because I wouldn’t buy her anything. Her reasoning was if I wasn’t buying myself new outfits, I could at least buy her new outfits. I didn’t even offer a retort, I liked her too much. I just continued my plan to sit with my mouth shut and watch her TV. I was going to milk this game plan as long as possible, because my only other alternative –Excel spread sheets – hadn’t worked in the past. After about four months, she had had enough, and she kicked me out. And you know what, my life changed. I haven’t been late to parties or watched the Home Shopping Network since.
That’s it for part two, keep on the lookout for part three tomorrow! Part three covers the first half of some lessons learned.