As most of you know, my cousin has been living with me since late December. This is the same cousin who bought a giant truck he couldn’t afford a few years ago, and the same one whose money I attempted to manage while he was in basic training for the National Guard. I’ll just be honest – seven months of a messy, distractible, somewhat lazy 23 year-old guy living on my couch has just about driven me completely insane.
He moved into my house after losing his job. I actually had a lot of sympathy because he was good at his work, made plenty of money, and never called in sick in two years. He didn’t want to burden my grandfather, and I won’t get started re: his parents, so it fell to me to give him a place to stay while he got back on his feet.
Until he lived here, I didn’t realize that he was an even bigger slob than my son. That he owned more clothes than a mall, most of which I would find abandoned in various parts of my house. That he would be incapable of picking up after himself unless I had time to stand over him and direct every paper plate, napkin, and soda can into the garbage. My nagging (and subsequent refusal to let his girlfriend come over because of the mess) has definitely strained our relationship, though I didn’t know any other way to get through to him.
Now he has pulled a stunt (or series of stunts) so ridiculous I don’t know how he’ll ever recover. And while I’m thrilled to report that he moved out over the weekend, I can’t help wondering how long it will be before he’s knocking on my door again. Please, learn from his mistakes.
Impulse Control? What’s That?
Cousin got a job working in the mines in April. Naturally this was distressing to me because it’s hard, dirty, dangerous work, though you can’t beat the money if you lack a college degree in this area. He started out as a temp making next to nothing but has just earned his experience card and moved to a full-time position. Between regular pay, overtime, and royalty bonuses, he’ll earn a nice living if he sticks with it.
Naturally with all the friction between us he has been counting down the days until he could get another place of his own. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down as well! However, given the fact that my grandfather and I have been splitting his bills for the past seven months, I assumed he’d take some time to catch up on all his payments before he was ready to move.
Instead, he just signed a lease on a newly built duplex that rents for $750 a month. Because he signed with 10 days left in the month, he has to pay 1/3 of June’s rent ($250), prepay July’s rent on the 1st ($750), and pay a $750 deposit. For those keeping up at home, that’s $1750, which is a mind-boggling sum for rural Kentucky. (By comparison, the first house my ex and I rented was $375 a month with a $200 deposit and no lease. Yes, that was 11 years ago but there are still plenty of decent rentals around here in that price range.)
He had to pay $750 – the $250 for June and $500 of the deposit – to get the keys to the duplex, so he did that on Friday. The problem? This wasn’t a pay week and he only had about $800 in the bank. So he’s currently broke and sleeping on an air mattress in an otherwise empty house. And when he gets paid again this Friday, he has to pay the other $1000 for July’s rent and the rest of the deposit.
But wait! There’s more! Cousin also has to have the utilities switched into his name, which will require deposits. And his car payment (on the brand new car he bought after he graduated from basic training) is due on July 10th. Not to mention his phone bill, student loan payment, and buying things like food and gas for his car. And we won’t talk about the $10 million or so he owes me and our grandfather. But he isn’t thinking about any of that stuff because he couldn’t get past the want.
Been There, Done That
My cousin’s decision-making skills remind me so much of myself at his age. I was slightly more responsible because I was married and had a child, but I used the same kind of messed up accounting to justify the things I thought I needed.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that, if you have to juggle and struggle and go without things you need to pay for something, you can’t afford it. Period. When you say things like, “Well, if I eat bread soaked in water for 3 days and don’t run the air conditioner in my car and as long as I can sell my worldly possessions on Craigslist by Friday, I can sign this lease,” what you’re really saying is, “I am an idiot and I’m reaching for something that’s beyond my grasp right now.”
What my cousin should have done is wait another month or two. He should have gotten reacquainted with the bills he hasn’t been paying, figured out how much he could pay in rent (not $750 plus utilities, in case you’re wondering), and saved up for his deposits ahead of time. And gee, I don’t know, maybe he could have saved a little money for things like furniture and food.
Instead, he let his desire to get his own place overshadow everything else. And while I completely understand him wanting to live on his own again instead of sleeping on my couch, it’s not like I was standing at the door waiting to shut it behind him. And I’ll likely have to help him clean up the mess when he inevitably runs out of money and can’t pay his bills again. :/
What You Can Learn From This
If my cousin’s situation seems all too familiar to you and you’re doing the “let’s find a complicated way to get what I want” dance, it’s time to stop. Seriously, just stop it. If you truly have no other options, your situation may be a little different, but generally there are always other options. They just may not be the ones you want at the time.
Dealing with money truly doesn’t have to be complicated. If you know what your bills are and what you can really afford (and have the income to back it up), you can get anything you want – as long as you’re willing to wait for the right time. You don’t have to run around like a lunatic trying to come up with $25 to buy sheets for your bed. You don’t have to eat ramen until you get paid. If those are the choices you have to make, you are living beyond your means, plain and simple.
As my friend Paula says, you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything. And you definitely can’t afford it all at once. I know it’s hard to learn to delay gratification because it was nearly impossible for me. But once I got serious about getting out of debt and learned to control my impulses to overspend, it became pretty easy to stop throwing money away. I just hope my cousin learns the same things before he ends up back on my couch.
Do you know someone who refuses to take responsibility for his/her finances? Ever rent or buy more house than you could afford? I’d love to hear what you think about my cousin’s new living situation.