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The bank of Mom and Dad: closed for business

Published: March 17, 2006
Section: Opinions


When were young our parents try to instill in us the value of a dollar. Some parents assigned chores in exchange for a monthly or weekly allowance. Five bucks to take out the trash, ten to do the dishes. Some opened up savings accounts where our birthday money was deposited every year. Whatever the strategy may be, most parents attempt to prepare their children for that day when they are officially cut off from the parental money tree. There may be some lucky ones among us whose parents continue to provide unlimited access to their credit card through the college years, but I am certainly not among them.

I have never been the type to spend a lot of money. Even so, when I was younger, mom and dad were the ones who funded that new pair of Gap jeans or that overpriced bathing suit that I only wore twice. Theyd give me ten bucks if I was going to the movies. It never seemed like a lot then, but now that I am the one financing those jeans and that ridiculous bathing suit, man, things seem different.

Who knew that twenty five bucks for a Friday night out, twenty times a year, would come out to five hundred dollars? Thats a pretty hefty chunk of my summer earnings, especially considering that most of that money is spent on movie tickets, food and drinks. I dont have any evidence of those purchases anymore, except for some very painful memories of the movie Cellular.

In addition to these luxury-type costs, there are the necessities. When I was still living at home, I never considered the price of items like shampoo, toothpaste and gas. They always seemed to be there, so I never bothered to question it. At college, I find myself often thinking I have to pay for this stuff?! A haircut costs at least twenty five bucks. Thank god I dont do highlights.

I guess, in a way, this is a good realization to come to. Yes, things cost money. It makes sense. I often find myself looking at a price tag and converting it into the number of hours it would have taken me at my job this past summer to earn that amount. When a pair of fantastic Pumas becomes a weeks worth of Brandeis tour-giving, they just dont seem so pretty anymore.

I dont know how beneficial or productive this system really is, and I certainly have not stopped spending money altogether. I still get my hair cut, buy toothpaste, and indulge in unnecessary pairs of shoes and handbags. I do, however, have a new way of thinking about money and how I choose to spend it. I think twice before whipping out that credit card, because I know that at the end of the month that charge is coming back to me, not to daddy. Of course, my parents still help me out to some extent, but I find some pride in knowing that I am paying my own way. Except for that forty grand a year, of course. I wonder how many hours at the admissions office that would be.