Monday, 4 February 2013

Show us yer spreadsheet!

Are you financially intimate with your friends?  I would say I am financially intimate with two of my friends. In fact, I am so financially intimate with one of them,  that our favourite activity is a game called, "Show me your spreadsheet."

During this game, we each detail to the other how much we earn per week and where it all goes. We are completely honest about this.  She is often horrified by how much I spend. I am often disgusted by how little she spends.

Sometimes we do the game with a yearly per annum salary. Sometimes we do it weekly.  Seldom monthly. I'm not sure why.

It all started because years back, she actually had a spreadsheet of all her incomings and outgoings and she willingly showed it to me.  Quite without shame.  It wasn't showing off, she's on an average professional sort of wage, has an average sized mortgage and she owns her own average sort of car. Her husband  earned less than she did and they were about to have their first child.  She was trying to figure out how they would manage on just his wage, hence the spreadsheet.

At the time, I was subsisting on an indecently low weekly wage and renting. I was newly married and my then-husband was working his way up.  We weren't high flyers, in fact I'd say we felt as though we were constantly struggling.  My friend was trying to show me that they weren't high flyers either.

I have to say, it's one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. It really put a lot of things into perspective. It made me feel better about the choices we made and the way we lived.

I found out amongst other things that they only allowed themselves to buy a family-size block of chocolate in the weekly grocery shop if their favourite brand was on special, her husband bought large bottles of Coke and decanted them into smaller portions for each day (instead of expensive can multipacks) and when they had takeaway (once a week) they ordered one entree and a main between them.

Talk about austerity measures.

When I compared this to the way we were living: extravagant dinners out whenever we felt flush with cash, ordering takeaway at least twice a week without caveats and renting in one of the most expensive suburbs of Sydney, I didn't feel so bad about our 'struggles'.

But the detail that caused my friend to gasp in horror at the sheer frivolity, was my husband's three multi-packs-of-mini-KitKats-a-week habit in the weekly shop.

"Those are $5 each!" She gasped. 

Oh extravagance thy name is mini-KitKats.

My other friend has a more lassez faire approach. She often blithely tells me how much her last grocery bill was. The other day it was upwards of $350.
"I nearly fell off me perch!" She said.
Again, it's not showing off, she's not comfortable with that giant bill, au contraire.  They are pretty standard Aussie battlers with two kids, an indecent-sized mortgage and two cars still to pay off.   Sometimes her grocery bill is just indecently huge and it helps to talk about it.

Another friend of mine has in the past not been as forthcoming about her spreadsheet. I've never asked to see it, but I sensed it was not a question that would be received comfortably.  She IS a high flyer and I think she doesn't want me to be embarrassed by the sheer indecency of her salary.

Recently though, she did offer, very discretely to show me her spreadsheet.  I declined her generous offer.  But I have to say, her willingness to lay bare somehow brought us closer.

Financial growth? In a manner of speaking.

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