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Comment, Money

The Price You Pay for Not Paying

Money (Money Money). Everyone likes it, but no one will admit that they’ve got it.

Oh no I mean, the little place we have in Nice is only a flat, not a house. We don’t have nearly as much money as the Leestons. We bought the house when it was tuppence!  

Or indeed, where they’ve got it from.

It’s a shitty time to be a young person today. EMA got cut, Uni fees got hiked and the baby boomers have screwed our chances to get housing (cheers m & d). But for those who can afford it, for the middle-class young, the prevalence of getting shit for free is high. At that stage in life, where university is slowly becoming the past, yet real life not the present, money, and where to get it from, becomes the pressing question.

Well, remember to say goodbye to your freshly-formed independence when you open up that swanky new (free) Macbook Air. Farewell to being treated like an adult. So long, adieu, etc.

Not receiving much support from my parents (albeit, not always of my own choice) has resulted in an unexpected freedom, a liberation on par with overcoming the fear of blowing one’s nose in busy rooms. Let me be clear – I still receive some help. My mother still pays for my phone bill (something I remembered when writing this article – probs should change that) and when I go home for the summer, I live at home. Although this year all I got for Christmas from my dad was a t-shirt saying ‘LIFE IS MEANINGLESS AND EVERYTHING DIES’ I have received iPods, clothes, cheese, books, and posh radios for a number of years every birthday and Christmas. I am very privileged. No buts, it is indisputable. I am lucky.

For a number of reasons to do with being a child of divorce, asking for money has always been a fearful experience, and as a result jolted my sense of entitlement rather violently. It was the point where I realised my parents were real people, who didn’t love me unconditionally, and actually, found it quite annoying looking after me. It became a tool for either of them to get back at the other, one £20 school trip at a time. If I wanted money (which I often did, young, naive and full of entitlement) I’d be required to get involved in a unsolvable dispute. “Get your mum to pay for it, I give her child maintenance” / “If your mother hadn’t taken me to court she would have gotten a lot more” / “I pay for everything can’t your father pay for something” / “Your father never has to look after you, get him to pay”.

And thus, at the ripe age of 8 or 9, I was painfully aware of how little my parents wanted me around. And, as time passed, and competing with a new spouse and siblings appeared a necessity, money became the language of love. How can you not feel unloved when your father takes his two younger children and their mother on holiday to America to visit your family, and you don’t get invited? The spoiled nature of the expectation is obvious, yet the sting is still there. If there’s one way to resist your children becoming too sheltered, make sure you hurt them early. They won’t forget after that.

It was clear to me as I got older that all I wanted was to be treated equally, not the money or the holiday, but delineating that at a young age when your parents show their love and support through money is near impossible. So I stopped expecting it. If I was denied something that my two, younger (half) sisters received, or my father’s new wife, then the way to deal with that was not to want it.

I wasn’t going to be given the lessons, technology, holidays, that my middle class-ness left me desiring, I was prompted to reflection on how lucky I was to live the well-off existence I have been living. Although there was more to my denied expenses than just economic frugality on my parents’ part, I was still exceptionally lucky to have received what I had when I was younger. Now, even when offered money, I don’t accept.

To a certain extent, this is stubbornness and resentment. But with it has a come a freedom that I hadn’t noticed I’d possessed. Friends of mine who are given money for rent, holidays, £300 ski boots, are still at the beck and call of their elders. They lose any sense of independence, any legitimate argument that they might know better than their parents, or that their parents are fallible. It’s hard to stand your ground when a week later, you need that £100 you get to keep on living the way you do. The leverage these parents wield is dominating, and no matter how old they are, if they’re still receiving money from them, then they’re going to be treated like a child. My parents haven’t told me what to do in years. They have few things to deny me, and so their power is diminished.

Not taking money not only gives you the liberties of an adult, but one might even develop a moral conscience. To those in this situation: Don’t be one of the elite who perpetuate the wealth disparity by leeching off their parents. Being born into the family you were gives you no entitlement to the money your parents are lucky enough to have – you are no better, no cleverer, no more interesting than those with less money than you. It is morally unjustifiable for you to take that money when other struggle with new-found poverty after we have spending cuts that disproportionately affect the poorest. I can’t define where parental support ends and being spoiled begins, but endeavouring to take as little as possible seems the best solution. See Peter Singer for further reference.

It can be hard bursting the coddled bubble of privilege, to realise what you may get is not actually normal and not actually expected. The earlier those people realise it, though, the happier they’ll be in the future, when inevitably, unless they’re totally minted, it will be taken away from them anyway. To be respected, independent, supporting a fair society and free to do what you want is better than anything money can buy.

 

By Ruby Lott-Lavigna

Written May 2014

 

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3 thoughts on “The Price You Pay for Not Paying

  1. Alex says:

    Unfortunately for many it just isn’t possible to be self sufficient at University, especially for those from the most affluent of families whereby the student loan provision does not even cover the accommodation. This isn’t a woe-is-the-plight of an affluent child but a realisation that even such a child of the best intentions will not have the freedom you advocate at University, so when you are looking down on those who are reliant on their parents it is some times through necessity. Much of your points still stand such as about taking as little as possible but realise that as a result of your parents being separated this does provide some ability to school the system in that your primary address is attached to a single home of the lowest earner providing the opportunity to achieve a higher loan. I pass no comment on the fairness of this as this is of course dependant on your own personal situation, but you do need to check your privilege with regard to leering down on your compatriots at uni who in some cases want nothing more than to stop leeching of their parents and who only take what they can and work during the summer and still find that this is not enough to fund their education.

    • Well, actually, I don’t think it’s privileged of me to assume that there are other ways of getting money for university than from your parents. I know a lot of people who actually have to work through their summers in order pay for accommodation and living costs. The perspective that ‘I can’t pay for this immediately therefore i’ll just get some cash from my parents’ is a pretty privileged position to be in, so perhaps you should shift that ‘check your privilege’ back on yourself. Merely the assumption of what one can and can’t pay for is determined by the amount of wealth that you’re used to receiving, and we all have different levels and expectation. I just think the level which pervades middle class university students at the moment is quite high.

      I think also to some extend people need to take responsibility for the university they chose. I believe there should be more information released on this, but if you choose to go to university in Exeter or St. Andrews over Leeds or Manchester for example, then you’re going to have to deal with the fact that accommodation will be much more expensive. This doesn’t stand as an excuse to take money from parents.

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