- Number of times my mother has accidentally locked us out of the house in the last two days*: 2
- Amount of time I spent last night sitting in the back garden at 5 degree temperatures (41 F): 1 hour 15 minutes
- Amount of money Mum has spent on locksmiths and glaziers (at weekend rates): over $200
- Amount of money Mum could have saved if she had only been prepared to wait a couple of hours (in a friend's warm house) for a neighbour with a spare key to get home: over $200
- Amount of time she would have had to wait today if she had chosen this solution: 1 hour 30 minutes (Yesterday, less than an hour)
- Number of other locksmiths and glaziers she called to compare their prices: 0**
- Number of times I suggested that maybe she couldn't afford to call someone out and that I didn't mind waiting: 2
- Number of times today that Mum has complained she can't possibly live on the money she is getting from welfare: 2
- Number of times she hinted to me at the grocery shop this afternoon that maybe I should pay for the food: 4
- Number of times I bit my tongue to stop myself from saying, "If you hadn't called a locksmith and a glazier, you might be able to afford to eat": too many to count.
And that illustrates the problem I have with my mother and money. I (mostly) respect people's right to treat their money the way they want to. In the past, when my mother had a middle-class income, I never said anything about her needless spending (although I admit I totally judged her silently in my head). But now she is trying to live an upper-middle class life on a poverty-line income.
I know how hard it is to be poor. I did it for years myself. But I also know that when you are poor, you wait a few hours to be able to get into your locked house for free, rather than calling out a locksmith at weekend rates. When you are poor, you comparison shop for EVERYTHING. If you have to pay a locksmith, you call every locksmith listed in the phone book and take the cheapest. I do also know that, when you are poor, you sometimes get frustrated with not being able to do what you want when you want, and you spend money that you can't really afford to spend. But when you do that, you cannot then turn around and ask other people (who DO manage their money carefully) to cover your basics.
Or am I just heartless and stingy?
*Last night while I was over at the university library for a couple of hours, Mum decided to go down the road to visit a friend, and locked us both out. (I had taken a key, but she had set the safety chain on that door before leaving). I waited in the garden for her to get home, assuming she had a different key with her, but no such luck. Then this morning I drove her to church, and unbeknownst to me, when she ducked back into the house to get something she had forgotten, she set the deadlock on the back door for "extra safety", then left through the garage, which can be closed manually from outside, but not opened without a remote control that is currently at a repairman's. And of course we didn't have the deadlock key, nor any key to a door other than the one with the deadlock.
**My mother is a big fan of the "call the first name in the phone book and don't ask what they charge" approach.