cash and receipt

Ah, spending habits!

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

My friend and I are at odds with one another – it’s a friendly difference of opinion but something needs to change. We are writing this email together because we’re hoping you can help us settle things once and for all.

We are both widows and comfortable financially. Not rich but no major debt and we both own our homes. Fortunately, we sure don’t have to worry about being secure. We are able to travel and do. It’s very nice to have each other for the companionship.

Here’s the topic we want help on. My friend is always looking for the best deal she can find – whether that’s at hotels, at the movies, the parks, groceries. You get the idea. I can’t decide if it’s a game with her or almost an obsession. She says she “just loves” seeing how much she can save here and there. I think she’s a penny pinching old lady who is caught in Depression Era thinking. She thinks I am a lazy old lady who takes the easy way out!

It becomes a real problem for us when we travel – she’ll want to go all over town trying to save a couple of bucks on dinner. I’m ready to eat at whatever place that’s close.

Do you think we can settle this so we are both happy?

Friend One, Friend Two

Dear Readers,

You must be very good friends if you can write a candid email like this! How nice for both of you to share such an honest and satisfying friendship.

Coping with differences in personalities and habits has been one of the human race’s lifelong challenges. Sadly, people are often unable to reconcile their differences. But I’m very optimistic about you two!

From this email, it sounds as though you share a wonderful attitude about this. I didn’t detect any blame. No, what struck me is you both seem to recognize that you two are different in this area of life and would simply like a solution. (Nice to hear a little humor in there too – always a positive.)

As I am sure you already know, frugality is a hallmark behavior of the Depression Era folks. Why wouldn’t it be? What a miserable experience it must have been to manage those difficult years. I can’t imagine what that deprivation meant for so many people.

Clearly, one of you has been left with lifelong lessons from this experience while the other has been able to put those years aside. Fortunately, neither of you seem to be blaming the other for her beliefs. Good! Now what?

You say this has the most direct impact on your friendship when you travel. Here’s what I suggest: The next time you are preparing for a trip, in addition to settling on where you’ll stay and what you’ll do, etc., put aside some time to come up with strategies for dealing with this difference in spending.

Begin by identifying your goals for this trip. Next, what are your individual priorities? Think in terms of: time, energy, enjoyment, physical comfort, human interaction, and safety. Why?  If you are able to thoroughly discuss specifically what each of you wants in these areas, you’ll have a better understanding of how your spending styles may clash.

Using the example you gave in your email, a new approach would look like this: prior to departure, you have discussed that “Friend One” has a greater need for simplicity and relaxation after traveling all day and “Friend Two”  loves the hunt of an inexpensive meal.

Now, identify solutions. Consider these three different possibilities: 1) Before you ever arrive at your destination, locate a restaurant that offers both of you a compromise – the internet can help you do some scouting in advance; 2) Decide that you will ask the hotel for suggestions that meet both of your needs; 3) Understand, before you ever leave home, that on any particular evening you may each dining alone. (No pouting! Sure, you may end up sacrificing an evening of companionship but avoiding any tension may be worth it.)

With a commitment to your friendship I am optimistic you two will find a way to live with your differences. Happy Trails!

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