Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The $1000 Lesson

That I still haven't learned...

I am really struggling with something... and it's a pretty big reoccurring theme in my life.  I do way too much for other people and my life ends up suffering because of it.  If it's not draining me financially it drains me mentally and physically.  That sounds kind of awful to say, because I truly love helping others.  The problem is I just don't know how to find a balance between my life and theirs.  For starters it's always been easier to help someone else out than to focus on my own needs, but I will just give and give until I have nothing left to give.  It's ok if it's appreciated, but too often I end up just feeling burned by that person.    

Here is a financial example:

As of yesterday I was on a family plan with 2 of my siblings.  Sibling A: I pay for as my contribution while they are in college.  Sibling B: I included as a nice gesture since my employer offered a 19% discount and it was much less than what they were paying at the time.  That sibling in particular has had a tough go at life, but every time B seems to get things in order it all comes crashing down.  Not long after our two year contract began this sibling became stuck in a continuous downward spiral and has spent a lot of the last two years unemployed.  Since we were locked into a contract it meant that I covered a majority of the cell phone bills along with the late payment fees + the payment program fees.  The additional fees totaled over $200 per year, which basically cancelled out the majority of my 19% discount.  Had I paid the bills up front I could have avoided those service fees, but each month I held out that B would get it together. 

As our contract was nearing an end, I looked into contract free plans.  Found one that was comparable to my current plan and even used the same network, but was a good deal cheaper.  I picked out new phones and happened to be on the internet one day when I saw them advertised as half off.  I leaped to purchase 3 immediately.  Yes, 3.  I couldn't leave B out.  I felt responsible for giving them access to the new plan, but at least now they will be responsible for activating it and subsequently paying for it.  I attempted to do three separate orders since each phone needed to go to a different address.  I fought for about 10 hours to get the first sale to go through and had my card rejected on each attempt after that.  Turns out it was... Cyber Monday.  UGH!  No Spend November, fail.  Eventually I bought the phones slightly discounted on Amazon for a stinging $100 each.
Past Due Bill + Current Bill + Coming Month Bill + 3 New Phones + 2 New Pre-Paid Plans = $970

Just my luck, B's phone was back ordered.  I could have saved myself $70 by cancelling B's plan along with mine yesterday, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that.  If I did, B would lose their phone number, which is not the end of the world... but a big enough hassle.  I know I am letting myself be taken advantage of, but I still can't bring myself to "leave B out in the cold".  My way of "cutting B off" is to set up B with everything they need to begin a new plan, including no past due balances to worry about.  I can't decide if that is right or not?  In my heart I know it's not going to work out, at least for the present. I just keep thinking that if I did everything possible to set B up for success then the rest is on B.  Everything I am doing is essentially to make myself feel better... and nothing that will really help the situation.  I know B is the only one that can pick themselves up... but just nothing about the situation sits well with me.  I'm cutting the loss... but only after I lose a little bit more. 

Anyone have any advice for learning to put yourself first?


  1. I am in a very similar situation with a family member. I don't have any advice for you as I am at my own wits end, but just wanted to let you know you aren't alone! Miss you!

  2. oh gosh. That's a doozie. Maybe thinking of it as putting your 'financial stability' first rather than 'yourself'. To be honest, if B's financial trouble is making it so that they can't keep up monthly cell bills, their problem is much bigger than what you are trying to help with. My brothers used to struggle with their cell bills too. Now they have found ways to maintain and afford their phones. Things like using 'pay as you go' plans, which typically come with free texting, and then they only text, or have become strict users of the 'after 6 its free' thing.

    If long distance calls are a problem you may be able to set yourself up with a 1-800 number if you have a home phone. then at least B can call you for free.

    Don't fret, kindly let B know that you are working two jobs and can't stay on this way. I'm optimistic B will land on their feet. I had little hope for my bros at one point and they found their own way.

  3. I don't have advice about putting oneself first- you know me! And then you'd say- take your own advice.

    You do need to stop supplementing B's life, I think. Grown-ups pay for their own cell phone.

    Maybe have a targeted fund for helping family- put 20 dollars or 50 dollars or whatever per month in that fund. You can use that money for helping your sibs, but only that money. When the fund is empty, you're tapped out and they have to either figure it out on their own or go to someone else.

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  5. @Bon Aw, I miss you too! Let's catch up soon. Grr, brothers *shakes fist*

    @Sylly You are absolutely right. B's trouble goes much more beyond just the cell phone bill... It is true, people get resourceful when they have to be. It's just hard to watch them continuously dig their own hole deeper. But you say there is hope? How old were they before they saw the sun?? lol.

    @Amy Thanks for the comment. I know you're right. The general consensus is that I just need to stop. When I'm low on funds I don't go to anyone for help, I find a way to make more money. My dad made a comment that there is always snow to shovel, lawns to mow or leaves to rake. Hopefully, getting burned this time will be the last time I jump in to help when their basic survival isn't at stake.

    1. hahahaha, my brothers? one is 29 next month (he's the one I refer to as the spendy one - he's gotten his bills under control by basically leaning on his gf to do it), and the one that has learned to save just turned 22.

      In general both saw the sun about 6 months ago when they both got good jobs working off shore. They are jobs they hate, but they pay well and both had been broke for a couple of months before the job so they took different approaches to their new found money.

      Sadly I don't think you'll see B struggle that much...if B is anything like either of my bros they will either find someone else to fill the void you leave, or, just get by until they can sort themselves out (i.e. checking their e-mail at a friend's place for communication)

  6. Who is paying Andi's cell phone?? Andi!!! And I don't think you would ever let anyone else carry you along. Others will find that strength if they need to. xoxo.


    1. PS Nice Girls Don't get Rich! ;-)

  7. i started to comment on this post a couple of times last week but never did because it seemed too much to share online, even anonymously. i don't know what to offer by way of advice, since i've been trying to do that 'in real life' for way tooooo long and it hasn't helped my loved one. i hope you find your way through this difficult situation!