Let’s talk a little about my latest shopping trip. (All the ladies perk up and slide their chairs closer.)
I went to Mark’s Work Warehouse, affectionately known up in Canada as just ‘Mark’s.’ Since nobody wants to see me go pantsless, I bought 3 pairs of pants (aside: why are pants called pairs of pants? It’s only 1 pants.) and a pair of gloves, since Canada’s infamous 11 month winter is just around the corner. The total cost of the transaction was less than $7.
SAY WHAT? Something’s wrong with that, and you know it. Possible explanations include:
1. Nelson doesn’t know how to count.
2. Nelson is just really good at buying things.
3. Nelson isn’t telling us the whole story here.
Unless you’re my mother, you’re leaning toward option three, and you’re right. The whole story is simple. Pants were $45 each, and my gloves were a shade under $15. The transaction came to a little over $150.
But, (and here’s the rub) I work for a company that gives us two $150 credits at that store for our uniforms, one in spring and one in fall. I still have plenty of shirts, so I spent my money on pants. Besides, shirts generally last me for years, while constant kneeling means I rip holes in the knees after just a few months. So I tend to load up on pants when I get the opportunity.
And this is why my trip to the store only cost me $7.
Now you might be a little jealous of this, but probably not too much. It’s a nice perk, but it’s not life altering. Hell, it’s barely worth mentioning. So why am I bothering? Just bear with me a little while longer.
So now, imagine that I wrote blog posts about how I was able to get $150 worth of pants for $7. Once you know the whole story, you’d probably chastise me for not telling the whole truth, and that criticism would be well deserved. After all, knowing I had a gift certificate changes the whole dynamic of my story. Getting three pairs of pants for $7 is impressive. Getting three pairs of pants covered by work’s plan isn’t.
We all have advantages in our lives. Some of us get our parents to cover the cost of all four college years. Other people might get a huge scholarship, or maybe they have a sweet summer gig “working” at their uncle’s company over the summer for some serious scratch. There are plenty of ways for someone to go through college debt free, and nobody should begrudge you for taking advantage of your unique advantages.
Where I (and others, presumably) have a problem is when those people start a blog and point out how they’ve made it though college debt free, proclaiming it was all from hard work and intestinal fortitude, mentioning nothing about their special advantage. Or how they’re accomplishing so much paying off their debt, with nary a mention of how they’re being helped out significantly by family or a sympathetic significant other.
Again, nobody will hold using a special advantage against you. It’s human nature to take advantage of these things. What people (rightfully) have a problem with is how these huge advantages are either not disclosed or they’re just glossed over, in favor of yet another discussion of the sacrifice needed to not show up at Starbucks or having tap water while out with your friends.
Debt bloggers are the worst at this, of course. They disclose their debt right to the penny, post monthly budgets and discuss the tiniest minutiae of these spending plans, yet think it’s okay to not disclose some huge advantage they might have, either because it takes away from the accomplishment or because they’re scared of over sharing their life online, without getting the obvious irony of sharing your debt to the penny is a pretty good example of over sharing your life online.
This lesson goes to everyone out there too, not just someone with a blog. If you have a unfair advantage, exploit the hell out of it. You owe it to yourself and your money to do everything you can to increase your net worth, short of beating up a hobo. I’m not sure how that would help anyway.
Take all the advantages you can. But please, be grateful to those who help you out and acknowledge their contribution. The story about the strapping young graduate who manages to pay off their crippling debt using nothing but determination and sacrifice might make the better story, but you owe people the truth, and the whole truth. And if you’re going to chronicle your journey online, chronicle the whole thing, not just the good parts.