Sunday, November 26, 2023

Money & Me: Beggars can’t be choosers


My two-year-older sister and I went to two different colleges in the same city. She studied chemistry, I studied engineering. Introverted by nature, she liked living alone, renting quiet private rooms. I loved living in the dormitories across town, surrounded by college students, partying quite a lot. It was no surprise that her weekly money allowance (same as mine) lasted longer, at times not even all spent. In my eyes she was rich!

Mid-way through college, Bulgaria got its first McDonnalds, right smack in the center of the city. One Friday evening my sister offered to take me there for a treat. I was at the end of my financial rope so I accepted. Free dinner, what’s to refuse! Once we got there, a brand new, shiny, high-end restaurant (seemingly to us), was awaiting. I glanced at the menu, overcame my ego and said - “Instead of treating me to one dinner here, can I have the money for it. It will get me through a a few dinners purchased elsewhere.”

It felt wasteful to eat at McDonalds when I had no 2 pennies in my pocket. I thought it was a perfectly reasonable request. “Well, it’s my money and I don’t want to eat alone, so you either stay and eat with me, or not. But I am not giving you money and eating alone.” - her reply stung. I felt awkward and a bit ashamed - was I just a dinner companion? not treated to dinner by my sister? As I was munching on my burger I swore never to rely on family for money and financial favors.

Shortly after I brought my Mom’s old sewing machine to the dormitories and set up an alterations shop. Fixing a piece of clothing every couple of weeks upped my monthly budget by half. I was thrilled - doing something I liked, meeting more of college kids - my clientele, and not feeling like a beggar ever again.

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