Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kid Sis Gets a Snarky Lesson about Credit

My kid sister is nineteen and works in retail. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these things. However, these two facts about my sister are vital to what happened last month, so keep them in mind while you read.

Kid Sis and I were in Walmart, spending some of my money. We went to the electronics department to find a digital recorder for one of our brothers, who started college a few days after this shopping trip. (We’re very proud of him, by the way!) While we were in that department, Kid Sis suggested that we go look at the video games.

Being a bit of a video-game fan myself, I agreed. We didn’t have to get out of the store at any particular time, either, so I pushed the cart over to the consoles and wandered over to have a look. By the way: I emphasize “look.” Looking is free. I can afford to look. I’m happy to look.

“Hey,” she said, as we walked to that section. “If they have a Wii, will you loan me the money for it? I’ll pay you back.”

My jaw? Not closed after I heard that. There was my sister, who’d been reared by the same two “Don’t get credit for anything that you don’t have to have” parents who’d reared me, asking me for a loan so that she could buy a video-game system.

“Did I hear you correctly?” I asked. “Did you really just ask me to loan you nearly three hundred dollars for a VIDEO-GAME SYSTEM?”

“Uh, yeah,” she said.

“Are you joking?”

“Uh, no.”

I blinked a couple of times. “Then there’s your answer. You really think that it’s a good idea to get a loan from me, which is a line of credit, for something that you don’t have to have?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, you’re the only one I know who has that much money.”

“Tell you what: instead of getting that tattoo you keep babbling about, buy the Wii yourself.”

“But I want the tattoo and the Wii.”

“Well, I want a male harem, preferably Chippendale dancers, to follow me around, but that’s not happening in this lifetime.”

She wisely shut up at that point. The kid who was standing nearby, playing the demo XBox 360, just stared at me. Yeah, I guess that I’d eyeball me too if I were that kid. I was being kind of snarky, after all, and that usually attracts a bit of attention, I’ve noticed.

What I really want to know is: how does my sister expect to repay me approximately three hundred dollars when she works as a cashier? She earns minimum wage, and does not have full-time hours (she averages about thirty hours per week). Her bills aren’t too high, because she lives here at home. But she does have to pay for her cell phone, auto insurance, other car-related expenses, et cetera. Her paycheck just won’t stretch far enough to repay me in a reasonable amount of time.

So, no loan, especially for an overpriced video-game system. She already has a GameCube, so it’s not like she’s been deprived of the usual, American luxuries. And it’s not like I ever, in the entire time that the Wii has existed, told her that I’d acquire it for her. I didn’t break a promise, or get her hopes up, or anything along those lines.

Kid Sis is not usually the sort of person who relies on credit – not even loans from family members, who don’t believe in usury – to acquire toys. But lately, she’s been spending obscene amounts of time with The Boyfriend: an overly materialistic twit who is, even as I type this, upset because the muscle car he’s thinking of buying has “cheap” rims.

He’s upset because the OEM rims aren’t “nice” enough to suit him, even though he’d be looking at the stinking things for only a few seconds every day when he walked toward the car. And even then, who cares what the rims look like as long as they’re functional and not falling apart? Really, they’re just rims. They attach your tires to your vehicle. They don't have to be insanely expensive, or continue spinning when you've come to a complete stop, or blind nearby drivers because the sunlight's reflecting off the highly-polished chrome.

The worst part, though, is that The Boyfriend has a reliable vehicle. He does not have to buy another car, but he wants a muscle car because that’s cooler than the coupe he’s driving now. Because he’s obsessed with how things look, and with impressing complete strangers, and Kid Sis is absorbing his crappy attitude toward finances. This is The Boyfriend who, recently, tried to secure a loan to buy some other little rocket of a car that he wanted. The bank turned him down (smart move, bank – this 19-year-old guy has a minimum-wage, part-time job), though, so he spent a few weeks moping and whining about that horrifying, traumatic rejection.

I’m getting tired of Kid Sis’ attitude, though. The Wii is not the first thing that’s driven me crazy. Oh, no. She’s spent the last few months annoying the snot out of me with her increasingly-materialistic drivel.

All I can say is that a) I’m not loaning or giving her money unless she really needs something, and b) if she gets herself into debt for stupid reasons, I’m not helping her. She knows better – or did, at least, until things with The Boyfriend started to get serious.

So, instead of buying my little sister a Wii, I picked up a Food Saver. We had to replace the old, broken, first-gen model that we’d had for years, and the later model that I bought on this shopping trip is very much improved. This was, if you ask me, a much-better investment than a video-game console, especially with the economy sucking like it is at the moment.


  1. Hear Hear! Sadly many are influenced by consumerism, and despite parents best attempts of the lifetime of the doesn't work or some-one else swings them away from the "needs not wants" we taught....I know, my darling 20 year old is a consumer like you wouldn't believe lol.
    We can only hope as they get older they will swing back to sanity :)

  2. Young adults tend to revert to what their parents taught them. This isn't always true, I know, but many do. Finances are no exception, fortunately. I do expect Kid Sis to come back around, but it's going to take time - and she's going to have to realize for herself that living within your means makes you a lot more comfortable than all the garbage you bought with your credit or loans from family or whatever.

    I feel for the teens/young adults who weren't taught any better, though. When their parents never grew up (in the financial sense)...when Mom and Dad spend the kids' entire lives living on plastic and trying to maintain that lifestyle...those kids don't know any other way of doing things. They're already suffering, at least where I live, and it's only going to get worse for them.


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm