Is it right for me to veto spending I feel I don’t agree with?
I am a 22-year-old student who is currently living at home because she wants to finish her degree before entering the workforce and is still employed at part-time work. Her parents do the majority of her shopping, with the exception of a small saving towards medical and retirement savings, which she makes herself. She spends £200 a month on the family car – a Ford Fiesta – worth £7,000 and bought cheap last year with loans she’s taken out to buy a new one. She goes to the bank when it comes out of the cupboard with expenses she hasn’t been able to afford before, which is £100 a month. She hates going for cheap lunch, to less expensive cafes and opts for fast food outlets at the expense of eating at home. She’s adamant she’s making healthy choices – I think her spending habits are unhealthy and taking away from what she should be focusing on, especially as a student. She hates the idea of taking money out of her savings to pay for her family life.
I recently contacted her and told her I think her spending habits are “immoral” and that she needs to be more frugal. We disagree about whether I’m allowed to have a say in her finances. Is it right for me to veto spending I feel I don’t agree with?
You need to remember that you have the sole responsibility of taking out these loans to buy these vehicles. The fact that she didn’t ask you first could be another factor for you to consider when asking her to cut her spending.
For example, if she agreed to put it in her savings, that could be another argument you could use as a reason to refuse to have a say in how her money is spent. That’s because often – if not in your specific case – having a say is a precondition before you end up with a big loan. Being so financially reliant on your parents and to what extent is quite common, especially for young people entering the workforce. In this scenario, is it a good or bad thing?
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My partner and I got our first joint credit card when we were 18. We were exceptionally young, financially secure and used it as a dry run. We had no problems and that card was the one we used every month to pay our credit card off. But this worked only in conjunction with personal loans we took out. We didn’t expect our “credit” cards to be at the centre of our finances, but it got to the point that we thought maybe it would be handy for us if we moved house or had a mortgage. We went to a loan broker and the loan we borrowed was £1,200 and took about a year to repay. We have a joint debt of £13,000 – I have used the money to consolidate other debts.
We didn’t have other friends but we were amazed by the depth of your frustration. The total amount spent on the car has been going down since. Yes, it should be paid off but the big car is definitely not needed in your situation. I can see your anger, but your message to her was mildly implied – it wasn’t a direct, face-to-face argument.
Our dilemma is – in what way can we help her to compromise in her spending, without being seen as overly interfering?
This is an enormous problem on three levels. A vehicle is investment. It’s a big purchase you want to get right the first time. It’s also a big decision that you must make on the basis of what the family’s needs are and how you can help your parents to pay for this. I can see how this wouldn’t have been a topic that came up until your letter was addressed. The car as a purchase is entirely a form of investment for the future, and doesn’t have the same impact as a mortgage or personal loan. You’ve implicitly been helping them to make a big financial decision.
Finally, whatever happens in the long term, I can see the car is going to be a major issue for you and your family in the short term – ie until you stop driving it. What you want is a little independence from your parents. Your payment is 100% dependent on their disposable income and their ability to make it. So that is their problem.