Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lunch Money

The money fast continues, and on Monday morning I was faced with a fresh dilemma. As I prepared for my day I remembered that I was scheduled to have lunch in Portland with an old friend. This is a friend who I had not seen since last summer, and who had paid for our last several lunches. When we made the date a couple of weeks ago I made a big deal about how it was really truly my turn to pay. Hmmm, now here I was with a week long no-spending policy. I couldn't make lunch and take it because I had not bought groceries and we were down to half a bag of ice and three eggs. Nothing there.

As I was describing my quandry to our son, Ross, I listed my possible options: 1) Flake out and ask my friend to pay (again), 2) Break my self-imposed rule and just buy lunch, or 3) Pay with a credit card and pretend like it is not real money. None of these sounded right and the option of cancelling lunch until a more conveneint time did not even enter my thinking.

Ross thought for a minute, then offered to buy lunch for my friend and me. He handed me some money and said, "Go for it Mom, it's on me." I feebly refused, even tried half heartedly to give back part of the money. "No", he said, "don't go on the cheap." So I carefully folded the money into my pocket and at lunch a few hours later explained the situation to my friend.

We splurged, ordered bevereges, lunch, then even split a dessert. When I paid I left a generous tip and still had $5 left. As we parted I asked her what she thought my ethical responsibility was about the $5: give it back to Ross, give it to her, or spend it? Her answer was quick: It was a gift, you should spend it all. So, on the way home from lunch, feeling a little drowsy, I stopped at a Starbuck's. I bought an iced coffee, then dropped all the change into the tip jar. I don't know if it was generosity or contrition, but it felt good.

What am I learning? That not spending money is more complicated that it sounds. You should try it sometime!

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