For centuries they have lurked in the shadows. Stalking, hunting, draining their victims of their means of survival. They prey upon the weak-willed, the guileless.
I am of course speaking of financial vampires. And it’s time to slay these undead motherfuckers once and for all. Why? Because it’s October, the season for getting all spoopy.
A financial vampire is an activity, product, or person that routinely sucks you dry of money you didn’t plan to spend. It is tempting or unnoticeable, demanding or pitiful. They rely on you to spend unconsciously, or succumb to temptation.
Your financial vampires could be vices like absinthe and opium dens (or, y’know, cigarettes and beer). They could be the last-minute social invitations of your friends. They could be a beguiling advertisement for a fucking Amazon Echo (which I am as yet convinced no able-bodied person needs).
A financial vampire can derail your careful budget and responsible savings plan faster than you can say,
Let’s slay these bumpy-foreheaded, melanin-depleted, fruit-punch-mouthed bastards once and for all.
Identifying the bloodsucking fiends
Rooting out your financial vampires from their crypts and shadowy dwelling places should be easy. Just like you should have a budget or at the very least some system of tracking where your money goes. That makes it pretty simple to look at said budget and say “Oh fuckstockings, I seem to spend a metric buttload of money on beer every month.”
(Which, dear readers, is true. Beer is one of my financial vampires, which I learned while examining my budget recently. That’s also why I’m writing this tortured metaphor stone cold sober. You’re welcome.)
If you’re in a position where you have no idea how your money is draining away and you want to stanch the bleeding, your first step should be to track your money. Hunt down those financial vampires with all the violent and bureaucratic zeal of a mid-level accountant during tax season! Track them through the sewers and alleyways! Leave no burial vault undisturbed!
Once you have your monthly expenditures tracked, you’ll be able to shine the full and incendiary light of the sun on those vampires who have thus far lurked in the shadows.
Are you spending too much money on burgers at the Doublemeat Palace every month? Buying way too many rounds at the Bronze? Bedecking yourself in cute mini-dresses in every color and wondering if the fashion of the late 1990s counts as “vintage”?
These are your financial vampires. Do not let them escape.
Don’t let friends spend your money for you
But what if your financial vampires happen to be your squad? What if the people who are supposed to have your back in all things are actually bleeding you dry?
In her book Broke Millennial, Erin Lowry puts it like this: “Don’t let your friends spend your money for you.” It’s practically a throwaway line buried in a great chapter about budgeting, and yet it’s one of the most profound money-saving concepts I’ve ever encountered.
To me, this speaks clearly about a lack of control. Not a lack of self-control, as in you just can’t help distributing your dollars like glitter bombs at the RNC. I mean a lack of control over one’s own money because somebody else is controlling it. And that someone else is a fucking vampire and they must be slain!
All too often, financial vampires are your friends, the people who are supposed to support you and care about your goals and plans. But they deploy the age-old tactic of peer pressure to get you to spend money.
And that shit’s hard to resist! When one of my girls is like “Hey, your favorite band is playing tonight and I got us a table at that ramen place you love and all the people you like hanging out with are going,” of fucking course I’m going to say yes!
It’s not that friends don’t have your best interests at heart. In fact, when my friends turn into financial vampires, it’s almost always in pursuit of a damn good time. What else are friends for, after all?
Your stake, crossbow, and rocket launcher
Sorry Mrs. Reagan, but what makes financial vampires suck so hard is it’s pretty hard to just say no. Like imaginary crack dealers in 1980s PSAs and pushy men in every bar in America, financial vampires struggle with the idea that “no” is a complete sentence.
Which is why I’m here to give you a script for slaying your vampires. Verbally, that is. Everyone knows all it takes is a wooden stake to the heart if literal slayage is your goal.
“I’m saving up for something.”
If your financial vampire is a friend, this works great as both a deflection and a very gentle guilt trip. For of course they’ll want to know what you’re saving for, which allows you to steer the conversation in another direction. And it also subtly reminds them of the shit they too should be saving for.
It’s also a good reminder to yourself, when tempted by that damn Amazon Echo or some other ridiculous status symbol. (Does railing on about Alexa make me sound old? Good. At last I can embrace my destiny to be the cranky swamp witch with all the dogs who never leaves her tumbledown manse without striking fear into the hearts of youths.)
“It’s not in my budget this month.”
Another declaration about how you are a responsible adult human with very mature, grown-up trappings like budgets and months. It gets the same message across as “I can’t afford it” without leaving yourself open for contradiction. Because being able to “afford” something and being able to fit it into your budget with all your other obligations and priorities are two very different things.
“Let’s do something else instead.”
This indicates that yes, you are committed to spending time with your #squad, but gives you the power to define how that time is spent. Instead of seeing a movie, you can invite them over for some Netflixing . Rather than going to watch A Sport in a live setting, suggest game night in your backyard. Don’t go out to the bar, fill some Nalgene bottles with your cocktail of choice and drink at the park while judging people and giggling incessantly (I just described my perfect, probably-not-legal Friday night out with the girls).
“I’m trying to cut back for my health.”
I challenge you to use this tactic in the most absurd context possible. For me, that’s always when someone invites me to yoga. “Yoga? No thanks. I’m trying to cut back for my health.” But it works equally well for when you’re invited to go out drinking, take an expensive day trip, perform dark magic in the high school computer lab at night, etc.
“I don’t need it right now.”
Do you need this particular financial vampire like you need a gaping neck wound? ‘Nuff said.
The financial vampire is most successful when you let your guard down. Don’t let it get the jump on you by losing sight of your financial goals. Stake that bloodsucking fiend in the heart and knock its ashes off your stylish yet affordable boots. You just eliminated a drain on your limited monetary resources, and that’s a reason to celebrate!