Social Lubricant

Day 7 | $0 paid | $90,717 till freedom

File this one under “Cut Costs.”

Alcohol is a social lubricant, removing the friction that often comes with social interactions, while simultaneously providing a fair amount of liquid confidence. The consumption of alcohol at bars is basically an unspoken requirement. Seriously, try going into any of the 100+ bars in downtown Austin and being the only sober one. Not. Enjoyable. At all. You have to be at least one or two deep.

Knowing that I typically spend a lot of money on alcohol when I go out, I brought along a new little friend last night.

This little guy holds 8oz of really, really cheap whiskey and fits conveniently and discreetly into my back pocket. It turns out that not only do you have to spend money to make money, you have to spend money to save money, too. The flask cost me $22, but will save me hundreds.

Oh, and sorry I’m not sorry, Austin bars. I think I’ve tipped you enough that we should both feel pretty good about this new situation.

Last night, my friends picked me up from my house (in a white 2010 Mercedes Benz C300, naturally) and when we arrived downtown, I broke off from the group to interview a couple of pedi-cab drivers. What are the good pedi-cab companies to work for? What should I wear? How much water should I bring? Do you recommend energy bars? What about the bike–mountain, road, or hybrid? Clipless or standard pedals? Bar-ends? And most importantly, how much are you guys pulling down a night? Tom from Heart of Texas Pedi-cabs was a fountain of knowledge on all things pedi-cab, and very friendly to boot.

After I got the knowledge dropped on me, I headed to the bar to meet up with my friends. Before I looked for them in the shoulder-to-shoulder meet market, I ordered a Coke. Used to typically ordering a round of shots and drinks for the group I’m with, I felt–and I’m not exaggerating when I say this–like a complete idiot ordering a Coke alone at the bar. I kind of felt the same way I felt when John from the pedi-cab place told me that pedi-cabbing isn’t for me if I can’t break $150/night. Judged. In fact, I felt poor. It’s one thing to order a Coke because you’re DD for the night, but it’s quite another to order a Coke because you’re poor and/or way too freaking cheap to order an actual drink. Anyway, the bartender served it up, charged me $2, I gave him $3, and then I bee-lined it for the bathroom.

It was really weird, but while I was sipping the Coke on my way to the bathroom to work it down to a level that would accomodate the soon-incoming whiskey, I had this feeling that I didn’t belong. I saw a drink in every single person’s hand–a real drink, not a soda or water–and I felt…excluded, left out. It was unpleasant.

Anyway, I got to the bathroom, went to a stall, closed the door, filled up my drink while casting furtive glances over my shoulder, and went back out to the bar area. Suddenly, by drinking a whiskey and coke, drinking a drink with everyone else, I felt included again. It felt pleasant. The whole transition was really the oddest phenomenon ever. Anyway, I rejoined my friends and we hung out for a bit before heading elsewhere.

I already had a sneaky suspicion, but it turns out that I really do have exceptionally generous friends. Even though I repeatedly told them very clearly, “No, thank you” to their offers to buy me drinks,  I was still included in almost all of the rounds that were bought last night. I made it completely clear that I wasn’t going to be buying any rounds that night, but they didn’t care. They told me that they would put it on my tab, ride my pedi-cab for free, and in July, when I’m student loan-free, I would be required to throw the biggest party ever. Finally, I had to acquiesce–they simply weren’t giving me a choice in the matter.

(My friends know about my goal–we had talked about it during the ride downtown that night, and the general consensus is that they support it, they think it’s the right thing to do, but they know it’s going to suck pretty badly for ten months. I shared my concern with them that they wouldn’t be seeing a lot of me during the next ten months, and they told me to chill out, ten months isn’t forever.)

Anyway, back to the boozing. It felt odd, accepting drinks that I didn’t have to pay for. I mean, of course I have always accepted drinks that I haven’t paid for, but I’m okay about it because I know that I’m always in the line-up for getting rounds and will pay it back. Last night, however, I was accepting charity, and the only other time I’ve ever done that before was when I took the $54k from Harvard via the fellowship. Then it felt okay. Last night, it didn’t. It felt…slimy. My friends work very, very hard for their money, and last night, I was being a complete freeloader and I’ve never freeloaded before.

I just got a call from one of my friends with whom I went out last night. Everybody from last night is going out to lunch. It was with a dejected tone that I had to decline. Sadly, food does not fit into my backpocket quite as easily as a flask, and I’m not letting anybody buy me lunch.

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23 Comments

Filed under Cut Costs

23 responses to “Social Lubricant

  1. Sarah

    Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog! I commented a few days back, I also live in Austin (South Austin) and found your blog through @ramit on twitter. I like that you are open with your readers. I think it’s great that you have such supportive friends. I hope next time I’m on 6th I can get a ride in your pedi-cab. Good luck with everything!

  2. Diane

    If you feel bad because you didn’t pay them back for their generosity buying drinks, there are other ways you can pay back “social capital” without spending a ton of money. If you have sunday off, fire up the grill and invite them over for burgers. Or host a party to watch a game one evening after work (BYOB)

  3. Pags

    Nice flask. I had a SS flask for a while. Then a buddy and I shared a whiskey from Kings County Distillery (http://kingscountydistillery.com/). Replace the cap with a Kahlua bottle cap and the small glass flask turns into your daily driver.

    And social drinking is a very odd phenomenon. There are many points at which to be excluded, starting from the invitation to join people. If you don’t go, you’re weird. Then when you’re there, if you don’t buy booze, you’re weird. Even when you have it, it’s a little unsettling knowing that money is what makes you acceptable.

  4. Very interesting blog. I’ve been doing a lot of budgeting myself and I came across your blog through Ramit’s website. As I started reading about your project, I was pleasantly surprised to see that you live in Austin. I can tell you that I’ve been here for seven years now (I moved here from the East Coast for graduate school) and I love it. If there’s one town that you can live cheaply in and still have a good time, it’s Austin. UT gave me a $24K stipend a year and I managed not to accrue any additional debt over the six years I was in grad school. Now I have a job at a biotech company in North Austin and it’s wonderful having some breathing room in the budget again. You can do it!

  5. Blast

    I love the idea behind your mission, brotha! I’m in the same boat as you when in comes to student loans, so I’m definitely rooting for you big time. You can do it!

  6. Remember, true friendship does not equal charity. Friends do things for one another without expecting anything in return. You sound like the kind of guy who would help out a friend without demanding recompense. Your friends are likely the same. They support you, and they want you to be included as much as you can be. Thank them by letting them buy you a drink, and promising that you’ll invite them to the party where you burn your loan paid notice.

  7. Austin

    Ciao! I will be following your blog religiously, looking for ways to mirror your efforts in my own debt paydown. Keep on ciao’ing! That’s always free.

  8. Trashy

    Is this even legal?

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