In my profession (teaching) there are lots and lots and lots of debates. Teacher-centered instruction or student-centered instruction? Are students getting too much homework? Merit or seniority-based pay? There’s a lot to talk about, a lot to disagree about, a lot that we need to come to a compromise on.
But there is one truth that is universally acknowledged among all teachers at all levels, one indisputable, common thread that binds us together: we are all broke. It is just understood among all teachers that money is a struggle. We’re not embarrassed about driving old cars, clipping coupons, or having potluck parties. There’s no shame in doing an annual “spring cleaning” and selling off unwanted stuff on sites like eBay, Amazon, or www.musicmagpie.com. If a teacher is invited to an expensive event, like a concert or nice restaurant, by another teacher and is forced to decline because of the cost, there’s no need to explain. We get it.
I’ve become so comfortable with (which is not the same thing as happy about) this shared, under-compensated experience, that I sometimes forget that in other professions there exists a very different set of monetary expectations. For example, a friend of a friend of mine works in the fashion industry. She’s mentioned in passing on more than one occasion that there’s a lot of pressure to look up-to-the-minute. It’s frowned upon to wear last season’s trends and it’s definitely taboo to wear the exact same outfit twice. Another friend in the business world talks all the time about the constant one-upmanship at his workplace. If one of his co-workers buys a new car, another one will a month later. If his boss goes on a vacation to Bermuda, his boss’s boss will go to Hawaii. He happens to be deeply in student loan debt and trying to pay it off, so he often feels out-of-place in the midst of so much financial showmanship.
Certainly, some of this is profession-specific. The experience that my acquaintance in the fashion industry is having is probably pretty typical – I’m sure men and women working for other major labels feel similarly pressured to spend their paychecks on looking trendy. But in other cases the expectation to spend might just be a part of the culture of the office, not the profession per se.
So the question is, how spendy is your profession or workplace? Is there any workplace-specific spending you feel expected to do? Do your co-workers get competitive when it comes to money or spending? Please share! This topic fascinates me 🙂