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How we think about money needs to change


People our age do not struggle talking about salaries or wages. Our parents felt awkward discussing how much money they made, but we have a new problem. Even with Venmo and Cashapp, owing our friends money can be one of the most painfully embarrassing subjects to bring up.

I personally do not have Venmo or any money exchanging app. I am lazy and apparently love suffering – whenever I owe people money, I have to give them cash back or buy them something of equal value.

The problem with cash is that no one has a large assortment of bills on them all the time. The problem with buying something of equal value is that it never ends up being the exact same price, which can mean you still owe money or now your friend owes you money.

Recently, I went to New Buffet in Northfield with a group of friends and one person paid the entire bill. Most people in the group Venmoed her back the amount they owed, but I do not have Venmo and I did not have any cash on me, so I said I would buy her something of equal value.

I ended up buying her a movie ticket at the theater, but I was almost $4 short. She said it was okay, but I now feel weird whenever we are buying things around each other. Does she want me to buy her something to make up for the $4 or are we even?

Similarly, I took my girlfriend on a dinner date in St. Paul and she forgot her card, so I had to pay $45 for both of our meals. She said she would pay for the next dinner, but what if we eat at Noodles & Company? Not exactly a fair trade.

But what am I supposed to do? Ask my girlfriend to take me to a restaurant of slightly equal value and pay for the same dollar amount of food? No, because that would be weird and awkward.

Alas, I have to suffer the loss and move on and that is the problem with owing people money.

Somehow, people our age feel completely comfortable talking about the economy and how much they are making, but owing someone money causes immediate tension and apprehension.

So how can we as a generation solve this problem? Well, for starters, I should download Venmo. If we all had Venmo, paying someone back would be fast, easy and accurate. I am sure Venmo comes with its own awkwardness, but it is a step in the right direction.
Another solution would be to change the way we think about money. Although most of us at St. Olaf do not have a huge source of income, we should just let this stuff slide. In high school, when I had a steady job that I worked at a lot, I just covered for my friends if they ever needed it. Owing people money was not a thing for me.

If we treated these scenarios more like generous giving than debt, our friendships would be a lot less awkward. We should strive to keep friendships equal, but this constant back and forth of owing money just cannot continue. It is just too weird.
Karen Larionova ’23 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. Her major is undecided.