Sometimes the same people who call you “cheap” or “tight” with money secretly want your help.
During my early 20’s, I had been working for a couple of years, and I had established this basic budget which helped me prioritize saving, spending on bills, spending on debt, and then spending on myself (in that order). I was probably making something like $35,000 in an entry-level helpdesk job. I wasn’t making a ton of money by IT field standards, but it was enough to do all of the above, as long as I stayed disciplined. (In case you are new to the site) The result of my path was that I ended up paying off 100% of my debt, including my mortgage by age 28.
Fortunately for me, at some point along the way, as a friend’s sister found out about my financial habits, she very oddly became fixated on figuring out why on earth I would be “so tight” with my money. She didn’t come out and say it, but I think she really wanted me to stop this ridiculous system and just spend my money like her. She proceeded to make little jabs in conversation and just overall make it clear to me that she disapproved of my methods. There were some embarrassing moments, but mostly she was just a nuisance.
It may have been several months or even a year later that she called me, in tears. She was up to her eyeballs in debt, and she had no idea what to do about it. She wanted my help.
I went straight into help mode and offered to sit down and look at everything with her. I reassured her that everything was going to be OK, and that there was a way to overcome this situation. I asked her to share all of her expenses/debt information as well as her income, which she did. She may have been grossing about the same amount as me in annual income, so that was a positive note.
However, I couldn’t believe the expenses when I totaled everything up. She was in way over her head. Details get fuzzy, but a lot of her discretionary spending was going out to eat and shopping. If we cut 100% of that out, she still wouldn’t be able to make her minimum debt payments in addition to all of her bills. I explained to her that she was going to have to stop the shopping for new clothes and going out to dinner with friends for a while, at a minimum. As I began to explain some options around negotiating smaller loan payments, I could tell that she was glazing over. Long story short, after the conversation ended, we hung up, and I never heard from her (about this topic) again.
I was sad to see her give up and go back to her pit and continue her labor of digging, but I recognized that the path of the debt destroyer is a lonely and less traveled one. And honestly, most people dig their pit for decades before deciding to do anything about it. In 2016, the average household credit card balance was over $16,000.
I tell this story of a friend criticizing me about my spending and saving habits because I’m sure that some of you may be going through this exact type of treatment. Even though it can be discouraging to have people poo poo all over your mission to become debt free, I want to encourage you to stay the course! Keep executing your plan, and heck, keep telling people about it. You are on a path to freeing yourself from monthly payments, increasing your cash flow, and changing your life forever.
Have you experienced criticism for trying to be responsible with money? How did you handle it, and have you stuck to your plan?