People Will Call You Cheap

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.

โ€‹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?

14 Replies to “People Will Call You Cheap”

  1. I’m definitely going through the same thing with my friends and family. They think I’m crazy for living the way I do to pay off debt. I plan on living this way not only to pay off debt but for years after so they’ll just have to get over it!

    1. Hey BrokeAsB,

      I totally agree, and in a way, you and I are “crazy”. We broke formation…violated the social norm, and the other monkeys are PISSED. “Get down off that ladder!” Nope, for us, it’s that basket of delicious bananas the others have been too afraid to climb up and grab. I love your enthusiasm. Keep pounding!

  2. It took me awhile to really realize that I had a problem with spending. It was a “ahh ha!” type of moment for sure, I’m sure similar in a sense to what addicts experience when they arrive at the decision to get help. Removing dining out and travel were massive hurdles for my budget, and going cold turkey didn’t work at first. A year or so into the effort, even though I felt embarrassed to have to suddenly just stop doing those things, and I was paying for them with cash or not doing them at all if my budget didn’t have the money for it. Cheap I have been called, and I am still considered, but it beats a mountain of debt every day of the week. The path is lonely and boring for sure, but one worth traveling.

    1. Absolutely, Joe. I’m glad to hear that you hung in there and got over the hurdle. It’s a road less traveled, but I hope it’s “paying off” for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nice post. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the difference between cheap and frugal. As I’ve grown older, it’s gotten easier and easier to shrug the haters off and keep doing my jam!

    1. Same here! Also, I kinda thought I could change my haters’ minds by explaining the logic. Lost cause. If someone wants advice, they’ll ask. Otherwise, I just keep rolling.

  4. My family call me ‘frugal’ I think to be polite rather than saying cheap. Though if I ever suggest we do something less expensive together, cheaper gifts etc it gets shut down because they believe spending $$ is the only way to show love.
    I just do my own thing and help out/ contribute in other ways, or utilise bargains and not tell them.

    1. We do the same thing. I can’t tell you a single family member on my side who is supportive of our way of life. My wife’s parents are actually supportive, which is a big relief. I shouldn’t take that for granted. Stick to your principles!

  5. Like Dolly Parton, I have learned to embrace the word “cheap” as a good thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I can soooo relate to this story. The most frustrating thing is when I told a friend “I can’t afford that right now,” and she said “Yes you can. You make more money than me and I can afford it!” Which.. like… THAT’S THE PROBLEM, FRIEND. Sorry this woman gave up instead of sticking with your help.

    1. Totally agree with you Plggy. Have a number of friends with the, “Yes you can afford it” attitude and it’s hard to break down that wall.
      THAT’S THE PROBLEM, is exactly right.

  6. It seems this is a universal experience! Everyone is used to spending all (or most) the money they bring in.

    Does anyone feel income or financial stability guilt? Not sure what to call it. I find myself often feeling guilty for making a good income or saying no for lending money when I don’t think it’s necessary or will be enabling? To be clear, I happily help out financially or otherwise in some cases. This is obviously a very privileged problem.

    1. Hey Whymances, I think you highlight a real issue. I don’t feel guilty for not lending money to people. However, I will GIVE money to people who need it more than me, and if it isn’t something I view as “enabling”. And, of course, what constitutes “enabling” is personal judgment call for everyone. You know your relationships and family members better than anyone.

      Two examples.. First, my sister was going through a rough time and asked me to help her with her boyfriend’s mortgage…I told her I wouldn’t help her, but I would let her bring her daughters and live with me. She declined. I didn’t feel bad at all because I didn’t think it would benefit her much.

      Second, my brother fell onto hard times (he’s a very hard worker) and confided in me. I paid off one of his medical bills of roughly $1300. I didn’t expect to get the money back. It made me feel good to help my brother because I love him, and I know he’s a hard worker.

      What have been your experiences? Great point!

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