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Being Judged Cheap and Wasteful At the SAME TIME

This post, When Rich People Call You Cheap, at Financial Samurai really hit a chord with me.  In his post, he mentions an uber-rich friend that had the audacity to call him cheap over a $5 coffee at Starbucks.

First of all, as many of my frugal readers know, I am not ultra-frugal.  As some of my spendy readers know, I am not ultra-spendy.  I seem to split the difference.  I don’t have a smart phone, but I enjoy cable and DVR.  I still drive a car I despise since it’s paid off, but I enjoy having a biweekly housekeeper and lawn guy since I hate manual labor.  I cut and use some grocery coupons, but I will probably never make my own laundry detergent.

In short, I prioritize.

This system works for me, but it also gets me judged from all sides.  Some people like to point out all I could save by cancelling cable, doing my own chores, and mowing my own lawn.  Other people tell me to buy a new car since I obviously don’t like the one I have and also have the money for car payments.  Still others will hear about my budget and make sure to remind me that life is short and I should spend more on fun.

If I had an uber-rich friend like Financial Samurai, any time the guy brought up I was cheap for not buying whatever, I’d bring up the fact that $5 to me is like a penny to him and he can bite me.  That is not a mature or well-worded answer, but that is what would come out of my mouth.  I’d be that irked.

When I get told that life is short and we should spend more, I reply that life can be pretty long too.  I want something left in case I don’t die early.

When I’m told that we could be saving a ton by cancelling the things we do pay extra for, I reply that we cut elsewhere and those things make us happy.

If either group pushes the issue, I get rude – can’t help it.  If I feel defensive, I get rude.  I’m working on that, but I’m definitely not there yet.  Thank heavens I am a blogger.  When I feel attacked online, I give myself more time to respond and haven’t immaturely pissed too many people off yet.  Woot for the typing filter between my brain and my fingers!  🙂

I guess this whole post was to point out that Financial Samurai seems to have handled himself well and I feel his aggravation.  Personal finance will always emphasize the personal and I do wish that people would be less judgy to others, especially me.  😉

What kind of judgments to you come up against and how do you handle your replies?

34 thoughts on “Being Judged Cheap and Wasteful At the SAME TIME”

  1. Nicole

    Does it count if I felt judged by that column because nobody has ever called me cheap? (At least not to my face.) I couldn’t join in in the comments because I had nothing to say.

    Maybe I just have more polite/less judgmental friends. Or at least more middle-class friends.

    I have called my sister cheap… she makes more money than the rest of our family and was letting me get the bill over and over again, and then was about to let our mother (who, in her 60s, makes well less than half of my 20-something sister’s 6 figure salary) get the bill. My sister then grudgingly paid the $20 or $30 bill. She has shaped up since then, at least when we’re out with my mom, which is important to me. I hope she’s not like that when she’s out with her friends too. How embarrassing! Hopefully they just split the bill.

  2. PerkStreet Jen

    My best friend got into it with her family once because they told her she was being cheap by wanting one of them to pick her up from the airport. Their rationale was that because she had a Rolex on her wrist and owned three homes that certainly she could afford a rental car. She could, but it’s because she’s made smart choices with her money and investments that she can have the things she has.

    Of course you’re defensive. Your choices are made based on your priorities, and when someone calls you cheap or wasteful it feels like they’re attacking your priorities, and your values.

    I get judgments like that about how I spend my time, not my money, but it’s the same feeling. I wish I had a better response than “get snippy and sulk” but I’m working on it, too. If you think of something more constructive, do let me know! 🙂

  3. Annie Jones

    My husband gets the “you’re too cheap” line from the guys at work. They are construction workers, and all make a good wage, but most of them are, in our opinion, wasteful and foolish with their money. They ask him why he doesn’t “make me” go out and get a job, then in almost the same breath, they say they wish their wives would cook more, clean more, bake homemade bread, run errands for them, etc. They just don’t get it.

    We’re more likely to get the “you’re too wasteful or too spendy” line from my side of the family. It’s almost like a competition within my family to see who can spend the least, get the best deals, make the most from scratch, etc. Usually it’s fun, but sometimes it crosses the line.

    My response to either camp is that they just don’t get it. For us, it’s all about balance and not being too extreme in either direction.

  4. Everyday Tips

    Well, money (like politics) is a very personal thing. Everyone has different priorities, income, expenses, etc. I really don’t get many comments about my ‘frugalness’, although I have heard ‘you can die tomorrow’ on numerous occasions. That is very true. However, I am very happy where I am, and spending is not going to make me any happier.

  5. BFS

    @Nicole, I’m pretty lucky in the friends category. My close friends aren’t judgy and they don’t bring my spending habits up one way or the other unless they want me to help them find a great deal on something they’re looking for or want the name of our housekeeper. The judging seems to come from our two families (they mean to be helpful I think, but really they’re judging) and my general group of friends and people we meet.

    Your sister would have ticked me off to no end! I’m glad she’s realized that sponging is tacky and rude. I also hope she’s not like that with her friends since that would be a fast way to lose them…

    @PerkStreet Jen, why would a family member not want to pick her up anyway? Money or no money, my family (including my in-laws) would be lining up to help each other out – heck, they even drove the hour and a half twice to Galveston to drop us off and pick us up from our last cruise. My parents have rescued me from flat tires all over the state. We’d do the same. I feel bad for your friend.

    Defensive and angry and sulky are slowly turning into a more mature reponse from me – very slowly. I usually try to explain what I’m thinking before I get snappy and sulky now – “I know we could mow our own lawn, but we budget for it because we don’t enjoy lawn care.” or “Yes, I think living in the now is really important too, but if we don’t save for our future and we end up living that long, I don’t want to be screwed.” Then if it gets pushed more, I get crabby. I’m working on it. 🙂

    @Annie Jones, oh don’t get me started on my husband’s coworkers. I cannot believe how much he spent this summer by simply eating lunch with them every day – would it kill them to go somewhere with a dang value menu! Oh well, c’est la vie and all that.

    Yeah, my family is the savers (kind of…they splurge on what they value too) and his family is more spendy (but they save for their retirement as well), so we kind of get it from both sides. I’m happy they are balanced and I think we are slowly wearing them both down. My dad may lay off of me about lawn care one of these days, lol.

    Balance is important. I like being able to save a ton and afford some “extras” too. 🙂

  6. BFS

    @Everyday Tips, yes, exactly, it’s personal and individualized. Spending makes me happier when it gets me out of stuff I don’t like or vacations are involved. Otherwise, I don’t need all that much in regards to new technology and whatnot. Mr. BFS and I prioritize based on what makes us happy. I assume that is what most people try to do.

  7. Carrie

    This brings back memories of when I was a newlywed, 15 years ago. My best friend who lived in another state was having an engagement party and my husband and I couldn’t afford the gasoline and hotel costs involved. I was prepared to tell my friend this when she told me another friend of ours wasn’t coming and sneered “It’s probably because she’s too poor!” I was so embarrassed that I invented a lame excuse about having a family function to attend on the date of the party.

    I was a bridesmaid in her wedding (which cost me plenty!) but our friendship has not lasted over the years b/c of different lifestyles and priorities.

  8. BFS

    @Carrie, it doesn’t sound like you are missing much from not having that friendship anymore. 🙂 I’m sorry you felt bad about your circumstances because of her. Glad you are way past that now, lol. Congrats on 15 years!

  9. Nicole

    We don’t get much flack from our families because we live several states away. DH’s family is blown away by our middle-classness (since most of them have spent most their lives struggling to stay afloat). DH’s parents took pictures of our (too large, quite lovely) house to take back home to show off to the relatives when they first visited… based on later comments from his family, that ostentatious spending of ours shows that we’ve really made it. Those kinds of beliefs also explain why the majority of his family has spent their lifetimes struggling to stay afloat. DH’s mom has made comments about how we need better window treatments and how we don’t have any stuff in our house. (Both are true.)

    My family is pretty similar to me in terms of spending on your own priorities so not much there. They know we only spend on what we can afford and what we prioritize.

  10. BFS

    @Nicole, sounds like manageable comments but I would be sad a little by knowing why they’re not doing better and not being able to really help (without looking like a blabby know-it-all).

  11. Jenna

    Right now I get comments about living at home with my mom since I graduated college (two years ago), but I’ve started house hunting over the summer and a lot of my friends are going to be living in apartments for a lot longer than I ever will…

  12. Nicole

    @BFS, believe me, gossip about the stupid things DH’s family does with money and jobs takes up a good 20-40% of family discussion when DH’s parents (who are doing relatively well… possibly because DH’s mom was an outsider and DH’s dad is an accountant) visit. Ah, family.

    The big thing though is that DH’s family doesn’t spend in line with their priorities. They spend on flashy things and then get very stressed out when they can’t pay their utility bill.

  13. Julie

    DH’s family is spendy. His parents have declared bankruptcy before. It’s quite irritating when they expect us to pay for a hotel room last minute or buy them tickets to things. I wouldn’t mind if they would plan something, but everything is literally the day before. I have a budget, and the reason we are doing well is because I stick to it!!!

    I’ve been called cheap, but I prefer health-conscious when it comes to making my own food.

    I don’t believe that people with high salaries absolutely need to spend every last dime they earn to be happy. My hubby and I make good money, but we are happy living the same way we did when we were just starting out.

  14. Khaleef @ KNS Financial

    I think it is very immature for someone to assume that everyone is made happy by the same things.

    If you are making good choices with your money and you choose to splurge on certain things, it’s fine. Also, if you decide that certain things are not a priority for you, that’s fine as well.

    I’ve had people look at me crazy for not having cable or going to the movies much, but that stuff isn’t important to me.

    The problem is when someone complains about their situation (in debt, not enough money, paycheck to paycheck living, etc) and is not will to make the necessary sacrifices to change it!

    And yes…I’m glad that you have a filter online, so you won’t write “bite me” to anyone! hahaha

  15. BFS

    @Jenna, I think that saving money while staying at home is awesome if everybody involved likes the idea. Good luck on house hunting! Feel free to email me with any questions (we bought our a little more than 3 years ago).

    @Nicole, I actually didn’t know that most people don’t spend on what makes them happy until I entered my first “real” job. I think people in general don’t know what really makes them happy and never sit down to think about it. Oh well…

    What happened to your CommentLUV? Ever get the kinks worked out?

    @Julie, I think you are spot on. Money doesn’t equal happy – it can only provide happiness if the person using it really knows what they want out of life.

    @Khaleef, yeah, my blog wouldn’t work out too well if I regularly told people to stick it, lol. Luckily, I actually enjoy and appreciate 99% of the comments left here, so I don’t have to reign in Crazy Crystal too often. 🙂

    The worst case scenario I’ve had is sitting here thinking, “I don’t know how to relate to that…what do I say?”, but I usually can come up with something of (hopefully) value to respond with. This happens the most often with comments about children (then I try to think to when I was a kid) or when somebody is very proud of something that seems weird to me (like extreme frugalism), but I can then think of my most frugal moments to try and relate…

  16. Nicole

    Nah, with commentluv it still either says “cooking for 1” from ages ago or it doesn’t show anything at all. (Today’s post is on blogs made into books. Yesterday’s was refinancing.. Tuesday’s on doing academic service, Monday’s on guilt in parenting. See, something for everyone. 🙂 )

  17. Money Reasons

    People that judge me doesn’t bother me… It’s my kids that I don’t want judged! Initially when we both worked, we could have choose a richer city to live in, but we choose a more of a middle class one instead (knowing that my wife was going to quit her accounting job and be a stay-at-home mom). So we don’t get too much of any type of judgement passed onto us.

    I don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, but I have a hard time not wanting my kids too. I guess I’m kind of an oddball that way 🙂

    Then again, all my friends that have over a million, are the “millionaire next door type”, not the super rich types that Sam has as friends 😉

  18. jim

    Wearing a Rolex is basically advertising your status as a “rich” person. I generally think that “rich” people should not expect free transportation from their friends and relatives. That isn’t about being frugal. This is about inconveniencing your friends to save yourself a buck.

    Airport rides should be reciprocal. Does the rich person freely give rides to/from the airport to their less well off friends? If so then its OK to return the favor. But if the “poor” friends don’t travel as much… then it becomes a one way favor of the poor people driving across town and back to save the rich person taxi fare. Thats not a fair exchange of poor giving time to subsidize rich if theres nothing returned. Its also not just being ‘frugal’ here since the rich person is relying on someone elses time and gasoline money to save them rental care money.

  19. Molly On Money

    I can always find someone more talented, smarter, frugal & prettier then me.
    I can always find someone less talented, smarter, frugal & prettier then me.
    Knowing that, I do what I want and what feels right. I also keep open to new ideas that will show how ignorant I really am!

  20. Jenna

    @BFS – Yeah, I agree. I live with just my mom (although my younger brother is still in college and has been with us this summer). I’m not sure if I could do it if both my parents were there. Having just my mom it feels like we are more like roommates than mother/daughter. I’ll definitely email you if I have any questions.

  21. Heather Sokol

    I’m with you on this completely! I believe it is totally possible to live the life you want, for less. This may mean finding ways to get the good stuff for less or cutting out the unimportant (to you) in favor of your high priorities. We pay for our 3 girls to attend private school but don’t have cable. The hubby and I each have iPhones, but our monthly family fun is on a zero budget based on all the free options in our area. Everybody has to determine what is important to their own family, and budget accordingly.

  22. BFS

    @Nicole, that is so weird. Feel free to leave your latest post link at the end of your comments on my site if you’d like – I do enjoy the something for everything feel you have at y’alls site!

    @Money Reasons, I think that a person’s personal finance strategy is usually a bit different when it comes to kids. It’s hard not to want the absolute best for them I’d think. My mom splurged the most on us. 🙂

    @jim, I was thinking of Houston where taxis are few and far between and cost a minimum of $60 to just get picked up – I guess in better “taxi’d” cities it would be an inconvenience to pick someone up and wouldn’t cost as much to take a taxi where you need to go. I agree that if she frequently picks people up, then she should get picked up in return. If she doesn’t, then it did seem presumptuous. I was also assuming we were talking about friends and family, I don’t think money should matter there at all – if one of my friends or family need a ride, I’m there…it’s about hospitality, not affordability. Do you think I’m overlooking something?

    @Molly on Money, yep, there is always someone “better” and someone “worse”. The problem is that people don’t seem to judge on a scale, they judge based on set criteria in their heads. I will work on blowing that off more (I am trying), it’s just annoying.

    @Jenna, I hope the home buy goes super smoothly for you!

    @Heather, exactly! We have a biweekly housekeeper and lawn guy, but we don’t have smart phones or gym memberships…it’s a priority-based tradeoff like you said. 🙂

  23. myfinancialobjectives

    great message about prioritizing what you choose to spend your money on vs. what you choose to cut back on. I CHOOSE to spend my money on some excellent computer equipment, and a nice tennis racket. I recently acquired both, so now I’m enjoying what is left of the summer. Once winter hits, I’ll basically be saving/paying off debt with at least 70% of my income. It’s all about prioritizing. For me, the summer months were my priority over debt repayment!

  24. BFS

    @MFO, I can get behind the enjoyment factor! If the bills are paid and the future is being paid for, I think fun stuff should be fit in – like tennis and awesome computer equipment. 😉

  25. Rob Ward

    It’s all about priorities. This reminds of when I got the iPad and brought it in to work. People found out how much it cost ($600) one of my co-workers exclaimed…”wow, you must be rich!” Umm, no. I just don’t eat out every lunch like most people and choose to spend my money on other things…like an iPad.

  26. jim

    If people have a standing system of exchanging rides with specific friends/family then thats fine of course. I give my dad and sister rides if they ever need it. But if you don’t exchange rides then I don’t think people should ever EXPECT a ride just cause someone is a friend or family. I do think that is presumptuous. I think we agree in general.

    But one other point is that not all airport rides are equal. I really don’t like giving airport rides due to the giant pain of driving to the airport in MY city. Its a 30 mile trip which can literally take up to 2 hours in rush hour traffic. People seem to have a tendency to not realize this and make an assumption that “airport ride” means the same everywhere but it really doesn’t.

    At some point I also think you do have to consider if its really practical to do airport rides at all. In my home city it is really more practical all around to take the train from the airport to our city.

    Airport ride = up to 4 hour trip for me + $6 gasoline + up to 2 hour trip for you
    Train ride = 1 hr trip for you + $2 ticket

    Its not so much a matter of money, but the time involved and ‘giant pain in the rear’ nature of it. Does it really make sense for me and my friend to spend 6 hours in traffic combined when they could just take a 1 hr train ride??

  27. BFS

    @Rob, yeah, I was worried to tell personal finance bloggers that I bought an 16 gb Ipod Nano ($155), but I don’t drink coffee or even have expensive hobbies (blogging technically pays me and my monthly Bingo habit runs $12-$25 max). 🙂

    @jim, yeah, if I lived where you live, I wouldn’t pick anybody up either (4 hours is a no go in Crystal’s opinion, lol…I HATE driving). Both of Houston’s airports are within 45 minutes of my house – that’s a different cup of tea…

  28. Donna Freedman

    My mantra — repeated politely and as often as necessary — is “I save where I can so I can spend where I want.”
    If people keep picking at you, turn it around and aim it back at them: “I’m a little puzzled. Why does how I spend my money bother you so much?”
    I think some people are defensive (“Is she judging me because I’m not frugal?”) and some are just, well, rude. But as Miss Manners says, you can never be rude in response to rudeness — you can only be more polite. (It drives ’em nuts, by the way. Bonus!)

  29. ODWO

    A Blog is a nice way to blow off some steam, eh? 🙂

    Seems that the reference of being cheap (post by Fin Samurai) was more in-line with “I’m rich-You are poor” and the post by Carrie kind of rang a bell for me too … she said, “…sneered “It’s probably because she’s too poor!”

    I remember a time when I was not where I am today. And I’d be “snubbed” for not driving a nice vehicle, or able to go out and spend money so easily, or buy the latest and greatest in clothes. Or have the Gym membership, etc. In fact, I won a free year @ a gym, was even making my clothes last longer by shopping at resale of “sewing up” and rips in pants/shirts. (Sewing? What’s that, some might say) I don’t consider that to be a requirement for being frugal or cheap, btw. HA!

    The worlds full of all kinds of …. and the part I’ve noticed is that sometimes, wherever one is right now? Might not be where they are in (lets say) 10-20 years. One day the roles might reverse (rich/poor/well off/check to check/etc.). I also posted on Fin-Samurai’s column about the “cheap” shot by his “friend.”

    If it’s any consolation, living well and with honor is always the best … (some would say) .. revenge. One striving to make ends meet now, will more than likely be on top of their game in the next (so many) years.

    Ms. BFS get stressed? NO WAY!! 😉 A Pina-Colada can always help with that, and a photo album of all those fun cruises you’ve taken. 🙂 Oh sure … you couldn’t take the private jet, but you you also don’t have the gas and maintenance bill either.

    Happy Friday!
    Dean/ODWO >:

  30. Len Penzo

    Stick and stones… When somebody accuses me of being cheap – and it happens from time to time, especially with respect to my car – I say nothing. The silence is deafening.

    And it immediately puts the stone thrower on the defensive. 🙂


    Len Penzo dot Com

  31. BFS

    @Donna, that’s a great mantra! Yeah, I noticed that losing my temper or getting defensive is not the best reaction to make a point – politeness throws people off sometimes. 🙂

    @ODWO, you are always so cheerful! Thanks! I agree, the best thing to do is to live a good life and the naysayers usually shut up with time. Oh no, I never get stressed…hahahaha…

    @Len Penzo, I love it! I suck at being quiet (surprise, surprise) but I will totally try it out next time! Thanks!

  32. jim

    4 hours would be the very worst case scenario, but its possible if the trip fell in rush hour and we hit some bad traffic. A round trip of 2 or 3 hours is a more likely. In good traffic, its just 45 minutes each way.

  33. BFS

    @jim, I still think I wouldn’t want drive that much…

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