Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Solvent"

I haven't even had time to read this NY Times article yet, but the title caught my interest: "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Solvent." (From my quick glance, it seems to be about a guy who bought a run-down house for $65,000, renovated it himself, and has no mortgage or debt.)

But what about this hating... do you think people are resentful or jealous towards people who have no debt? We're not talking towards "rich people" or billionaires or whatever, just their own peers in some presumed middle-class-ish income bracket.

I wouldn't say I've ever experienced this kind of situation myself, but I do feel there can sometimes be a sort of insidious, "oh just get over it and spend the money" kind of prodding from others when they see you trying to be frugal. Have you ever experienced this? I think it can be another one of those areas where food and money have parallels-- if you're with a friend who doesn't want to be disciplined about their health, they'll try to get you to eat the heavy dessert too. Or if you're out shopping and they buy something they can't afford, they want you to blow your budget too.

What do you think? Does this happen?

26 comments:

SandyVoice said...

Yes, it does happen. They don't mean to hurt you, but the people who are most likely to try to get you to spend more money than you planned are the ones with lots of debt who haven't yet realized, or are trying to avoid dealing with the fact, that they are in real trouble.

Such people are best avoided! But if I want to spend time with them, I do my best to plan activities that don't include spending money, like visiting a museum that doesn't have a good gift shop; or going for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry; or taking a picnic to Riverside Park; or, if we have to go to a restaurant, checking out one of those in Time Out NY's Cheap Eats issue.

calgirlfinance said...

I think sometimes people feel guilty when they see others doing something that they should be doing. So rather than change their behavior, they want you to change your behavior, thereby removing the reference point that makes them feel guilty.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the article myself, either, but just going by the headline, my guess is that the attitude is really envy that gets channeled into resentment and hate.

These are probably people who'd like to think of themselves as being financially responsible, but really don't have a good handle on their finances (innumeracy? denial? who knows) beyond knowing that they're in debt. As they're likely to see themselves as being "normal," they'll just as likely see people who are solvent as being "abnormal" and therefore deserving of scorn.

Anonymous said...

Yes I do believe this happens. The truth is that friends want you to have amazing things in life, as long as they have it a little bit better. For example, I was seriously wronged in my previous place of employment and was unfairly fired (long story, but to make it short: got promoted, then had it taken away along with the job). I struggled for MONTHS to get a job. When I did, I called a girlfriend up that was supportive enough throughout the ordeal. She asked what the salary was like and I said 40 in a flurry of excitement. She assumed that it was hourly pay, meaning something like $80k annually and got visibly upset with envy. When I clarified and told her it was $40k annually, she resumed her "I'm so happy for you" pose. It's human nature.

Liz said...

I definitely have this problem, sometimes with people who *don't* spend money. One of my friends stresses about every penny she spends, and constantly complains that she has no money. At the same time, she's not terribly savvy about finding the best deal on things. I make somewhat more than she does, but not a ton more. But I spend my money more wisely - taking the time to research and get things cheaply - so I wind up with lower monthly bills and more toys. She clearly thinks I make more than I really do. "It must be nice!" I've attempted to suggest that she, too, could spend less on cable and get that laptop cheaper, but so far it hasn't registered that a few minutes of effort could save her significant amounts.

Twiggers said...

Well, prior to starting to pay my ungodly amount of debt I was one of the 'pushers'. I used to get annoyed at the girl at dinner who was trying to calculate to the penny her tip, and would even comment 'Don't be so cheap, just round up to the nearest dollar'

Now, looking back...what an awful thing to say! Now that I am following the frugal road and trying to pay off my debts I am the one who doesn't spend and complains about having to go out to dinner with coworkers!

I'm no longer resentful of those who watch their spending. In fact it is just the opposite. I am envious and want to learn how they do it!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! The guy from that NY Times article found $14,000 cash saving stashed in the house from the 1930's.

Carol said...

I definately agree, with money and with food. I am very disciplined with what I eat and what I spend, and am constantly getting comments from friends and family. It is annoying because I work hard at spending wisely and staying thin, but people seem to think it just comes naturally with no work at all, that I'm just lucky and such. I want to say, NO, I'm not just lucky. I sacrifice and work hard at both.

toniannette said...

I just started on my own personal journey of money management. Most friends are extremely supportive and I seek them out for advice and conversations regularly. Others are begrudgingly silent on the issue. They'd rather share their sexual indiscretions than discuss Roth IRAs. It's hard to face yourself when you're not managing your money. I was there -- but I don't hate.

Little Miss Moneybags said...

I have definitely run into this. Part of it probably is that my last boyfriend was resentful of the fact that my parents paid for my college education, so I didn't HAVE to take out student loans. And yes, that was a pretty awesome gift, but I couldn't help it that my parents had prepared to send their children to college and his hadn't.

Anonymous said...

I too have run into this...regularly. Many of our aquaintances are stuck on the 'spend to be happy' treadmill and the resulting debt. Part of it is definitely envy and/or jealousy, and part of it is just not being able to relate well to our attitudes and values towards money and society.

Our real friends have similar attitudes to our own and do not flaunt their wealth or lack of it(and some of our friends are really wealthly, and some are worse off than we are). Is it any surprise that they are also frugal? You have to share more than a schedule or a hobby to be real friends.

Anonymous said...

Life situations can predispose people's spending habits. If both your parents die young of natural causes, you may suspect that your own life is not long either. So why not spend money and enjoy life? Who cares if you die with massive debt to your name (i.e., no cosigners)? It does get tricky when people try to impose their value systems on others...whether it be spenders, savers, couch potatoes, daredevils, etc.

Michelle said...

I also bought a house with cash (which I'm no longer living in but rent - unfortunately it doesn't cover my current housing expenses because I live in much more expensive part of the world) and people are often surprised and/or jealous. But I chose a tiny studio apartment in a good area rather than take out a mortgage and buy a one or two bedroom. For the two years I lived there it would have been nice to have more space but I took comfort in that I didn't have all my financial eggs in one basket. I had friends with huge apartments that they rented (the company paid up to a certain amount) and though they were houseproud I knew at least I wasn't throwing all that money down the drain.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic! It's an exact parallel with drinking...I don't drink alcohol (a personal health issue) and the only people who seem to notice, comment, and try to goad me to have "just one drink" are people who seem to have alcohol problems themselves. People who can take it or leave it have no reason to ask me why I don't drink and couldn't care less what's in my glass at a party!
Likewise, people who are living within their means and not carrying much debt don't care if I suggest a cheap place to eat or decide not to buy something on a credit card. The people who are uncomfortable with their own financial life -- they somehow feel judged or reprimanded when I make frugal choices! They equate being frugal with being cheap...that somehow living beyond your means and spending yourself into debt indicates a warm, generous, free-spirited and loving personality.

Anonymous said...

Shared experiences are often more meaningful than those experienced alone. Sure, people want you to eat more than you should, buy more than you should or otherwise indulge so they can assuage their guilt.

Come to think of it, that's how i started smoking at age 16..my best friend wanted me to try it with her.
(Luckily,i quit, but not til 4 years later.)

Chicago Rob said...

We all judge from our own reference point. I get judged by my friends who way over spent on a condo and are struggling, because I dont struggle. Yet, I judge a friend (wrongly, admittedly) who is so cheap he will purposely go to Chipotle for dinner because its $7 instead of a diner for $12, because I know what he has saved. Guess it's all about priorities.

stephanie said...

I think its partly about the frugal person's attitude about their frugality - I know that when I don't want to spend as much money on something, I try not to say "I can't afford that" since my friends know that that isn't really true. Rather I try to say, "I don't think its worth what we would pay" or something along those lines.

farmwife said...

We see this a lot. We own our farm free and clear, and honestly don't have much else in the way of debt. We also don't buy new cars or a lot of "toys" that everyone else can't seem to live without. We constantly get grief from my SILs about not having TV or a dish, or not going on big vacations. My kids don't have video games to spend hours on, and we have no big screen to stare at.

I just smile and let it go....I know that they are up to their eyeballs with money problems, and we have a pretty calm, simple life.

Anonymous said...

What about those have money, but would not spend some to gain some convenience and comfort, or those who calculates things down to the pennies when going out with friends?

I have a friend who had tried to borrow a trash can from me for a party. This is after I'd loaned him dishes, bowls, platters, silverware, glasses, wine glasses, coffee maker, etc.... But a trash can?! I kind of "forgot" about the trashcan when bringing him the stuff. He's a dear friend, and he is not exactly cheap, cheap either. He does not come to dinner parties empty handed and fairly pays for his share of meals when we go out, but he's is SO frugal that at times can cause such inconvenience and loss of personal comfort. Personally I think there should be a balance.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thing. I read a lot of financial blogs and frankly...their lives seem so damn boring! It's fun to go out to eat, get a massage, splurge on a pair of shoes. Yes, you should be responsible in doing each of these things, but I just have these images of many of you sitting around in your little hovels carefully counting out each penny.

My theory is...life is meant to be lived. And my live I mean ENJOYED. You can splurge and still not get caught up on a rainy day.

pkzcass said...

I just read the article. The title is misleading. I certainly don't hate the guy because he's solvent; I just think he's plain stupid. He's given up vacations, time spent with his wife and two children, and hours and hours of evening/weekend time to work on a house. Yes, the house is now beautiful, but he's missed out on alot in the last 12 years. If he and his family think it is worth it, good for them. But I think he'd have had a lot of regrets if something happened to his marriage, wife or children while all this was going on.

My husband is the more frugal one but I've become quite frugal too (not to the point of borrowing stuff to throw a dinner party!) but my husband has recently realized that the value of his time far outweighs the savings of doing home improvement projects ourselves. We just took out a $40,000 home equity line of credit and with that had new ceilings and lighting put in our living room, dining room, upstairs hallway, and my kids' bedroom; had the whole thing painted; had the basement gutted and renovated (including putting in a full bath); had the basement painted; and had a patio built in our back yard. If we had ever attempted to do any of this ourselves, we'd be doing it for decades...not worth it in my book. So right now we have an extra $400 payment each month. But we've got a whole lot more living space in our little three bedroom twin in suburban Philadelphia. But I digress.

I actually envy those people who can spend and not necessarily worry about the future and how they're going to pay their bills. I don't think it's a good idea to live paycheck to paycheck and be in debt, but sometimes I wish I didn't have to think about every penny I spend and if it's worth it. And I sometimes wish my husband would ease up on the worrying about money too.

If I don't want to spend the money on something that my friends are, I don't say that I don't have the money, because I do, I just will say that I don't want to spend x amount on whatever it might be because I don't think it's worth it.

Sorry to be so long with this. I really enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, some of the frugal types are pretty smug about their circumstances. Maybe it's because I read financial blogs and all they talk about is their finances (duh!), but sometimes I sit here and think...ALRIGHT ALREADY, WE GET IT, YOUR FINANCIAL SECURE!

3beansalad said...

I have encountered the attitude. Part of the reason I blog about finances is because I don't want to talk about finances with my friends. I think if they knew how much money I had, they'd be all up in my face about spending more money since I "already have so much saved". In reality, I don't have a lot saved, but many of my 30-ish year old friends have less than 5k in the bank, including retirement, so comparatively I have a lot.

All in all, I keep many of my frugal ways hush-hush unless I know I'm in like company. I find a lot of great name brand name (BCBG, Ann Taylor) clothes at the Goodwill. When someone compliments me on my clothes, I'm more inclined to just say "thanks" rather than "Thanks, I only paid $2.99 for it".

Many years ago I was out to eat with a friend. When I asked for a box for my leftovers, she commented: "You always want to make sure you get your money's worth." She was right, but the tone was condescending and it hurt my feelings. I think that's one of the reasons I try to stay covertly frugal.

3beansalad said...

A follow-up to Stephanie's comments:

I too, HATE the term "can't afford it" unless the term is being used in regards to a big ticket item (ie car, home that one truly CANNOT afford). People use this as an excuse and I much much much prefer people to say that people say that (name brand clothes, dinner out, donating $20 for a co-workers gift, fill in the blank) is not a priority rather than say they can't afford it. I respect the truth.

My other pet peeve is when people who aren't poor say they are poor. I'm 30 years old and a grad student. As I mentioned earlier, many of my friends don't have anything saved and most of us don't make much money. However, we're not poor and calling ourselves poor is an affront to those who truly are poor.

Anonymous said...

I too hate it when people who are not poor and keep complaining that they are. Also some keep claiming me how rich I am although they have no idea how much money I actually have, just a vague guess combined with their imagination. I have an aunt who is reasonably well-off, not rich, but certainly very comfortable; however, every time I talk to her, the first thing she says is complaining about how she doesn't have any money. I just ignore it most of the time, but it kind of bugs me.

Fabulously Broke said...

ALL the time....! They make me feel guilty for not spending $$ on myself