Do you have any pet peeves that are related to finances? My main one is when people misinterpret or dismiss the way I manage money. It’s no secret that not everyone is a fan of frugality and spending less than you earn.
However, I live by those concepts and principles and believe it’s important for everyone to understand the difference between being frugal and being cheap or broke.
Have you Ever Judged Someone for Not Spending Money or for Spending ‘Too Much’ Money?
Maybe you asked a co-worker or friend out to lunch or to an event and they politely declined without a valid excuse. As a result, you might have passed judgement on them and thought that they were too cheap or even too stuck up to spend time with you.
Perhaps you judged a neighbor or family member for not having enough food in their house or not fixing an appliance that has been broken for months. You might have thought to yourself, they must not have enough money to do _____….how sad.
In even worse cases, you might have heard about someone you know buying a new car or spending money on a large purchase like a luxury vacation or a huge home and disagreed with their decision by assuming they got into quite a bit of debt in order to make the purchase.
If you’ve passed judgement like this before, it’s okay because I’m sure everyone has. This habit is so natural that it takes a conscious effort to train yourself to think otherwise and stop jumping to conclusions when you know very little about someone’s personal life.
The Wedding Industry has Done this and Pissed Me Off
Planning my wedding this year has been pretty fun so far with a few unfortunate downsides. It seems like everyone in the industry expects you to pay more money for EVERYTHING. I get it that weddings may be some people’s livelihood, but when I don’t comply with your silly game, don’t look at me all crazy like I spoke Swahili.
At the beginning of the planning process, the guy who owns the venue we booked kept pushing us to have an open bar.
After we declined this offer at first, he clapped back with this:
Venue guy: “We have shorter open bar packages too for two hours…because you know, you want to offer your guests something.”
Thoughts in my head: “No sir. I definitely don’t have to offer my guests an open bar to the tune of $4,000. What planet are you on where people spend that kind of money on alcohol? My wedding is not about alcohol so anyone who wants it can go to the bar, purchase their own and drink responsibly.”
And to the lady at the jewelry store who looked at us all crazy when we insisted on getting budget wedding bands, then insisted on offering us a store credit card so we could purchase more expensive wedding bands.
My thoughts exactly: “You’re supposed to offer REAL specials and discounts for Valentine’s Day weekend, but instead you’re selling the idea that my fiancé has to spend X amount of dollars on me to prove that he loves me. We’ll pass and take the $100 wedding band since we can always upgrade later. We don’t care if it makes us look broke to you. And shame on you for offering a person who you think doesn’t have the money to buy a decent wedding band a credit card so they can get into debt trying to obtain the ‘perfect symbol’. Will you be around to help us pay the bill for this credit card you are praising so much?”
Maybe I sound too hard on her. She’s just doing her job.
And finally, to the home baker who felt like she could overcharge us on cookies just because they are for a wedding and claimed that the price she gave us was already too low.
What we actually said: Thanks but no thanks.
Through this Experience, I’m Learning how to Barter and Say No Unapologetically
When I started turning people’s ridiculous pricing down because it made me feel uncomfortable, I realized how empowered it made me feel. I was giving myself the freedom to create and enforce a budget that would be very doable for us and align with our goals.
Unfortunately, for other people, it made them believe that we were too cheap and/or broke and couldn’t afford it. After I declined the cookie lady’s offer, I vented to a family member one day on my lunch break at work and went to a local grocery store to price their cookies so I could buy my cookie tray for much cheaper. After all, it was just cookies which pretty much taste the same no matter who makes them. Not a big deal.
I found a pretty amazing deal on fresh baked cookies and told my family member that I was going to contact the bakery manager to work out pricing and place an order; this action would save us so much money compared to having a decadent sweets table at the reception.
I felt great. I declined an outrageous offer, found a more affordable solution, and set a plan in motion.
The next day, the family member I spoke to revealed to me that they went ahead and called the cookie lady back and told her that they would pay for the cookies – this was after I told them about my plan to go with the local grocery store.
I thanked them because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. I truly did appreciate the help, but I felt like I had the issue under control. There were so many other more important expenses that needed to be covered. In all honesty, I felt like it was a huge slap in the face to my commitment to barter and take the more affordable route.
Even worse, it painted the picture that my fiancé and I just didn’t have the money to afford it, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In All Honesty, I Could’ve Afforded It
I could’ve dropped a couple of Benjamins on this expense no problem, but that’s not what I wanted to do and it wasn’t a priority. Why pay full price for something when you can negotiate, barter, or find a more affordable solution?
Taking the easy way out and putting up with someone’s high pricing just to avoid letting them think I’m broke is just not my personality as I could care less about what people think.
The fact of the matter is that we can probably afford to spend more than we are spending on this entire event. However, I’d still like to pay my bills, pay 3 times the minimum payment on my student loans every month, and continue to save like crazy. Those are my choices, so if people are under the impression that I can’t afford a simple snack and start to feel sorry for me, I’d say it’s time for a mindset change.
My financial choices and habits help me save a minimum of $1200 each month; that’s my choice and I’m perfectly happy with avoiding spending in other areas of my budget.
The HUGE difference between making frugal choices and choosing not to spend because you are broke or cheap is your values and goals for your finances and this may differ from person to person.
The Bottom Line
My point here is, at the end of the day, sometimes all you can do is respect someone’s decision and not pass judgement on them or dismiss how they manage their money. That person who just financed a 2016 car may have obtained 0% APR offer and maxes out their retirement every year.
That friend who doesn’t have all the coolest snacks in their kitchen cabinets may have a $20k emergency fund.
It’s all about making your own valued-based decisions and refraining from drawing conclusions and making a flawed judgement. I’m sure this is a work in progress for everyone.
STOP Living Paycheck to Paycheck
You can't break free from the status quo when you're living like everyone else. Get one of the free spreadsheet tools I used to pay off $35,000 of debt quickly, build an emergency fund, and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle.