When You are Short of Money
Worried about Money?
This may be a little different than what you were thinking concerning jealousy in last week's introduction. I can't say that I have ever envied anyone's better house, car, etc. I have had a problem with people knowing that I am very frugal and acting as though I am rich! I am 57, have no debt, and am semi-retired by choice. When all of my peer group was out having fun, I was home saving and putting it toward my mortgage. I dressed from thrift shops, ate at home almost 100% of the time, and always drove older cars until they died. I went to the library, the beach (I live near it), and often used the pool at my job. I am not at all rich. My husband and I are comfortable. Too often, I get remarks that are rude about how I could afford anything or how I don't have to work. This comes from the same people that still shop until they drop and are always behind on their bills. How does a person deal with this type of jealousy?
Sue in NC
It really comes down to the attitude of the person making comments on your lifestyle. If they're nasty or mean-spirited in tone, just smile and leave it at that. You've got nothing to prove to them.
However, if their remarks are more along the lines of wishing they were in your shoes but feeling like it's impossible, offer help in a casual, non-threatening way. Send them the link to the Dollar Stretcher site with a note about all the great ideas you picked up there, or offer to lend them a copy of one of your favorite books on frugality. "The Tightwad Gazette" is my personal favorite, but you might have another.
If she's a close friend, you could take the help farther. Invite her to share lunch or coffee with you and, without pushing, try to find out where her areas of concern are and offer suggestions and further help. If she spends too much on clothing, for example, take her to your favorite thrift or consignment shops and show her the deals she's been missing out on. If she never has enough money to last the month, help her set up a simple, workable budget. If she eats out a lot after a long day of work, print out some of your favorite quick and easy recipes or invite her over for a bulk cooking session.
This is always a touchy subject, but I have found that most of the people who might be jealous of me are not friends. I have cultivated a set of friends that share my view of the purpose of money, which is to buy what we need more than what we want and to be used as a means to an end and not the end in itself. Keep yourself busy with activities that give meaning to your life and new friendships will follow. This falls into the category of "judging my insides by other's outsides." That's always a no-win situation.
JD in St. Louis
Be gracious. Respond to frugal envy with "Yes, we are certainly very fortunate" and leave it at that. You are fortunate. You're fortunate that you were able to defer gratification so as to realize your early retirement goal. You're fortunate that you did not catch the cultural addiction to spend your way to happiness only to find happiness eluding you.
I am frugal and have raised two children, attempting to impart my frugal values. My now deceased spouse was not frugal but eventually let me control enough of our joint financial affairs to be able to benefit from my frugality.
One of my kids is frugal, and the other is not. The one who isn't realizes that frugality is preferable, but he is addicted to junk food and to too many toys. He says that he realizes that he has an "addictive personality" and is struggling to overcome it. He may or may not succeed, and if he succeeds, he will still never attain the frugality (and low stress level) of his frugal sibling.
Some of us are born frugal, some can learn to be frugal, and some will never be able to be frugal. I am convinced that most, not all, of this is genetic. So be gracious and give thanks for the ability to now enjoy the rewards of your frugal genes!
It appears to me that American culture is not tolerant of independents, people who behave other than the mainstream. Whether you are very frugal or very spendy, people will call your attention to it. This hostility is not necessarily jealousy. It can be a push for conformity or a subtle way to drag you to their low level. You can look for ways to head off the topic in conversation, and cultivate friends who agree more with your values and less with those of the mainstream. If people can't appreciate what effort and discipline it took to reach your enviable position, they prove themselves part of our national problem of irresponsibility, ignorance, carelessness, and a tendency to jump to conclusions. After all, nothing is stopping them from saving their own money and following your example. What business is it of theirs how much time you work or how much free time you enjoy?
Sue in NC is looking at the comments from frugal envy that she is getting all wrong. She thinks people are being rude with comments about how well she has done for herself. In fact, these are compliments. These people commenting are not jealous, but envious. Maybe they are even regretting the life of living irresponsibly now that they see Sue lived smarter. Sue needs to change her attitude and see a compliment for what it is. She asks how can she deal with it? All she has to do is smile and say that she and her husband tried to be smart with finances and it has paid off.
A lot of folks right now are working hard, sometimes at two jobs, never go out to eat, and shop at thrift stores by necessity, not to save. So be gracious and say something like, "We have been blessed." And be sure to acknowledge the hard times others are facing today.
These people have frugal envy and probably a bit angry over their own situation. We made incredible sacrifices through the years so we could retire early and have heard the same type of comments. I respond by saying, "I started saving for retirement when I was 18 years old. If you didn't, I'm sure you'll catch up with me soon!" Or I say, "Together we spent 76 years in the workforce. We've earned our freedom!" In the end, I just breathe a sigh of relief that we are so blessed to be where we are today!
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