Dear “broke” person on the internet,

[Ed note:  This somewhat mean-spirited post is from an embarrassing number of years back and has been hanging out in drafts waiting for it to no longer be connectable to any specific person and for us to be out of money Monday posts.  Did the person in question ever turn things around?  We have no idea!]

You make a lot of money.  I know this because you keep telling people how much you and your spouse make.  I was shocked the first time I saw it because you are always complaining about your debt (and how the world has been out to get you).  Until very recently, your family made more money than either of ours and lives in a lower cost living area.

But you also have spent a lot of money and you keep spending money.  For example, you bought a house that you should not have bought when you had major debt that you should have attacked first.  You got upset when your readers told you not to buy the house, and you bought it anyway.  Same thing with replacing your car with a fancy new model because cars get old after 6 years.

You need to pay down that debt so you stop wasting money on the interest so that you can actually life the lifestyle for your income-level.  You can’t live that 100K+/year income life until you get rid of that debt.  You have to live on less than that.  I’m not saying to give up the private school, but you don’t have to live in as nice a house or as nice a neighborhood or drive as nice cars or replace them so frequently. I imagine there are a lot of other luxuries that you think are necessities and entitlements.  They’re not.

You are probably not going to be able to stop spending so much without help, but I doubt you’re actually going to seek help.  I doubt that because your readers have suggested plenty of places to get help, from books to Dave Ramsey classes to certified financial planners, and you’ve done nothing.  You’re probably just going to keep complaining about your debt, bragging about your high income, and complaining about how the world is out to get you.

There’s probably something psychological going on.  And I should feel sorry for you, but seriously, you make @$@#$@ing lot of money.  A lot of people would pay down their @#$#ing debt and not feel so entitled to the house they couldn’t afford and whatever else it is that you’re wasting your high income on.  Then they’d have paid down their debt by now and would be able to live the life you’re living while saving for retirement!  But you’re going to have to make sacrifices at some point, and the longer you keep this high interest debt the more it’s going to keep dragging down your finances.

Which is why, of course, we’ve stopped reading you.

45 Responses to “Dear “broke” person on the internet,”

  1. Leah Says:

    Yes, that sounds like a complete bummer. I’ve even seen financial bloggers who do save still complain about money and then spend absurd amounts on something (like $8,000 on clothing in one month! What?!?).

    In a related but not directly connected note, I had a skype date with a friend yesterday. She and her husband have a good chunk of debt, and they were always paycheck to paycheck when they lived close. Well, she now has a savings account! I am so proud of her. We had lots of money talks (mostly initiated by her when bad stuff happened). They paid off their car, and I suggested continuing to put their car payment into an account to save up for a new one. They’re putting a little bit less than the car payment into savings (using the rest to attack other debt). But they have savings! She was already able to use the savings to avoid adding to the debt, and then she paid back the savings with the next paycheck. I love seeing concrete examples of people who actually respond to financial advice. I don’t think she’ll be perfect overnight, but hopefully this will be the long, slow slog out of debt for them.

    • Leigh Says:

      Yay! I love it when people start to figure things out and turn them around for themselves :)

    • Leah Says:

      yes! I am beyond proud of her and so excited to be a resource.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In defense of save spend splurge (who did blog about a big clothing purchase), I think she’s considering the transition over to being a fashion blogger. And she seems to be doing fine financially, assuming she’s not aiming for early retirement.

      There is something wonderful about watching people become financially stable and even flourishing. I totally love reading those stories.

      • Leah Says:

        I don’t mind spending. I mind whining about money and THEN spending huge amounts of it. Or whining about how one didn’t save “enough” and, again, spending huge amounts on discretionary purchases.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yes, the combination of whining and spending a lot on discretionary purchases is annoying. I guess we don’t read blogs that spend 8K/month on discretionary clothing purchases enough to see whining!

      • Leah Says:

        Yeah, I don’t either. I clicked over, read that post, and mentally checked off that blog.

    • Rosa Says:

      that is the best, in the same way that watching people make the same mistakes over and over and over is the worst. I have a group of online friends that is super encouraging about financial stuff so you can go to the group and be all “I started a 401k!” or “I consolidated my loans!” and get praise, it’s great.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I wonder… how long does one give a blogger/forum person to turn things around before giving up and no longer visiting/blocking? (Note, this question is for people who keep making the same “mistakes”– not people who are truly the victims of bad circumstances.)

      • Leah Says:

        I funded my 2016 Roth IRA today! That is my exciting financial news :-)

        I have low tolerance for people who keep making mistakes (responding also to N&M below). Yes, one might make similar mistakes a few times. But maybe don’t blog about it? Or, if you do blog about the mistakes, be honest and reflective about whether or not you can actually change your ways. And, if you can, work on doing so. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hypocritical. I’m fine with money, but I struggle with eating, and I make some of the same mistakes over and over even though I theoretically know better. But just because I understand that mistakes happen doesn’t mean I want to read someone’s blog, especially when they don’t seem to take the steps to be better.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yay IRA!

        I’m not sure that “be honest and reflective about whether or not you can actually change your ways” actually helps… sometimes that just becomes part of the cycle.

        complain/negative behavior/complain/complain/emergency/complain/negative behavior/complain/positive shock + negative behavior/complain/I have always had and will always have this problem/complain/complain/none of my friends want to listen to me/loop/complain/the blogosphere or forum is mean I’m leaving/you guys are the best and convinced me to stay/complain… then rinse lather repeat

      • Rosa Says:

        I will give a blogger infinite amounts of time to make new and different mistakes, but I find repeating the same one over and over really boring. Like you said, “or maybe don’t blog about it.” Success can be boring and repetitive but at least it’s not whiny or anxiety producing.

        Mostly though what bothers me is having someone ask me what to do, then not do it, then be sad because the consequences fall on them. (Like my child!). Just don’t ask and then ignore me, then I’ll care less!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hahaha! That’s a really good point! Repetition does get boring, and whiny repetition is the *worst*.

        And yes, the complaining/asking for advice/not taking it/the bad thing happening just like everybody said it would/complaining is really irritating. Don’t make me expend any energy trying to help! (I have actually had to leech-block blogs where the blogger asks and the right vs wrong choice is obvious but the blogger always picks the wrong one… I’m always a bit surprised when a blogger asks for advice and then actually takes it!)

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I would love to check out this person’s website! =/ I love a good train wreck.

    In all seriousness, it sounds like an ex-family member of mine. She divorced out. She made $120,000 per year on her own, and that was in addition to the 80K+ my family member made. They spent every penny, even having to borrow from their retirement accounts every once in a while. And they weren’t even saving for their children’s college education. That really bothers me for some reason.

  3. Catwoman73 Says:

    I don’t find this particularly mean spirited- just honest. The more frugal I become, the less patience I have for this kind of entitled behaviour, and I likely would have stopped reading this person’s blog, too! I know a handful of people just like this, and I outright refuse to discuss money with them. I just don’t enjoy beating my head against a wall.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      A lot of people in this kind of situation also seem to regularly get bailed out by parents who seem to have lower incomes than the complainers. I wonder if the parents know about the high income or if they just assume, as did many of the readers, that with that amount of complaining the income was much lower. I mean, I often feel sympathy for people who are trying to make ends meet, but when I find out they’re making more than my family is and living someplace less expensive, that sympathy kind of evaporates.

  4. Leigh Says:

    There was a post on an online forum recently of a couple who had a pretty good income (I would say 33% federal tax bracket combined) and strong assets (more than mine) and yet they had consumer debt, which was leaving them with a couple grand of debt payments every month. Perfectly manageable on their income and they weren’t complaining, but a bit strange. Several people told them that at their income and asset level, it is silly to have that much consumer debt, so they took a year or so and paid it off while still maxing out their retirement accounts and now they have so much more cash flow… It just goes to show that people at all income levels can accept debt payments as normal.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One weird thing about this blogger was the mindset that the amount of money they had was the amount of credit they had and they were only having problems when they maxed out their credit cards, meaning a large amount was going to debt servicing every month.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Ugh, credit should not equal budget! I once went to a car dealership and asked if they had anything used for under 5K. (I “knew” they wouldn’t, but what if I was wrong?) The salesman responded, “How much can you afford per month?” I answered, “I can afford a down payment of 5K and a monthly payment of zero dollars.” That was fun.

      • chacha1 Says:

        I’m starting to think that this is my husband’s mindset … that the amount of credit he has defines what he can spend, versus the amount of net income he has. He doesn’t seem to understand “net.” This year’s tax bookkeeping will be interesting … because after 18 months of dealing with his parents’ FUBAR finances, and watching (and listening to me rant about) the idiotic financial shenanigans of other family members, he may have learned something. Cross your fingers.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And it can’t be all that rare, I mean wasn’t Honey Smith initially promoting that kind of mindset on GRS when she started there? There was a lot of, “why get my financial house in order when I could be enjoying life with debt (like Honey)?” We wrote a blog post specifically addressing that question a few years back.

    • Leah Says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed that mindset at all sorts of levels. People have even told me that it’s important to have debt on your credit card in order to increase your credit score. I see it all as throwing away needless money on interest.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It is astounding how people do not understand credit ratings. Like, even the basics.

      • Leah Says:

        I have had people fight me on this and tell me that I’m wrong. I understand that one needs to take out loans, etc to improve credit rating (after all, no credit extended means we don’t have a record). But to carry a small balance month to month? Nope.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        I am astoundingly ignorant about personal finance, and even I know that the smaller the fraction of your total credit limit you owe, the better your credit score.

  5. Mrs PoP Says:

    Years ago, we had an IRL friend who was a lot like this – everything was a complaint. Not just about finances (though that was a part!), but life in general. It was exhausting to be around. We tried our best, listened, offered advice, suggested therapy… but over time, the friendship just wasn’t worth the effort, so we stopped putting in the effort. Since they weren’t putting in much effort at all, it just kindof fizzled out after that.

    I mostly just feel bad for people that see the world as out to get them. It can’t be an enjoyable way to spend your life…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, it is totally draining. It’s hard to know when to cut loose. Though in the past 5 years or so I’ve definitely been a lot more careful about guarding myself and keeping to people on a more even keel.

      (And then on the internet they complain that nobody sympathizes or pays attention to them anymore. Fortunately(?), the internet being the internet, there are plenty of people to sympathize with that. A lighter version of people saying they’re going to leave on fora just to get the “no don’t go” response. Psychology is weird, yo.)

  6. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I don’t go on about it, but we lived for years on a pretax income of $42,000 per year for four people, saved more than a quarter of it every year, and accrued no debt. My sympathy for this kind of person is on World’s Tiniest Violin levels.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We never had to do that with a family of four, but we did live on two grad student stipends in an extremely expensive city. And we’ve definitely spent most of our lives, even as a family of four, living on less than the income they brag about making. (Not so much since DH got his new job though, man I wish he’d left academia sooner.)

      But if you say something like that, for example, explaining how you did it back in the day, what they say is, “Oh, well, it’s easy for YOU. I don’t LIKE making sacrifices.” And it’s like, no, it was not @#$#ing EASY for us. It’s just that I didn’t want to be in YOUR current situation ever. And I didn’t want to have to live in DH’s parents’ basement. Or have either of our sets of parents (who make less than we do) bail us out. So we @#$@#ing sacrificed and didn’t buy the (first or) second car or house until we could safely afford to and followed general financial recommendations. That’s why life got easier later instead of catastrophic.

      It would be really interesting to read about how you lived on 42K and saved with a family of four though! Right now we’re paying more than that in rent for the year…

      • MidA Says:

        Your rent = yikes, which selfishly makes me sad because I think we have the same geographical definition of paradise and COL is our big barrier. Do you have a post on whether you would want to live in paradise permanently, now that you have experienced it as a family? What income would you ideally generate to live a comfortable life (fancy cheese, travel to relatives, satisficing for keyboards, etc.)? Is the school environment more competitive and if so, what is your take on it? If there isn’t something planned, consider this my question for Ask the Grumpiest. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        5 years ago when rents weren’t so high (3k/mo instead of 5k/mo — we got a deal on this place), I sat down and made that calculation including the increased tax burden and came up with 120k/year as a renter. Inflation has happened since then. Without daycare it is less. And it is possible to get deals on housing if you keep your eye out for lazy landlords.

      • becca Says:

        On 42k and a family of 3, I had just about $5500 a year to spare. So, one funded Roth IRA OR dental surgery needed for years OR a bit in a college savings plan.

        BUT, that’s with no rent / mortgage, and nothing like bare bones for kids activities and food, because that’s how we role.
        I feel like, given typical COL, everything in about the 30-70k/family range means most immediate needs met, few long term needs met, tradeoffs define your life and working more leads to less help thus diminishing returns (given things like childcare subsidy, Obamacare, ect). Also, one income of 42 is much more comfortable for raising kids than two of 21 (we’ve done both). Being married on 21k each would suck for raising kids.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Maybe I’ll write about it some day, though as you say, it can be summarized by Extreme Frugality And Sacrifice. I did explain it to a friend once when she said ‘we couldn’t afford to live on one income of ~90K’. She revised it after to ‘we don’t want to but we could.’

        We also lived on two tiny stipends in an expensive city (rent alone was a third of our pay!!) and that sucked too.

      • MidA Says:

        Thanks!

  7. First Gen American Says:

    I have stopped interacting with these folks as well…on and off the internet. In fact, this is the only blog I still read regularly. It’s mainly because this ilk have a hard time believing that an alternate lifestyle is possible and somehow, it is easier for me than them. My second most favorite comment is that I am lucky and they are not.

    I just don’t have the energy to try to listen to it anymore and get annoyed when people belittle what I have accomplished as easy or lucky.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, my reaction to, “It’s easy for you” and “But I’m different, I don’t *like* to make sacrifices” is generally “F— You”. Only I don’t like saying that, so I use the power of leech block to keep me good.

      I’m fine with being told I’m privileged from people who are less privileged than myself, but not from people who have more privilege and are just selfish. Double especially when they’re getting their less fortunate relatives (or worse, their blog readers) to bail *them* out since the fancy car they owe money on means they can’t afford a new water heater or whatever. (Again, I’m totally fine with people who truly are less fortunate than myself getting help from people who are more fortunate, but not vice versa.)

      We feel honored that you read us regularly!

  8. Ana Says:

    I don’t think this is that mean-spirited. I also start losing patience for people complaining forever and never changing things—even when they are given perfectly sound advice on what to change. however, I also appreciate that there are psychological measures at play that may be keeping them from meeting their goals. You can see this most clearly with food—people know what they NEED to do, but somehow can’t help themselves. They may need to untangle some of the emotional motivation behind the eating, with counseling or a lot of self-reflection for example. I think similar things can happen with spending. So I get that, and I have some sympathy for it…there are habits I keep trying to change but haven’t figured out yet despite trying for many years. On the other hand, it DOES get tiresome to read, and I usually stop giving advice or too much support after a while. Just more of a “there there, i know this is hard for you”. I also don’t like excuses. So if you are having trouble with something, don’t whine about how its “not fair” because you just have expensive tastes (its not genetic!) or hate sacrifice (who doesn’t?), but acknowledge that the problem is with YOU and take the steps to get the help you need to work on changing your mindset.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Food is definitely a thing for me (given my PCOS and personal physiology– refined carbs make me sad!), which is why I spend a lot of time putting in place structural solutions so I don’t have to rely on willpower. Because my willpower sucks!

      One big thing for me that’s different about money than food is that with food it is only me who is hurt by my eating the wrong stuff (I may get a little tired and testy or sad, but that’s second order). Nobody can bail me out with food. When someone else’s life depended on my eating (because of ttc or pregnancy or nursing), I was very good about eating what I was supposed to. With money I always have that realization that I have to be good because I don’t want other people to have to bail me out. I’m willing to sacrifice so that people who are worse off than I am don’t have to sacrifice on my behalf. Nobody should have to delay retirement because of my decisions.

      So I guess bottom line is: I don’t like to read repeated whining from people who could fix things and I don’t like people’s bad choices hurting other people.

      I do really really love to see people work through their problems and fix things. I love seeing people grow. I love learning tips and tricks that can help me to grow too.

      • Ana Says:

        refined carbs make me happy. but pudgy, and hungrier, and tired.
        So for YOU your eating only hurts yourself. But for someone on tax-payer-funded health insurance? Or who uses the ER for their care (and doesn’t/can’t pay the bills)? Or who gets diabetes & doesn’t care for themselves and can’t work and then is on government assistance? There must be a reason they call obesity & diabetes a public health crisis. It has an enormous impact on our society (I’m not an economist, I’m sure you know this more than i do).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        refined carbs make me happy for about half an hour and then two hours later I’m going all “woe is me” and not understanding why the world is such a horrible place. (DH will say, “this is because you had that croissant,” and I’ll be like, oh yeah, and then go look for some meat.)

        I feel a bit more sympathy for people who are genuinely poor. I feel like I can afford to foot their bills a bit more. And there are a lot of structural things in place that make it very hard for them to eat like I’m supposed to eat (corn subsidies, for example). It is easy for me to get a variety of yummy healthy things– I just have to choose to eat them. I’ve been places where it’s a lot harder and it sucks so much and adds so much additional stress. Obesity/diabetes are a public health crisis, but until we make it easier for poor people to access, pay for, prepare, and consume healthy food for the long term that’s really on the US, not solely on them.

      • Ana Says:

        I have never consciously thought that I need to be responsible with my money because I don’t want other people to bail me out. That kind of absolute rock-bottom criss never even occurred to me. I try to “be good” with my money so I can quit working some day, or travel, or do other BETTER things with my money. Maybe subconciously I’m thinking about avoiding other people bailing me out?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m not sure I would have thought of it either except that the recession happened and we saw people who weren’t good with their money having to lean on people who had been. But I do think it has been there subconsciously. I’ve always felt that my parents’ responsibility for me ended with paying for college and my wedding(!) (Which is more than a lot of parents do, so I am very conscious of their generosity. But I also remember all the sacrifices we made so that they could pay for both of our colleges.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      p.s. I don’t think my problem with food is emotional. I just really like pastries. And potatoes and french bread and ranch flavored chips.

  9. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    I’ve never had much patience with high-income people who complain about not having enough money.
    I’ve always lived very frugally.
    I saved enough money on my grad student fellowship that I could afford a down payment on a house 6 months into my first academic job. When that job ended, I found another one in a more expensive part of the country, and had enough money from appreciation on the first house to make a down payment again on a nice 2-bedroom house in a good neighborhood. We still live there, 29 years later. I paid off the mortgage after about 10 years, and was able to save enough money to be able to afford to put my son through college without loans or financial aid, in addition to saving for retirement.

    Neither my wife nor I has a car—we’ve never even had driver’s licenses, and we don’t travel much. Avoiding these optional expenses (where we live) has allowed us to save more and to buy things we did care about (like books, remodels to the house, education for our son, …) without taking on any debt.


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