When Rich People Call You Cheap

I ran into one of my golfing buddies the other day while waiting for a colleague.  Greg the golfer is an every day fella who so happens to be worth north of $20 million dollars.  I don’t know exactly how much he makes a year, but it’s likely at least $3 million during normal economic times.  He’s a powerful man who deserves everything he earns, but sometimes he’s just vexing.

We got to catching up about the latest gossip on tour when he asked me if I wanted to grab a coffee at Starbucks.  I told him I was good, largely because coffee hurts my stomach, not to mention I’m supposed to be waiting for my colleague at this exact spot and time to attend a meeting.  Greg responds, “Of course not, you are so cheap!” in a snide, but joking sort of way.  Unfortunately, every joke has a meaning, and being called cheap is one of the most annoying things to ever hear.


When we go golfing, Greg likes to spend $20 for a sleeve of Titleist Pro V balls, whereas I go for the $8 sleeve of Pinnacles.  Sure, the Pinnacles are harder, and provide less spin control, but I’m no pro, but neither is Greg!  The absurd thing is, I’m a 10 handicapper who regularly shoots in the low-to-mid 80s, while he’s a 20 handicapper who often times breaks 100.  Some would even call him a hacker!

When we talk about vacations, he mentions the private jet he takes to Bora Bora, and I think, how nice.  He then goes on to discuss the wonderful stay at the Four Seasons with his own outdoor hot tub and infinity pool overlooking the ocean.  Thanks for making me so envious Greg!  My staycation this summer can’t compare, I know.  But, we still have fun all the same.

What really irks me is that Greg jokes about my spending habits when he’s worth so much more.  A $5 overpriced latte to me is literally like 50 cents to him.  And you know what?  I still wouldn’t spend 50 cents on a cup of latte because it turns my stomach into a squeezed towel!  I’ve grown up just drinking water because my parents never ordered any drinks when we went out.  They taught me that beverages have the highest markups and to not be silly with money.  Besides, all the sugar and junk they put in these concoctions is so bad for our health.


I don’t understand the folks who stand in line at Starbucks every morning AND afternoon forever waiting for a stupid cup of coffee.  When I see a 20 person line, I keep walking because time is precious.  I don’t get the people over 30 who still go out at night and spend $15 for a vodka tonic, when you can buy a whole bottle for $20 bucks, and make 25 of them on your own.  The time for clubbing was in your 20s!

I place very little value on beverages which aren’t good for me.  Is this so bad?  Apparently to very wealthy folks who have no concept of money or time think so.  If you ask me to pay a premium for athletic shoes, electronics, and fruit I’m very happy to do so.  Good shoes prevent injuries and provide extra performance during grueling competition.  I prefer an Apple over a PC because of the interface, aesthetics, and customer service.  Meanwhile, if I find a delicious white puree mango, I’ll literally spend a hundreds of dollars and buy them all!

Everybody spends money in different ways largely because preferences differ.  You can call people cheap, but that’s just ignorant because you are assuming someone else values something just as much as you do.  Instead, be cognizant of what matters to other people and respect their financial decisions.  The next time Greg calls me cheap, I think I’ll just test his pride and bet him $100 a hole straight up, no strokes.  Might as well take advantage of the rich, right!

Readers, have you ever been called “cheap” by someone well off?  If so, why?

How do you differentiate between “cheap” and “frugal”?


Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    Aaah, the ole’ “I’m better than you and I have more money, and I like to talk about all my wealth because it makes me feel powerful and above the rest, and guess what? what’s even better is that I like to HEAR myself talk if someone will listen to ME!” .. trick (to quote a type of line from the old Get Smart TV series.

    I’ve never been called “Cheap” in a way that was anything but me being … cheap.
    The people who have that kind of money and act in that kind of way are probably those who fell into it by timing. They haven’t realized that some of us do work for a living, to make our future, and (with luck) try to become one of those who have “the money” to do all the things we’d like to do. The private jet? Hmmm. Might just be one of the perks for having such wealth. But, what I’m hearing is that this guy hasn’t had to eat dirt, or ever been called cheap or poor in his life. I’ve been (at times in the course of my life) looked down upon, shunned because I couldn’t afford to go out and eat on a Friday with “the group” of people we all hung around with. For some, just having been there would constitute maybe understanding what it’s like to have “been there” before. I do not think “your wealthy friend” has ever been there, or if he has, he has selective memory for a time of his life when he was a dirty rotten, low down … or anything else in his world that he’s ashamed to associate himself with. Such a shame too.

    Money may make ones pocket bulge, but when it comes down to it, the “character inside” is the real person and what we all base our decisions on as to whether to associate with them of not. Some might even call then being judgemental. But then, some go out of their way to prove exactly who they really are as well.

    If your friend wants to buy the expensive stuff, it obviously doesn’t help his golf game either. He’s all about the show … and who’s watching! ;) And he can (from what you say) afford the show as well….. I’d recommend taking his money in a showdown in the links. But remember, he can afford the lessons too, not that they’d help him, but even DH’s get lucky sometime.

    I (also) know a guy who owns around 15 Smoothie Kings here in our fair city. Uber-rich indeed, but he’s a great guy. He may talk about some of his expenditures, but he’s not condescending about it, only that he “lost” money in Las Vegas, or his wife spent way too much on (fill in the blanks). etc, etc. Otherwise, he more like the average guy who wears quality, but doesn’t go overboard on the quantity. His story .. He’s been there. He knows. And I’m looking for a way to emulate his success (fact). He’s worked hard for it. I’m no where near his net worth.

    Lets see … the difference between Frugal and Cheap? Now there’s a question near and dear to me. :)

    If pretty frugal .. in many ways. But even the most astute frugal’er will spend money on something nice or fun once in a while. And if they can do it on the cheap, it means they has what they wanted, only for a fraction of the costs. I love going to high end resale shops and finding name brand polo’s w/deep discounts (about to be off consignments). Am I cheap? Or Frugal? Or is that just poor, poor (me) .. “he can’t even afford a brand new $40 Nautica Polo short form that nifty new mall around the corner (with the pay-for-parking)?

    FinSam … as I’m sure you fully understand, :) some of us enjoy “saving the money” instead of blowing it as fast as we can. Our worth isn’t based on what’s on the price tag. If I had $20million (in net worth), I’d probably be working all the time, sleeves rolled up, and a USED CAR sitting out on the parking lot. (aka: from a Thomas Stanley book)

    Anyone can be a snob. And a lot of those snobs ARE in debt up to their A$$. When is making $3mil/year NOT really 3 mil/year? It’s the difference between the UAW and the PAW. We all (I’m guessing) are striving to be self sufficient. Where our money works for us, not the other way around. I’d be interested in knowing how your wealthy friend became rich. And were his parents rich too. :)

    Oh yes. Cheap and Frugal. I’m cheap, but not easy! :)
    The definition would depend on the context, but Cheap “sounds” more like less than “top notch” or “not full price, on sale” .. and Frugal (to me) means you actually took the time to find it, make it work and still have something left over to do with as one likes. Kind of like finding 21 case of Duct take (30/ea.) for $20/brand new … instead of buying 5 rolls for $20. Frugal is definitely a buzzword going round, but I also think it’s parallel with “The Smart Shopper” too. (The Duct tape thought was a guy thing, I’m guessing)

    Dean / The Frugalcheapskate. The little things DO add up!

  2. says

    – Cheap is when someone visits & you put them up for several days as a guest and take them around to see all the local (and not so local sites), and the “guest” doesn’t so much as pay for one tank of gas let alone any meals. This guest is just a user and will not be welcomed back very quickly.
    – Frugal is a guest who managed his money before arriving and while not flushed with big bucks is able to contribute at least a little bit towards the expenses. This guest is thoughtful and considerate and very welcome.
    – Cheap is not picking up your full share of a tab (leaving before the bill arrives & dropping a bill which is definitely short but is meant to “contribute” to the total bill).
    – Frugal would be suggesting that everyone gets a separate check, and then orders according to budget.
    – cheap is going strictly by price
    – frugal is going for value and so much the better if its on sale
    – cheap is never buying anything if its not on sale
    – frugal is cutting corners to be able to afford something that your heart desires, even if it never comes on sale.

    …. and a whole lot more of similar situations.

    My father disliked cheap people, tighwads he called them … his observation and definition of cheap was far from your friend Greg’s (whether in jest or otherwise) but he often ended picking up the tab for some of his wealthier “friends” (he was the very same man who taught me to get the best that I could afford and then stretch a little, but of course there were no credit cards in Japan then, just “on the cuff” without interest with suppliers who knew and trusted you , and you always paid your bill(s) – wow! did I run into trouble when I came here with all this credit being so readily available!!! :-( . After a rude awakening I tried to not to be cheap, just frugal … but its really great when you can reach a point of not being either

  3. Gabe says

    I am on the same page as you bro. In some places, being frugal goes against the norm. So many people in our country are caught up in consumerism. (Hey thats what runs 70% of our economy, yay!) They feel that they ‘need’ this or ‘need’ that, when in reality, they don’t. Minimizing monthly expenses is so important when trying to build wealth especially at a young age.

    Water is the best beverage for our bodies, and its FREE! (Well, thats becoming less and less true) The problem with coffee and alcohol is that they are both addicting, hence the reason why the continue to sell so well.

    As for the shoes, there is some pretty compelling evidence to suggest that shoes are actually bad for our feet, ankles, knees, back, etc. Of course going around shoe-less isnt much of an option in our society. One could throw away all shoes (except for office shoes) and purchase “Vibram five fingers”, which would save you money and help your feet, ankles, knees, and back.

    • says

      It’s the water/diamond paradox! The most important resource, water, is free, while the least important resource, diamonds, are expensive!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts Gabe.

  4. says

    Finally somene like-minded! My friends tend to think I am crazy for not drinking more than one drink in clubs or coffee bars!

    They say: “You earn a ton of money compared to us, why don’t you spend more?”

    I really struggle to explain them that spending so much money on drinks makes me feel sad because I feel like I am burning my hard-earned money! Drinking more will not make me happier… I am glad I am not alone

  5. Wil Possible says

    Everyone has different values in life. Although money is important it does not make up who a person is. Take Warren Buffett’s lifestyle for example. Look at the house he lives in and the car he drives. And see what he eats everyday. There are some who feels the need to exhibit their wealth while some of the truly wealthy are more discreet with what they have.

    I am almost sorry you have to hang out with a “friend” like Greg. He obviously is quit a shallow person, and I am sorry if this may come across as being offensive. I didn’t mean to be judgmental.

  6. says

    I’d say that if Greg is an otherwise nice guy, his comment was probably just unthinking or maybe clueless.

    I have had one friend I thought was cheap – she made it difficult to hang out with her, because she wouldn’t want to even get a slice of pizza or go and see a movie. (This was high school, so we really didn’t have much money.)

    I still appreciate her though, and she’s the first person I turn to when I need tips on how to travel Europe without breaking the bank. And she spends money on the stuff she cares about (living in NYC and going to broadway shows), so her saving has a purpose.

    My point is, Greg might have meant “cheap” as negatively as you think he did.

    Also, you should totally bet on golf games with him. Yes.

  7. Carole says

    I think it’s probably better to have close friends in your own league. If they are much richer, they’ll want to spend more money than you can comfortably afford and you’ll cramp their style. Opposite if they’re a lot poorer, they’ll want to spend less than you want to. That doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly with them just not close friends.

  8. JayCeezy says

    Sorry to bump this late, but had a quick ‘Blink’ to share.

    My thought is Greg was embarrassed when you declined. He was enjoying your company, you had just spent a few hours together on the course, and he extended himself by inviting you to spend another 20 minutes at Starbucks. He wasn’t literally requiring you to have coffee (there is bottled water, juice, tea, or other alternatives available. He was inviting you to share a few more minutes, and when you declined he did not get what he wanted and was embarrassed. So, he embarrassed you in return.

    Not sure if you told him you were meeting another person right then and there (that would have presented its own awkwardness, either dismissing Greg or inviting him to be part of something your colleague wasn’t expecting). But if you declined Starbucks without telling him you had another obligation, he may have taken it as a dismissal and that you were tired of hanging out with him for the day. It doesn’t make sense that he would really think you were declining his invitation out of cheapness, he just wanted to needle you especially if he felt disrespected or his invitation had little value to you. Just my two cents.

      • JayCeezy says

        That is great to hear, a friend is so hard to make and even harder to keep! Glad to hear all is good. It is actually a nice compliment Greg was paying to you, to want to hang out with you more. Glad to hear a friendship was not squandered over an awkward moment.

  9. says

    I came across your site a few weeks ago and have been devouring all your articles. I am self-employed supporting a family of 4 with my music and writing and have really been changing my mindset in order to improve my business. When the bottom fell out in 2009 I struggled with negative beliefs. One thing I changed as I completely stopped all spending that was not for food/shelter was buying cheap junk. The idea was to spend on quality. I really have changed my beliefs now and I mostly don’t need to blow a dollar on something unnecessary. Yet I’ve made some great tech and gear purchases that are high quality and should last many years, if not decades in the case of the music gear. I love fashion but I pride myself on never spending retail prices. I bought Italian designer pumps the other day worth well over $100 (still not expensive by fashionista standards) for $10 at the flea market (and I’m not a hoarder, that was my only clothing purchase for 2 months). I have found that rewarding myself sensibly keeps my spirits up — austerity is demoralizing and depressing. My children have learned, too, not to ask for junk toys, and to think in terms of saving for things they want or working for them, or finding them much cheaper at the flea market or borrowing things from the library or doing free amazing things like family bike rides, hikes, camping and the like. If I can make a request it would be for more motivational articles for maintaining cash flow in a small business. To be honest, I have two, my music business and my editorial business. Perhaps many of your readers would be shocked at how nicely we live on such low income. I even feel a little bad when I read some of your readers’ stories of being trapped in a hamster wheel of wealth-pursuit. To me the goal is simply a better cushion to ward off future troubles. Thanks for your site!

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