Recently, I was told by a producer of a certain podcast that I was being overly frugal. This comment came after an interview covering my upcoming book, Buy This, Not That was done.
I had thanked her over e-mail, pointed out a spelling error in my name in the show notes, and also asked her to tell the host I had finally gotten a headset for potential future interviews. Here's what she wrote:
“Re mic: I totally get the frugality mindset but treat yourself to a Shure MV7 or ATR2020 and write it off against tax. You're a fab interviewee who deserves a better mic.”
Been Battling Frugality For A While
At first, I was slightly taken aback by the comment because I've been trying hard for the past couple of years to get out of the frugality mindset. I've admitted I suffered from frugality disease. So to be reminded that I may still be battling this affliction stung.
This year, at age 45, I've finally entered the decumulation phase of my life and have purposefully been spending more on things I care about, e.g. food, children's education, and nicer travel accommodations. It's been hard to spend more than usual, but I'm making progress. Heck, just the other day I ordered toro sushi instead of the usual salmon sushi!
Furthermore, I already have an external microphone for doing podcast interviews which I purchased a couple of months ago. It had been working great over multiple interviews until this podcast session. When we connected, the host said he heard an echo whenever he spoke. Therefore, he wanted me to put on a headset.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a headset that could plug into my laptop because I didn't have an adapter. I ended up not using my external microphone and doing the interview with my Apple earbuds plugged into my iPhone. As a result, the sound quality wasn't as good as it could have been.
I don't think I was being overly frugal. I'm just a newbie at doing podcast interviews and didn't have the ideal setup. I'm also technically challenged. Or, maybe I am actually cheap and just don't realize it!
Being Seen As Overly Frugal Or Cheap Is Stealth Wealth FAILURE
I've always said it's important to be as congruent as possible with how you view yourself and how others view you. Too big of a mismatch may cause problems in your social and business life. Suffering from the Dunning-Krueger Effect is bad.
I don't want to be seen as overly anything, let alone cheap. It makes me feel like I'm hoarding cash and not doing more to optimize my lifestyle. It also makes me feel like I'm doing a poor job taking care of my family and helping others.
At the same time, I don't want to be seen as someone who flaunts his wealth given I follow the Stealth Wealth principles. It is much better to be low-key so you can avoid judgement and be freer to do as you please. Feeling like you have to defend your ways is energy-wasting.
One of the principles of Stealth Wealth is to actually be rich but be viewed by the public as average. So if someone views you as overly frugal, then they are noticing a mismatch in your wealth and your spending habits. As a result, this is a failure by the Stealth Wealth practitioner!
My Ah-Hah Moment About Frugality
A black belt in Stealth Wealth would never be viewed as overly frugal or cheap because people would never be able to fully ascertain how much wealth the black belt has. The Stealth Wealth practitioner would be able to match their public perception and their spending habits.
Being called overly frugal is actually a sign of displaying too much wealth, less so about being cheap. Therefore, I need to tone down my financial figures publicly. It's just hard to do when you're being interviewed partly about your finances! Besides, there needs to be a minimal level of financial transparency for credibility's sake.
The Positive Of Being Seen As Overly Frugal Or Cheap
The other positive of being viewed as overly frugal or cheap is that it helps negate your splurges and other people's views of your splurges. The next time someone calls you extravagant or wasteful, you can simply point to the example when you were called overly frugal!
For example, I was hesitant to write about the surprising benefit of driving a luxury automobile. I didn't want to be judged for driving a Range Rover Sport. So in past articles, I would simply refer to my automobile as a Tata Motors SUV. Tata Motors in India owns Land Rover (Range Rover).
But I decided to be more transparent about driving an expensive automobile because I had experienced something I hadn't experienced before. It was somewhat of an epiphany.
I truly believed this surprise benefit would be new to many people considering purchasing a nicer car. Therefore, I decided to tell the story knowing full well I'd be getting some backlash.
Combatting The Negativity With Frugality
For the most part, the vast majority of comments were cordial. But of course, there were some prickly ones as well. Here's one of them,
“I LOL at “minority living in America.” You fail to mention that you belong to a group that makes on average much more money than the supposedly “privileged” whites. Dry your crocodile tears on your Range Rover seats LOL!”
I appreciate comments such as this one. It reflects purely how people feel. And you can't deny how people feel, only accept. All perspectives are welcome on Financial Samurai.
I responded to the commenter, “Glad I made you laugh! But I would never dare cry on my premium leather seats. Only in my Hermés handkerchief. And why would I cry for being a minority? It’s such a blessing and a privilege to be one as you’ve said.”
The next time someone judges me for driving an expensive car, I can now tell them about the one time a podcast producer inferred I was overly frugal for not wanting to spend money on an external mic that I already had. Whoo-hoo!
Everybody Has An Opinion About YOUR Money
Isn't it funny how everybody has an opinion about how you should spend your money? If you spend too much, they'll say you're being wasteful. If you spend too little, they'll say you're being cheap. It's as if people are unable to recognize different people have different values, circumstances, and financials.
As a result, if you want to live more freely, it's best to reveal as little as possible about your spending habits and tastes. If the topic of spending money comes up, read the room and side with those who are the most vocal. Just play along so as to not stand out.
Nobody who truly appreciates their time has time to argue with someone about how they should spend their own money. Only foolish people like me would even bother writing this post! But reflecting is something I really enjoy doing.
Just Want To Be Accepted At The End Of The Day
One of the greatest challenges we have in creating more harmony is being able to see another person's perspective. Unfortunately, we tend to talk past each other. We discredit another person's experiences. What a shame.
My post about driving a luxury automobile was really about feeling more accepted in society that can sometimes be quite cold. All any of us really want is to be welcomed for who we are. As a parent, this desire is only heightened for our children.
Living in a minority-majority city like San Francisco has made me feel welcome since I first arrived in 2001. However, this was the first time I felt even more welcome based on what I drove. Because before the Range Rover, I drove a Honda Fit for three years and purchased a 6-year-old old Discovery II I drove for twelve years.
Being Frugal Means You're On The Right Financial Track
I don't know of a single frugal person who is broke. Instead, the more frugal you are, the more likely you are to track your spending religiously, save aggressively, invest wisely, and spend only on things you value.
Therefore, if someone accuses you of being cheap or overly frugal, say “thank you”! This means you've got the defensive part of the financial independence equation down.
Now take their feedback and examine whether you truly are overly frugal or whether you're spending based on your values and make adjustments accordingly. Then make sure you go on the offensive and boost your income.
If you can combine being frugal with generating more income, financial independence will be an inevitability. Just don't forget to do a little revenge spending along the way!
Listen To The Podcast Interview
For those of you who wish to hear the podcast recording, check out my talk with Dan Andrews from The Tropical MBA! I've been following Dan ever since 2010 as he used to live the digital nomad lifestyle in Thailand, a lifestyle I dreamt of living before having kids. If you want to learn about digital entrepreneurship, subscribe to Dan's podcast.
I enjoyed this interview because Dan asked me questions about prestige, creation, and entrepreneurship – topics I hadn't been asked about before. Also a shoutout to the podcast producer, Jane, for editing and putting together the episode despite me bungling the headset issue. I'll do better next time!
If you enjoyed this episode and want to overcome your frugality, pick up a hard copy of Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom. The book provides actionable tips to help you build wealth while also sharing entertaining stories along the way. I purposefully used the word “spend” in the subtitle to help readers focus on offense. At the end of the day, money is meant to be spent to live a better life!
Readers, have you been called overly frugal or cheap before? Or have people inferred that you are overly frugal or cheap? If so, how did it make you feel? And why do you think they felt this way about your spending habits? Any other strategies on how to minimize people judging you about money?