You’re not just broke, you’re stupid too

December 9, 2010 · 56 comments

The title of today’s post may be a little harsh, but I’m not one for sugarcoating. I’m sick of people pointing the finger at someone else.

If I hear another person complain about how broke they are, I’ll probably have to do something really mean…like punch a baby dolphin in the face. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with people sharing their struggles. I do, however, have a major beef with those that complain about being broke, but do nothing to better their situation.

Don’t tell me you can’t get ahead when you still have an 800 channel cable package, a data plan for your cell phone, and a fresh pair of Nikes on . Wanna know something? You’re not broke, you’re stupid. Contrary to popular belief cable, cell phones, and NEW shoes are not necessities…THEY’RE LUXURIES!

Maybe you worked really hard, made a decent salary, used your credit cards responsibly, but got swindled by a sketchy creditor. I feel your pain, but guess what, Bad things DO happen to good people, and last time I checked, bitterness wasn’t a key to success.

If money is tight, don’t sit idly by and wait for someone (i.e. the government, your bank, or your parents) to fix your problems. You’re the only person that has full control of your life. It’s time to say goodbye restaurants, adios ESPN, and farewell tall-non-fat-caramel-macchiato-upside-down-with-a-whip-a-grip-and-a-kung-fu-twist from Starbucks. Change starts with you.

Does me telling YOU to get off your butt and DO SOMETHING make me seem harsh? Probably, but I’m done attending your pity party. Instead I invite you to take a step forward and maximize your potential.

Do you know any people that need to hear this message? People that would rather complain about being broke, over doing something about it?

Obviously this rant was not directed to people who are legitimately struggling financially, only those that have the capacity to better themselves, but choose not to.

{ 51 comments }

1 Alyssa

First off, I’m going to pull the corny “I-love-your-blog” comment and say that I do indeed love your blog.

Secondly, I can say that I have been known from time to time to complain about lack of money, but never to a large extent. I keep a budget, so I know that I could get rid of my basic cable, once-a-week Starbucks and dinners with the boyfriend. A lot of the time, silly enough, I say it to fit in with my friends (I don’t know what else to say when they complain about being broke…”I’m sorry but I have my finances under control” just seems a little condescending). But those same people hit up Starbucks on a daily basis and go on bar crawls every weekend. I have little pity for people like that. I just hope that one day they see the light (or your blog) and realize that “complaining about being broke while still buying lots of stuff” and “legitimately being broke” are two different things.

2 Jake Stichler

What if I have the capacity to better myself, but am too damn drunk to do so?

Does that just make me a drunkard?

3 Larry

I couldn’t help recalling George Orwell here: “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.”

4 First Gen American

I hate to say it, but most Americans do not know what real hardship is.

My mom’s tenant who stopped paying the rent because she lost her job was still getting manicures and took a trip to NYC to de-stress. WHAT? You are spending your money on your nails and leisure instead of the roof over your head, are you whacked? She also was paying for her daughter to be in dance lessons because “she never got to do that as a kid”. If I was in jeopardy of getting booted from my home, you better believe I’d slash and burn all that stuff and more.

People in this country have a warped perspective of what necessities are.

5 Jake Stichler

Someone like that, I’d start evicting them right away.

6 First Gen American

Luckily that tenant is long gone. She was the straw that broke the camel’s back and we sold the rental property after her. She also completely trashed the apartment in 6 months. Her 2 year old clogged the toilet multiple times with toys, her older girl literally pulled 3 doors off their hinges by playing tarzan on them. I couldn’t believe how gross the bathroom and stove got after a few short months. Then when she moved out to go back to living in her lifer welfare mom, she literally left all her stuff behind, furniture, clothes, food, dishes. No wonder you’re broke.

7 Sandy @ yesiamcheap

Are you sure you aren’t me? Did you read my tenant story? Where do these people COME FROM?! Are they bred in a stable? My tenant is just as bad and she’d pull that “I’m broke” sob story crap too.

8 Mummyscrooge

I think alot of people need to hear this. My sister is definately one of them. Unfortunately they don’t want to do anything about it, just complain.

9 LifeAndMyFinances

I hear ya. I go to work every day and listen to people complain about how they wish they could just win the lottery. If they just altered their finances a little and stopped buying crap, they could easily live on their current incomes. Thanks for the harsh title. I loved it!

10 Moneycone

You remind me of that Geico Drill Sergeant commercial!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoXMgEkV8M

11 Betty Kincaid

Let’s chug on over to Mamby-Pamby land. I love that commercial.

There was a time (not that long ago) when being poor meant you didn’t have indoor plumbing or refrigeration now it means your cell phone isn’t smart and your TV ain’t flat.

12 Mo D.

My sister complains about being broke all the time, though she is FINALLY fessing up about her foolish spending during her party lifestyle in her 30′s. She says, “I had a great time for 10 years, and now I’m paying the price for it”. Yep, sis, you certainly are! Looking back, she probably feels a little foolish calling me a “geek” or “loser” because I chose a different path in life than she did, but I refuse to lecture her; it’s not my place, and I certainly don’t need a all-out UFC match going on between us… she’s kick my @ss for sure!

I’m still waiting on the $20 I lend her 4 weeks ago, and her promise of “I’ll pay you back on payday” was 2 paydays ago…. #3′s coming up on the 15th, and I’m not expecting her to fork over the dough. I know it’s only $20, and I don’t miss it, but she could certainly curtail the daily coffee/muffin habit she has.

13 Lisa

my sister fits this bill, too! she works for $10 an hour (can’t get a job in her field due to economy) and talks about all the things she wants, trips she wants to take. She needs rainboots…but Target rainboots won’t do. She needs the Hunter rainboots (I think around $100)…really? You want to work for 10 hours for a pair of rainboots? Maybe you should be saving the $100 or paying back the numerous loans you’re defaulting on? Or here’s something crazy…do both!!!

14 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

People feel entitled to things because they “work hard and deserve it”. These are people I want to punch in the face.

PS Ninja, when are you going to judge that Thanksgiving Haiku contest? I had some pretty good entries in there!

15 Nicole

Sigh. Yes.

It’s especially sad when there’s kids involved. We keep hoping the next generation will do better.

16 Lucy

It is sad when there are kids involved. What’s worse is the fact that the kids are learning this “I deserve the best and I deserve it now,” attitude.

17 momninja

Here, Here! It is very frustrating but even when you point it out to them “So quit bringing in that huge fancy coffee and drink what work supplies for free” You get oh but this is the only reward I give myself…What? Reward? I thought a reward was for a job well done. If you are not making your payments on your debt you DO NOT DESERVE A REWARD!

On a side note there is a cool show on TV called Downsized where you get to watch a family that had it all and now they have nothing having to learn to crawl back out of the hole they are in. Last week the they had to cut cable and kids sports and those kids thought they were being punished. It is interesting to watch them discuss the issues and see how their mind works.

18 Melissa

I am one of the broke and stupid. Once you realize that you are broke because you were stupid, you can turn things around. Things were great forever so I just kept spending my money and then a few months ago it all hit me, I call it my “oh crap” moment. I used to be awesome staying within budgets but as I started get bigger raises and big bonuses I thought I could spend more. I was doing so much better when I was only making $9.50 an hour 10 years ago. So now I am trying to cure the stupid in me, get myself back on track. I have started reading pf blogs like this one on ideas for savings and seeing what others have done, set up a budget, reduced my spending, working OT on the weekends, and telling my daughter no to every little thing she wants.

The biggest change I have made is cutting out the little stuff that adds up and looking at it from a monthly view rather than a single transaction. I was going to happy hour 3x a week, a couple of drinks + tip = $8. I was looking at this from a daily view, $8 isn’t bad but then I added it up for the week = $24, If I did that every week for a month that is $96 gone that could have gone to credit card payoffs. So now I only go once a week (if the budget allows). There has to be some room for play or whats the point of having money to begin with.

19 rePete

Nice introspection! Not to be holier than thou, but isn’t the point of money to trade for objects you do not have or for services you do not produce?

20 Mo D.

Melissa, you’re definitely NOT stupid, as you’ve realized that improvements needed to be made, and you’ve decided to take the steps needed to get back on track. Hubby and I cut our daily Starbucks habit by using the same “how much would I have saved in a month?” method… scared us straight!! And I agree 100%… an “entertainment’ budget is essential!

21 Sarah @ going on goals

great great great post! it really erks me when people complain about money but aren’t completely supporting themselves or have an iPhone 4. If you can’t afford it, don’t get it!!!

Maybe because I am a recent grad who is 99% financially independent (yes – guilty – I am still on mommy’s family plan, but I have a basic free phone and cost her $10 a month (which I have offered to pay her, but she turns me down = nice Christmas gift)), but it drives me crazy when some of my recent grad friends who make more are still on mommy and daddy’s car insurance!!!!

I think it is reality that some of us may not live as well as our parents!! It is a reality I am willing to live with to be debt free!

22 Lucy

Oh. My. Wow. This post rocks! I only recently found this blog and started reading it simply for the title – I have a friend who uses the phrase, “punch you in the face” quite a lot.

I’m broke – mainly because I used to be stupid and was too stupid to see that the husband was stupid, too. We were stupid together. Now we’re divorced and he’s still stupid and I’m working on not being broke.

I have internet service – only the basic, and no cable or home phone service. I do have a cell phone. I haven’t been to a drive thru fast food place but maybe once or twice in the last several months. I take my lunch to work. I don’t go out to eat at other restaurants, unless someone else is paying. *grins* I don’t go shopping, except for groceries – and for those, I go to the least expensive place in town.

I took on a part time job to help pay off debt. I will get out from under all this. But I’m also not one of the people you are probably complaining about. I know I don’t have any money and I know why – so I don’t complain about it.

Anyway, keep up the good work. Folks need to hear messages like this and get out of the mindset that someone else caused their situation.

23 Lucy

Oh, and the stupid ex – he is seven months behind on child support but has a fancy TV with hundreds of channels, a fancy laptop and a brand new high-end phone.

24 Melissa

I know all too well about that, my ex is about 5 years behind (meanwhile he just bought an IPad). Every now and again the state catches up to him and I get a little bit of money. My best advise is not to incorpate the child support into your budget, if/when you do get some money from him, use it to fund your emergency fund or put it to your debt.

25 BruceBucks

Good Post Ninja! It is time for people to take responsibility for their own finances. That is one reason I wanted to start my blog, I wanted to keep myself responsible for my money and monitor my progress. Thanks for a great reminder to take my finances into my own hands. My decisions are going to change my family tree.

26 Red

Preach it, Ninja! ;) I completely agree. I know way too many people who want to complain about their financial situations but are content to just sit by. It’s kind of like people who want to lose weight but make no changes to make it happen. There’s no magic solution to fixing your debt. If you’re not going to do the work, shut up about it.

27 Sara

Love it! I just left a job where a lot of people were being underpaid, and within my short year there, I realized that a LOT of people KNEW they were being underpaid, and they sure complained about it constantly, but most of them have done NOTHING to change their situation, even while working for a company where you could pretty easily move departments & make more money (like I just did). That, to me, is just plain stupid.

And I love what your momma said about people thinking they deserve some sort of reward – it’s true. People are convinced they deserve things constantly, even if it means borrowing from their future self to have it! Rewards should be after you’ve budgeted, and wow, surprise, you have an extra $50 to spend, or what have you. Rewards should not be #1 priority!

28 LG

Hear hear! My sister needs to read this! She’s ALWAYS complaining about how broke she is and whines about her many bills and financial obligations, but then blows her money in stupid ways. She bought a new (used) car when hers was just fine. She went on at least two trips this year (maybe three) and is planning a winter getaway. Her and her fiance are planning a wedding for next summer. She decided to take a job that paid less money. I get taking the job if it makes you happier, but then CUT BACK! Ugh. Drives me insane! You can’t have it all and people often don’t get that! You have to choose your priorities and plan your life accordingly.

29 You Read my Mind

You mean you’ve met my sister-in-law!?! She’s also always trying to borrow money in a self-created emergency – they’re cutting off the power! or my cell phone was cut off b/c I was 2 days late! or someone stole my identity (AGAIN – twice in 4 months) and they’re sending new bank cards in the mail so I have no money! Ah, no, they don’t cut off services until you’re 3 months late, honey. Why can’t you walk into the bank to get cash, then walk to the cable office to pay your bill in cash – oh wait, it’s b/c you’re lazy or lying! Do you and your 12 year old really need a cell phone w/ a data plan?

Family – can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em.

30 We Must be Talking About the Same Woman

are we talking about the same woman? my sister called me and got angry that I wouldn’t commit to a ski trip, and/or a dive trip to the Caribbean this spring.

Um…you work part time, at Crate and Barrel! NO! My husband and I both work full time (and extra when possible) and are setting ourselves up so that one day we can take those trips and be financially guilt free. NO!

AND..you owe our aunt $10000. Shouldn’t you be paying her back, not calling her from the caribean to talk about your amazing vacation????!!!

There must we some weird sister gene we didn’t inherit.

31 Cordelia

Amen, Ninja!

As someone who made some pretty stupid mistakes in the past, but is now trying with all her little might to pay them down and start a smarter life, I have absolutely ZERO patience for people who moan and whine about how bad off they are while they’re doing absolutely nothing about it. You know what, a lot of us aren’t in the best of financial situations. But you have no right to complain about it a) if it’s something you did to yourself, and b) if you’re doing nothing to fix it.

Bite the bullet, make a budget, and stick to it!

32 Kaye

When we were being stupid with our money, we were so stupid that we didn’t realize we were broke, so we weren’t complaining about it. Once we realized how broke we truly were, we started making changes. Now we are paying for how stupid we have been in the past and learning how to be responsible at the same time. I wish we’d had all this cleaned up before having kids, but we do plan on getting it cleaned up before they get much bigger!

Additionally, I have a friend who doesn’t complain that they are broke, because she knows that they have the income, but she complains about the student loans. They have over $100,000 in student loans. Her husband now makes over $100,000 annually in a medical field. If they just live off her income like they did while he was in school they could have those suckers paid off in about a year. But they’d rather knowingly pay interest so they can travel 4-6 times a year, eat out 4 times a week, drink with friends on the weekend and buy lavish “toys.” Our priorities are very different.

33 undercover kitty

This reminds me of the show on WE TV, “Downsized”. Despite not hvg enough money to pay rent and borrowing money fr their kids, the mom was still going to Starbucks, and blew her bonus on clothes for the family. Her kids were going for afterschool programs which costed at least 100 bucks a month when they could have just gone without. What ticked me off was the mother kept saying “when I was younger, I had all these things. I don’t want my kids to go without because that makes me feel like a bad mother.”

Honestly, stop blaming the kids! Kids are very resilient. And I’m sure those who have had downsized (ie frugaldad) and have kids, know this. That kids will understand and they will learn to adjust, because essentially, they follow/look to what the parents do. If the parents don’t provide a good example, then the kids won’t follow.

34 TwinsMama

I hear ya! I too can empathize with the best of them, but I have been in really tough spots and never once thought to blame someone else…from college (working multiple jobs while enrolled full time) to having twins (no cable – which meant no TV service at all for a year) to my job doing layoffs and my landlord not telling us he was going into foreclosure within weeks of each other (causing the 4 of us to live in a cheap hotel for a stint).

I get it about hardship. But what burns me (and obviously you too Ninja) is when people complain but refuse to change their actions. I have seen people choose to buy a new car AFTER finding out they are loosing their job. Just so that they feel good and can “fake it until they make it”. At that point all I can do is look them square in the eye and say, “REALLY”.

35 jesse.anne.o

“Bad things DO happen to good people, and last time I checked, bitterness wasn’t a key to success.”

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

36 suze2000

What happened to the post about tipping? I was interested to see people’s responses.

37 Romeo@howwepreventwealth

But I need my data plan on my cell phone. How am I suppose to know when corporations tweet about their job openings?

38 Financial Samurai

I think people aren’t stupid, they enjoy being in debt or broke because it makes them feel good. Nobody does anything they don’t want to do.

39 Little House

Blaming others for one’s own problem has to do with the “locus of control” ; some people’s locus is internal, and they only blame themselves and realize they can fix the problems on their own, however other people have an external locus and blame everything and everyone else but themselves. Those people feel like they have no control over their own lives and it’s really irritating!

40 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey

I have quite a few friends in graduate school that need to hear this message! They complain about being broke, but insist on having a data plan for their smart phone!!! It is wild!

41 StackingCash

What I don’t understand is how these people can exist for so long without any real consequences? What are they doing that allow them to “have it all?” Why am I jealous of a toddler with and iPad?

42 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey

haha! Nice! Even better – last night at a x mas party, I saw a 2 year old that already had a Blackberry! Got to start em early!

43 whittles

Holy crap, THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS!

I think the biggest step toward financial success is LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS. DON’T SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE! Geez, people, it’s not rocket science. It’s basic mathematics.

Sorry, this is one of my frequent rants as well. I’m glad it’s not just me.

44 Donna Freedman

Bless your heart — so glad it’s not just me!!! When my “Think you’re broke? You probably aren’t” was reprinted on MSN Money, I got a comment from someone who construed it as a rant against the rich.
It wasn’t: It was a rant against people who are making bad money choices.
I probably wouldn’t punch anybody in the face, but I am considering pouring pricey coffee over the head of the next person I hear moaning about being “so broke” while sipping a $5 coffee and sending and receiving texts on a “Star Trek”-worthy communications device. (My EF has a new category now: “Bail money.”)
If it’s kosher to reprint the URL, here goes:
http://www.donnafreedman.com/2010/10/06/think-youre-broke-you-probably-arent/

45 Darwin's Money

It’s our culture on everything, not just debt. And it’s getting worse. Look at what happened with the housing crash. Idiots lied about their income, bought houses they couldn’t afford, then took out home equity loans on that fake money they made on paper to put in new kitchens, patios and buy new cars…and then when it crashed? The press and the administration blame the “fatcat” bankers. Yes, there were mistakes made, but it all started with irresponsible and fraudulent loans signed by two parties. Rather than allow markets to clear and irresponsible homeowners to take their lumps (or just pay the mortgages they agreed to), we funnel taxpayer dollars to them (that our children will have to pay someday since this generation isn’t).

I expect our kids to hate this generation – deservedly so.

46 Mercedes

I’ve got a friend like this. We both started at the same private college, I dropped out and went to state school, she stayed in and racked up over $150,000 in loans. I started with an internship my first summer of school and after school worked full time at that same company, she squandered her summers using loan money to pay for her fun. I moved home when I amased a little bit of credit card debt and dug myself out, she kept spending like there was no tomorrow. Now here she is 6 years later, with no job to speak of (because she wont work anyhting that is “below” her), a nearly 4 year old daughter to support, and she is going on year three milking the system. Yet, somehow she has the money to get her hair and nails done every month-month and a half. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had my nails done! (and not that I really want to, but thats beside the point!) I’ve tried to help her out many times, but she didn’t like what I had to say. Now we barely talk (which is a shame, but her choice) and I wish I could send her this post without her being offended…. But, I’ve learned, there are those who you can’t help! They have to want to help themselves first…

47 MyMoneyMess

Bottom line – If you’re struggling, in any area of life not just finance, you have two choices: Make a change for the better and improve yourself or your circumstances or don’t. If you choose the latter, you have no right to bemoan your fate or what “people” or “the man” or whatever, have done to you. You’re responsible for your life and the condition it’s in. There isn’t a person alive who is utterly incapable of taking a positive step to improve things, no matter how small that first step might be.

48 Jim Smith

Broke is all relative. I feel poor most of the time, despite a $500k income, 2 kids in private school and a big house. HOW THE F%*(&# AM I POOR? Because my colleagues and friends have multiples of that. We are some of the lowest paid in the office. Its all relative.
But seriously, we are not poor – not when compared to the other 99% of humanity who live on less than $10,000 per year. No one in North America or Australia should ever be broke – what they mean is they are broke compared to the guy next to them.

49 Paul @ brokeforcollege

As always, being broke in the US is usually, but not always a matter of wanting everything right now. No one wants to earn anything, or make the sacrifices now that will lead to rewards later. The bottom line for me is that if you want to be prosperous, personal responsibility is paramount.

50 Heather

I hope every single person in the country reads this particular blog post. It’s everything I’ve wanted to say to so many people. Thank you. :)

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