The last thing you need when you’re trying to maintain a frugal lifestyle is some know-it-all telling you that your lifestyle is crazy. If you’ve ever run into this - or anyone who’s given you unsolicited advice about anything - I’ve got a treat for you this week. Today’s post is from the one and only Mrs. Picky Pincher and she’s got some nuggets on how to manage unsolicited “help”.
“Debt is normal. Stop killing yourselves to pay it off so fast.”
“What do you mean you don’t have cable? How do you watch TV?”
“Ew, don’t buy that thrift store cardigan! Pay full price like a normal person.”
We’ve all been there.
Sometimes the smallest detail of your life welcomes an influx of money advice. It comes in the form of Aunt Martha’s “secret” investing tips. You see it in the Target cashier touting the benefits of credit card debt. Regardless of where it comes from, most of us face uninvited suggestions about our money.
While most people mean well, much of this unsolicited money advice is, well, bad advice. A person can only take so much before they start smacking people with hard copies of The Millionaire Next Door. (Paperback is fine, too, but it doesn’t make a good thwacking sound.)
I’ve lived frugally for two years now. My life strikes people as odd at best and deprived at worst. There was a time I once welcomed questions and advice, but after two years, I’m done. It’s painful to politely nod when someone wants to chat about my bank account.
Here’s how I deal with unsolicited advice.
What To Do With Unsolicited Money Advice
I’m tempted to keep this short and sweet and say, “Tell them to shove it!” While cathartic, this isn’t a productive way to deal with well-meaning intrusions.
Here’s how I receive unsolicited money advice in a constructive way.
I recently had an innocent chat with a coworker about our mutual love of bread.
“Ahhh, there’s nothing like fresh bread from the oven,” I sighed, drooling a little.
“Oooh, you should get a bread machine! I wish I had one,” my coworker mused, sighing.
The old-me would have nodded along. New-me did not.
“Oh really? I try to bake a few loaves of bread every couple of weeks and freeze them. Bread machines are expensive and big. All I need is a mixer and a sheet pan. It’s so easy and cheap and tasty!” I smiled.
I try to nudge nuggets of money wisdom into these conversations whenever I can.
It’s about being your authentic self. I used to nod and go along with everything, but it was too much. It wasn’t me. I don’t buy new clothes and I certainly don’t buy bread machines!
There’s usually a polite way to disagree with someone’s suggestion. It’s a teachable moment for everyone and it sparks lots of great conversations.
Think it over
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of bad money advice out there. But I’ve gotten many of my best ideas from other people!
Two years ago, I didn’t buy into the whole early retirement scene because I thought it was too extreme. But after crunching the numbers and thinking it over, I realized it made sense. What I thought was a stupid, outlandish idea turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.
I’m not saying you should invest in penny stocks because your Uncle Filbert told you to. But consider the advice you get from outsiders; it might be worth something after all.
On the flip side, it’s also important to consider the unsolicited advice as a system of checks and balances. I’ve had many a moment where my frugality has gone a little too far into “cheap” territory. I get blinders on my eyes and forget that no, I shouldn’t eat that ant-covered cookie on the ground. I have trusted buddies and family to give me a heads up that I’ve gone too far.
This is Plan Z when the other letters of the alphabet fail.
On rare occasions I’ve found that my money choices make people angry. And as it turns out, it’s hard to reason with angry people.
After much crying, firing real estate agents, and 3 am Zillow searches, I bought a house last year. I excitedly told a family member about the purchase and their response was, “Oh man, enjoy that mortgage!”
I casually mentioned that I could pay off the mortgage in five years if I wanted to, but I would see how things worked out with my student loans first.
A switch flipped and she rattled off all kinds of reasons it was impossible to pay a mortgage off so quickly. I politely responded to each rebuttal with true facts about my finances. That infuriated her even more. Her volume increased and her head bobbed as she shrieked, “You’re lying!”
I’m a big weenie and hate confrontation. If a conversation gets heated and loud, I’m over it. Instantly. I’m all for standing up for myself, but there are some people who are militantly against frugal living. The idea of saving more than you earn and delaying purchases is a life of repentance and suffering.
When unsolicited advice reaches high decibel levels, I extract myself from the conversation. This takes the form of changing the subject, walking out of the room, or pretending to be dead. I’ve always wanted to do the latter.
But yes, there are times when unsolicited advice is too much to handle and you need to walk away. If someone is being disrespectful, just leave.
My motto is that you can’t argue with crazy.
The Bottom Line
Living a thrifty lifestyle welcomes questions. It’s not a mainstream way of living, and that’s okay! Outsiders are bound to bombard you with questions and lots of advice.
It’s taken me a few years, but I’ve finally found productive ways to handle money advice (and complaints). Try to find a silver lining and coax frugal alternatives into these conversations.
At the end of the day, it’s about living the life that’s right for you. You don’t have to justify it or change it based on the wishes of anyone else.
Mrs. Picky Pincher is the blogger and money-saving fanatic at www.pickypinchers.com. She’s on a journey to pay off debt without sacrificing the good life.
We want to know: How do you handle unsolicited advice about your finances?