My Husband’s Coworkers Think I’m Cheap

by Elizabeth on December 31, 2012 · 11 comments

It was my husband’s Christmas party for work, and I was a nervous wreck. Even though my husband had worked with these guys (and a few ladies, although law enforcement is a pretty male-dominated field) for almost six months – and had nothing but nice things to say about them – I had yet to meet any of them.

“Are you seriously nervous?” my husband teased me in the car. When I told him I was, he laughed, reminding me that he considered them not just his colleagues, but his friends, and that all would be well.

He was wrong.

When his coworkers saw us walk in the restaurant door, they proclaimed – almost in unison – “Wow! I can’t believe your wife let you come out!”

Turns out, my husband’s coworkers all think I’m cheap. Over the course of the night, they joked about how my husband always brown bags his meals; they teased about how he still doesn’t have a GPS unit or even a smartphone for his patrol car. The list went on and on, and in every case, the clearly understood reason behind my husband’s actions was sitting right next to him: me.

I played it cool – well, as cool as I could – and went along with the good-natured ribbing; it was, after all, not intended to be hurtful. And the thing is, I know that I am, in fact, cheap. It wasn’t all that long ago that me and my husband were living under the strictest of budgets; it’s only in the past few months or so that my freelance work has really taken off, giving us disposable income for the first time in years.

What hurt me, though, wasn’t what my husband’s coworkers said; they, of course, couldn’t make this stuff up unless someone else was feeding them the insider information. That person? My husband.

I know he hadn’t told stories about our frugal habits to his colleagues to make me look bad; he’s a wonderful man, a generous husband, and that would never,ever be his intention. I’m sure he was just trying to get his fellow deputies off his back when they egged him on to splurge on lunch at a restaurant during their shift. It’s easier to blame someone else than to own up to your own financial priorities sometimes, so I can understand why he chose to say, “Naw, my wife’ll get mad at me,” instead of, “My wife and I have a budget for eating out, and this meal isn’t a part of that plan; that’s why I pack my lunch – to save money.” In fact, I probably told him to put the onus on me at some point.

But meeting a new group of people – and realizing they’d come to the table (literally) with preconceived notions about me – was a tough pill to swallow. It was also tough for me to bite my tongue, and not explain to the guy next to me that the reason he didn’t have enough money to visit his out-of-town family for the holidays was because he was spending $15 a day on lunch!

In one of my first posts for Broke Professionals, I talked about the definition of broke, and how different people have different financial priorities. Usually, my frugal habits are lauded – by my family members, by my friends, by my fellow personal finance addicts – which is why I’m not used to being teased about them. It was a reminder for me not to judge others’ financial habits, since it’s never fun to be on the other side of even the most kindhearted ribbing.

Reader, have you ever been called out for your frugal habits? Has saving money ever made you the object of teasing?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 31, 2012 at 8:24 am

Mr. PoP works in sales, and salespeople tend to be the least frugal people out there. So he places a lot of the frugality “blame” on me when it comes to his colleagues, but it doesn’t bother me. The joke in the house is that his colleagues don’t think I’m cheap, they know I am!

If it really bothers you that much, throw the onus back on your husband the next time you’re out with them. Make fake whipping sounds and joke about how whipped your husband is. If his colleagues’ ribbing really is good natured, then he should have no problem shouldering it for an evening.

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2 eemusings January 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm

HA! I like your suggestion!

I am sorry you had to go through that :( It must have been tough to keep smiling in the face of it.

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3 krantcents December 31, 2012 at 11:50 am

It sounds as though your husband does not believe in the decisions or maybe it is easier to blame you than take responsibility.

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4 Elizabeth January 1, 2013 at 9:14 am

When I asked him just that, he said he was just letting me be the fall guy (or gal, as it may be). I’m ok with that, until I have to face up to it!

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5 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin January 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I know the feeling, and while your husband could have spoken up a little more about why he brown bags his lunch every day and saves money at every corner, you are right it would have probably been for nothing. The unfortunate truth is the majority of people are spenders and not savers. The saddest thing about it…. they’re perfectly happy being that way and view any other approach to life as laughable. Not trying to put words in your husband’s mouth but I agree that he probably didn’t want to deal with the confrontation of a financial debate with coworkers.

I can speak from experience, it took me a LONG time to learn to just bite my tongue when it came to financial advice unless someone specifically asked for my advice. I believe a couple years down the road you will be very surprised when one of his coworkers comes to you or him for financial advice after they see how well your husband is doing.

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6 Money Beagle January 2, 2013 at 10:18 am

I think he needs to be reminded just what those frugal habits have given in terms of benefits. Every spend/no-spend decision is a trade-off and the things he’s NOT getting have led to positives in other ways. Maybe more debt has gotten paid off or money saved for other items. Sometimes you lose sight of those benefits and it sounds like he needs a reminder as to what you’re working towards.

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7 KK @ Student Debt Survivor January 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Oh ouch. I have to admit I’d probably be a little miffed if my bf’s co-workers made comments like that to me. But to be honest, I’d probably made some sort of comment about being willing to make sacrifices today to have a solid financial future tomorrow and let it slide (I’m sure it would fall of deaf ears anyway). I don’t feel like I need to explain myself to anyone and if it’s easier for the bf to “blame” me for being the tightwad, I’d be the proudest tightwad on the block when our mortgage is paid in full. Hang in there :-)

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8 Lisa @ Thriftability January 3, 2013 at 2:56 am

I’m sure my husband’s co-workers think I’m cheap as well. I’m not talking McDonalds lunches – I’m talking real food restaurants 5 days a week. And they would take turns – each day one guy would pay for everyone in the group. Finally I put my foot down – because our entertainment budget (usually reserved for our dinner out once or twice a month) was being blown… while there I was, working from home and eating whatever leftovers I had on-hand. What it came down to is that my husband hated spending the money too, but it was more of a social time than he’d had at his previous job, so he went along with it. He stopped going out to eat with the group, and shortly after, his shift changed to a 4 day work week, eliminating any possibility of going out for lunch. Luckily he’s on a 4 day rotation now — and there are few leftovers to be found here at the house because he takes his lunch every day.

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9 AverageJoe January 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

That’s horrifying.

I’m the type of person who never notices that kind of stuff (my wife tells me all the time that I just tune it out). Sometimes I wish I heard it, but I can’t remember being teased like that. I’m sure I would have given it right back (unfortunately, that’s a trait of mine, too).

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10 Newlyweds ona Budget (@NewlywedsBudget) January 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I would not have liked that one bit!

My mother-in-law has a way of making comments about my frugality, and it bugs the CRAP out of me because the only reason I have to be frugal is because of her son! I make pretty good income and my husband is still working on his career. So now, every time she mentions something about finances, I make sure to retort that it’s her son’s fault we can’t afford something…
her: “oh promise me you’ll buy him a nice truck”
me: “as soon as gets his job and makes money, he can buy it himself”
and the list goes on…
maybe you just need to come up with your own reply? ie, “we’re finally getting out of the hole after putting him through training all these years!”

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11 Michele January 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Interesting post. I understand your husband not wanting to admit he is following a budget. I get teased a lot at work about being cheap but I don’t mind. I work in healthcare and met so many patients in the 70s with huge mortgages and they can’t afford a good retirement home or private rooms in nursing homes due to poor spending. I tease my colleagues that I will be in the most expensive place in town and they will be in the cheapest!

I agree everything you spend is a pay off. Like in you post, you can eat lunch out everyday or go on a holiday to visit out of town guests. I wonder how many of his colleagues live in never ending debt of credit cards of lines of credits.

I hope you didn’t let it bother you too much! Just brag about how well you are doing because of the strict budget.

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