Financial Protection: Pretending You’re Broke

By Wednesday, March 7, 2012 47 , , Permalink

When I bought my new car, a friend asked me to load a picture onto Face book so she could see it. I was hesitant to do so. At first, I wasn’t sure what was stopping me. I am trying to live my life more intentionally, so I reflected on my feelings for a bit, and came to the conclusion that I was hesitant to upload pictures to Facebook because I didn’t want anybody to know that I have a new car. I didn’t want certain people to think that I have extra money kicking around.

Those certain people include a friend who has previously taken advantage of me, who happens to be on Facebook.

I’ve always felt that if I share too much information with a few of my friends, I will be leaving myself open to be taken advantage of. They will think that since I have a new car, I must have money to spare, and therefore money to spend on them. I probably sound like a paranoid schizophrenic right now, but my concerns are legitimate. I’ve been burned before; my behavior is learned.

financial protection

For instance, when I told a family member that I had a credit card, he took advantage of me by charging his bills to it and not paying me back. I was stupid to give him my card number, but it was naivety. When I told another family member that I was saving for an emergency fund, he stopped paying me for gas when using my car.

The thing is, while it might sound nit-picky and maybe a bit selfish that I don’t want to help my friends and family by paying for their gas and bills, I think I should have a choice in the matter. My friends and family members shouldn’t htink: “well, you have more money than me, so I’m going to take advantage of that”.

Another reason I didn’t want to upload photos of my new car to Facebook is because I didn’t want friends to assume that I have money because I have a new car, and automatically assume that means I can go out on shopping trips with them, or that I can go for dinner three times a week with them, or go to Vegas with them and drop a ton of money on useless things. In reality, I still have the same amount of money as I did before. I am still a student struggling to pay the bills and tuition. I just needed a method of transportation.

I’m not saying that I can’t go out for dinner or go on shopping trips. I’m sure I could do all of those things, if I wanted to forgo my contributions to my RRSP, or take out a loan for my tuition.  I can certainly afford, and budget for, coffees, dinners, and movies with friends and family.

Even before I bought a new car I found that if I were in a financially stable spot, I would still act like I wasn’t, to get out of spending money on useless things. Some people act like they are rich when they’re really broke, yet I act like I’m broke when I’m, well, not that broke. It’s turned into a tactic to protect myself from my irresponsible father, crazy family members, and spendthrift friends.

Have you ever pretended you are broke? If yes, why?


  • Vanessa
    March 7, 2012

    Spot on Daisy! This is exactly why I’m hesitant to post vacation photos on fb — People have commented in the past about how “lucky” I am to have so much money and how “well I must be doing”.

    I have family members who’ve placed charges on my brother’s credit card (they know better than to ask me :P) and who’ve come to me for loans. When one person saw that I went to Europe, she said that she didn’t believe that I needed my loan back *that* badly so she was going to hold onto the money longer.

    To non-fb people, I’m just a poor student and I like that ;)

  • Michelle
    March 7, 2012

    Seriously, get out of my brain Daisy! I’ve always felt like this. Whenever I tell anyone anything good about myself financially, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of.

    So now I’ve been pretending I’m broke as well.

  • Evan @ Smart Wealth
    March 7, 2012

    Yeah absolutely, but aren’t you proud of being able to work hard and get what you want and what you have earned? I am going to be leasing a new sports car soon for a 6-month lease through my employer, even though I already have a car, I have always wanted this car to “play” with. I am proud that I am where I am in life and that I can afford certain things that I couldn’t when I was younger.

  • Melissa
    March 7, 2012

    Oh dear, that’s awful! I’m so sorry you felt that way! I’ve never pretended to be broke, because, well, I always HAVE been broke, and even if I had a bit of extra cash, since all my friends similarly know what it’s like to be broke, I think they’d just assume I was using it to put into savings or pay down debt, to prepare for a leaner time. I can’t imagine the kind of anxiety that would come from being worried about being taken advantage of. I think I might go buy my friends donuts or something just because they’re awesome.

  • From Shopping to Saving
    March 7, 2012

    Spot on! Oh I always pretend because I don’t like going out and spending $50 on dinner, or $100 on a night out. I’m so cheap but I will splurge on my necessities and what I want, because that’s what we worked hard for. I do the same – I do not post things on FB to brag. I don’t want people thinking I’m rich or that I have money as well!

  • BlueCollarWorkman
    March 7, 2012

    My sister actually had to sit down with me and tell me about this problem. My wife and I struggle constantly with making ends meet because she’s in school, I try to keep working full-time (hard when contracting sometimes), and we have two daughters. And so when I, and especially my wife, would see my sister, who is single with no kids, in an apartment, and fresh out of school with her PHD, we both would always feel that she certainly had money and if we needed help she could help and probably wouldn’t need to get paid back right away, or at all. After talking with her though, I realized that maybe I was mistaken. She has lots of student loan debt that I didn’t think about, and well, I guess when she explained it — she went to school a long time to get that degree so she could make some money and not struggle financially, and so maybe my wife and me shouldn’t try to make her feel bad or take advantage. And this article really hits that point. I’m sorry to say that I was on the other side, but now that sis and I talked, we’ve been much better and have a better understanding of eachother. And I’m sorry I was taking advantage, it wasn’t really fair. And I’m sorry you have friends/family that make you feel bad, too! Maybe a heart-to-heart would help?

    • Avrex
      January 8, 2013

      BlueCollarWorkman, I was about to verbally beat you for possibly making your sister feel bad and give you money. My thought has always been that I would exclude friends, and yes even family, from my life, if they would try to take monetary advantage of a close relationship. It’s just not right.
      However, after reading your full reply, you obviously saw yourself in Daisy’s post and you understood how unfair it was. Good on you.

  • Modest Money
    March 7, 2012

    I use this tactic all the time. Whenever I’m confronted with a financial decision that I know is excessive. I’ll just tell myself I’m too broke to afford it even if I’m not. I think I should be changing that to telling myself that I decide I don’t need that thing. Then it won’t see like a negative thing and I’ll still be able to use the line when I get further and further from being broke.

    By the way, sorry to hear that some family members have been taking advantage. I guess you just need to put your foot down with each of them and they’ll get the hint.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF
    March 7, 2012

    You can upload a photo to FB and change the privacy settings so only your mom can see it. Or just email it to her?

    Fortunately, I haven’t had anyone try to take advantage of me. Less fortunately, that probably means I’m more broke than everyone else in my life. :wink:

  • Bridget
    March 7, 2012

    Interesting post!

    I feel a bit like I’m always pretending I’m broke. Like when I switched from my old job to my new one and was thinking about getting a car, friends from my old job kept suggesting cheap beaters that I could “afford”. What they were really doing was listing the cars THEY could afford — my salary was now over $25,000 more than theirs, but I they didn’t know that so they were assuming I was way more broke than I actually was.

    I didn’t correct them, just seethed about it quietly on my own haha.

    I think now that they see (through my blog) that I’m doing things like making $700 monthly payments towards my student loans and increasing my net worth by $2500/mo (more than their net pay), they’ve stopped making assumptions about what I can “afford” which is nice.

  • WorkSaveLive
    March 7, 2012

    I can’t say that I’ve pretended to be broke, because in reality I am. :)

    While we certainly have more cash-on-hand than 80% of Americans, I don’t consider myself anything other than broke.

    I guess it’s all about mindset. The fact that we still have debt makes me feel like we’re broke. Our monthly disposable income is spoken for each month so there isn’t “extra” money so to speak. This mindset allows me to be focused and ensures that I don’t get lazy in our financial progress.

  • American Debt Project
    March 7, 2012

    I am still broke. It’s not something I tell everyone, but I use it as a real reason not to spend on all the things you described above! Sure, I could spend on dinners, and movie and trampoline lessons, but like WorkSaveLive, all my disposable income is accounted for. And I like it :grin:

  • Bethany
    March 7, 2012

    I think I fall into the category of needing to act broke more often than I do. It is hard when most socializing involves $$ and you want to join in. :neutral:

    I totally get your family problems. I do not post anything too personal on facebook for similar reasons- I message my friends the details instead. If your mom wants to see a picture, maybe invite her over if possible (no pictures to share w others?) or maybe say how much money you were “so happy to save” getting it.

  • Nick
    March 7, 2012

    I’ve sort-of “pretended” I was broke to spare the feelings of someone else. I have an uncle who keeps asking for money and my response is usually something like “I’m sorry but I don’t have any money to give you,” or something like that, which is at best vague. I say stuff like that to avoid saying “you’re a manipulative moron who has sucked way too many people dry during his lifetime and there’s no way I’m next buddy… try getting a job and stop partying like it’s going out of style… yes, I saw your vacation pics posted three separate times this year… last vacation I took was two years ago….” looks like you struck a nerve with me… haha! Sensitive subject…

    At the same time, I don’t hide that I’m doing well generally and emphasize that I don’t smoke, budget and spend less than I make.

    But I don’t post much on Facebook. Too much “envy” on there. No need for the negativity.

  • Laura
    March 7, 2012

    We do this a lot. We bought a house well under what we could get approved for (like 50% of that number) and we remodeled a bathroom immediately. Several people commented about how it’s great we did that early and might as well take on the debt and pay it off in time and enjoy it now. Buuuut we paid cash for the remodel. We just play into it as much as we can, it’s kind of amusing.

  • Anthony Thompson
    March 7, 2012

    I feel you! It’s never a good feeling to get taken for your cash; especially when some of the culprits are your own relatives. That said, I believe that you have the right idea about not disclosing your possessions to friends and family. People are always bound to think that some how you’re a family member of the Trump Organization, and thus assume that you’ve got piles of cash falling out of the trunk of your car. Great post!

  • jefferson
    March 7, 2012

    I think we kinda ruined our ability to lie about our financial situation when we put our picture on our website..

    Oh well :-)

  • Kris @ Simple Island Living
    March 7, 2012

    I”m doing this right now, actually. Mostly for our own mindset – if we tell ourselves we have no money, we will work on not spending any. I don’t want to dip into the e-fund while I’m unemployed, at least not any more than we absolutely have to, so telling ourselves we’re broke is keeping our costs in check.

  • Bryan at Pinch that Penny!
    March 7, 2012

    My wife and I were having a hypothetical conversation along these lines a few days ago where we were wondering just how many people we’d tell if we won the lottery some day. Even in just telling our immediate families, we anticipated some issues with people wanting more than we’d necessarily like to give (we both agreed that we’d probably give our immediate families some money, but it was difficult to say where our desire to help out ended).

    Obviously, with a huge windfall like a lottery win, it’d be pretty difficult to hide it (“how do you afford this mansion when you both quit your jobs?”). That said, I definitely agree that it’s easier/better to hide certain aspects of our financial lives from those who’d be most eager to take advantage.

  • eemusings
    March 7, 2012

    We try, so that T’s family don’t milk us. But I mean, and I’ve blogged about this, it’s pretty hard to hide some things – the fact that we can go on holidays, that we have a car and motorbike, that in short we get by. After all, they only live ten minutes away and T sees the quite often. Being reserved about our financial situation without lying can only go so far (although they probably think we have less than we actually do!)

  • Julie @ Freedom 48
    March 7, 2012

    I couldn’t agree more. In fact… I just wrote a post 2 days ago on the “non financial benefits of living a frugal lifestyle”. Expectations from other is HUGE! By not displaying your wealth, your peers have lower expectations when it comes to your spending abilities… so they’re not disappointed or surprised when you decline a shopping date, restaurant meal, or anything similar.
    It makes me feel like I’m living a double life though…

  • Katie
    March 7, 2012

    I definitely do this with my youngest brother. He’ll usually ask for twenty dollars at a time, but those twenty dollars here and there add up and it’s money I know I’ll never see again. I think its easier to pretend like I’m broke instead of saying no you can’t “borrow” twenty bucks.

  • Cassie
    March 7, 2012

    100%! It wasn’t really an act when I started doing it, because I really was broke. Since I’ve whittled down my debt however I DO have money to spend on things/places/food with people, but I don’t really want to. I’d much rather pay off my debt right now. If people want to go for dinner my first response is usually “I can’t afford it.” I don’t get asked much anymore, and that’s fine by me. I think buying the beater of a car helped ;) The Boy’s friends and family are constantly going on vacations and wanting us to go with them. “It’s only $500/$600/$800! Come on you guys!” To the extent of my knowledge, most of that has been fueled by debt. You better believe I’m going to keep using the “I can’t afford it” line even after my debt is paid off. I can’t afford to try to keep up with them!

  • Annabel
    March 7, 2012

    Yep. I tend to spend when it comes to gadgets and my apartment (which is tiny but in a great neighborhood), but save when it comes to shopping sprees and food. I hesitate to let friends see that I’m so up date with technology because I feel it will give them the wrong impression. I truly don’t have a lot in the bank – I just choose to skimp on many things in order to “afford” things that make my life substantially easier.

  • Allison ILR
    March 7, 2012

    I try to do this at work/school sometimes, since I have friends with very expensive tastes…but it’s hard, since all the students have the same stipend, so they know what we make. They don’t know the specifics of what we save, how much we pay for our condo, etc, but they know we don’t owe THAT much in student loans, so they expect that dropping $100 on a Friday night for dinner and drinks is nothing for us. The reality is that we’d rather save that money, or put it towards our retirement or mortgage.

    I have done it before at stores too! Just tonight, I was buying shoes for my cousin’s wedding, and the sales girl was really trying to sell me some other stuff, so I just told her I was a broke grad student, and she left me alone. I know it’s her job, but I feel nicer about saying I’m broke than saying I just don’t want the other stuff.

  • Jon Rhodes
    March 8, 2012

    Your certainly not being selfish. People should not try and take from you no matter how well you are doing. We all know as entrepreneurs that you can be doing well one minute, then things change. It’s nice to give when you feel like it, not when someone demands or cheats there way to it.

    I wouldn’t say that I have ever pretended to be broke, but I certainly don’t shout about my earnings. Certain people definitely suddenly need favours when they think you are doing well financially. My straying modest it cuts out these awkward situations.

  • Young Professional Finances
    March 8, 2012

    It’s not that I pretend I’m broke but I don’t like to announce how much money/savings I have to people I’m not really close too. I just feel that there are too many people out there who judge you based on that.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple
    March 8, 2012

    In no way are you being selfish by not wanting to support freeloaders!

    I pretend I’m broke, pretty much all of the time, to avoid making unnecessary purchases. Sure, I have cash in the bank, but that cash is for emergencies, investments, or other planned purchases.

  • fabulouslyfrugirl
    March 8, 2012

    I do this with mostly with relatives who aren’t too close to me (some cousins, aunts, uncles, etc). I just pretend that I have a massive student loan to pay off and don’t really talk about my traveling, much less my assets.

    Like you, I find it easier this way. Not that anyone has ever tried to get money from me, but I just would rather be on the down low about my money.

  • starvingartistcanada
    March 8, 2012

    I certainly don’t live a lavish life, but I’ve had similar responses to my investment successes. (Must be lucky… blah blah blah) Where I’ve invested thousands of hours researching my investment choices and most (but not all) have started to pay very well.

    It’s not your job to pay for your friends/family. If you offer, make sure you do it on a one-off basis.

    If people just expect you to do it for them just tell them you can’t afford to do it… As in, DON’T let anybody use your car at all. It costs you insurance, tires, oil changes, brakes, repairs, and gas. (Gas is really only 15-20% of the cost of car ownership per km traveled… my 2007 mazda3 has cost me $0.65 per km to date)

  • SP
    March 8, 2012

    No, not so much any more. I am conservative with my money, but not so conservative that I spend way way less than friends. My family & friend’s would never take advantage of me (and I’d say no if they tried).

    But, I think this is a really good strategy!

  • Liquid Indepdendence
    March 8, 2012

    If everyone thinks you’re broke and you buy them lunch they’ll think, aww she’s so generous :grin: . But if people think you’re rich, then they’ll expect you to buy them lunch, and if you don’t then they’ll resent you for it :evil:. The world works in weird ways like that. Pretending to be broke is only the smart thing you can do to protect yourself. :grin:

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses
    March 8, 2012

    I’m pretty sure if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d still act as if I were broke, or at least not change really alter my frugal lifestyle. I totally get your hesitation about putting your car’s pic on Facebook. That’s why even though I could probably afford a Coach purse (well, a really small purse) I’d never buy one because I don’t want people to think that I have a bunch of money and start treating me differently.

  • Marissa @ Thirtys Six Months
    March 9, 2012

    While I haven’t pretended that I was broke, I have faked not having my wallet on me to get out of hanging out with certain people who over indulge. Its my way of protecting my income.

  • Kris @ BalancingMoneyand Life
    March 9, 2012

    Pretended to be broke? Not recently. I’ve achieved a good income now – but by the same token, I try not to talk too much about the things we do or have, simply because I work with a lot of people who make (a lot) less than I do.

    However, I also do not lend money, put bills on my CC, or provide any other “free” support. I don’t blame you at all if that is the type of thing you’ll have to deal with!

  • Carla
    March 9, 2012

    Interesting comments & post… I think if people are putting bills on your cc & not paying you for gas, it’s because YOU are letting them…nobody can take advantage of you without your permission. I wouldn’t avoid posting photos because why *other* people think… People are always going to think/believe what they want, no matter what you do on your end, that’s just the way life goes.

  • Shondell
    March 9, 2012

    I don’t understand why people think that your money is their money as well.

    You’ve just gotta say NO! I’ve learned that people treat you the way you let them treat you.

  • Carrie - Careful Cents
    March 9, 2012

    Girl you are totally reading my mind with this post. Actually just the other day I “pretended” to be broke because I didn’t want to spend the money. I have money, but not particularly for THAT.

    I don’t think it’s wrong for you to be paranoid either. I share your same views, and have been taken advantage of a lot by my family and friends as well. I don’t get how people can think “well she has more money, so I’ll make her pay”. Seriously WTH.

  • MyCanadianFinances
    March 9, 2012

    I have to pretend that I am broke all the time. My co-workers always expect me to have money and invite me to places I really just do not want to go to. To make them stop pestering me about it I just say I have no money. It tends to work until I do something that I like doing that costs a tad more than a broke person should have.

  • Edwin @ Richest Nation
    March 9, 2012

    Pretending you’re broke with family is a must. The problem is when they see you spending like crazy and they say “I thought you were broke?”.

  • Geoff
    March 10, 2012

    No one should be taken advantage of whether they have some money or not. How did this happen though Daisy – “For instance, when I told a family member that I had a credit card, he took advantage of me by charging his bills to it and not paying me back.” You must have given your card details to that family member which is never a good idea. I think you need to be firm about not letting others borrow without paying you back etc.

  • Michelle
    March 10, 2012

    From the other side, I will say that I’ve thought on more than one occasion “How did they afford that car? Are they hustling?”

  • MyMoneyDesign
    March 10, 2012

    Great story! I was actually working on a draft for a post that was similar in nature to this – acting more “poor” than you really are for whatever reason. You are not selfish or paranoid for doing these things. If I had experiences where people took advantage of me or my generosity, I would act in this way as well. In my situation, my wife and I both come from humble beginnings. We have worked very hard to pull ourselves up and make what we have today. Some people would find this respectful, but we find that people resent us or feel we have become “snobs” even though we have caused no harm. And so we find ourselves downplaying our financial status. It’s a great irony…

  • 101 Centavos
    March 11, 2012

    Get taken by family once or twice, and you learn real quick not to disclose your financials. Some families seem to think that what’s yours is theirs.

  • eemusings
    March 11, 2012

    While I like to play my cards close to my chest in most things in life, T likes to have nice things and to show them off. Not a good thing when his family are all broke and likely to ask for handouts! (

    • Marianne
      March 22, 2012

      Some family members just asked us to borrow money but my husband (his side) told them we didn’t have it. I’m pretty sure they know that’s not true but it’s not like they can argue with that. :)

  • frugalportland
    March 14, 2012

    Wow. I am so frugal and I definitely feel broke. The way I live my life would not change if my wealth increased, so I wouldn’t have to pretend anything — I still wouldn’t have extra money at the end of the month.

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