Playing poor

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Image by FatMandy via Flickr

Tons of you urged us to pretend to T’s family that we are equally broke following the latest saga with them. I love this in theory and believe me, it’s crossed my mind many times – but it’s impossible.

For one, T is pathologically honest. Also, he sees his family a lot. As in, pretty much every week, often more than once (I don’t understand it either, seeing as visits are often short and IMO kind of pointless. But I guess that’s the kind of family they are, where facetime and frequency are important). Moving away isn’t something either of us want to do, either! Possibly for a couple of years, but this is our city and where we see ourselves longterm.

For another, it’s simply not logistically viable. We have a car. We go on the odd holiday (in fact, just returned from our first trip abroad together). We have gadgets (Xbox, smartphones, digital cameras). We even go to concerts from time to time. This is all pretty obvious. If we’re not a total mess, then we are already miles ahead. Trust me when I say the bell curve in this case is rather low.

And while I’m not flashy, he likes his toys, and he likes to show them off. Thinking back to when he had his motorbike, for example; hiding that would have meant not talking at all about the single biggest most exciting thing in his life and not riding it over to visit his mother/sister/nieces etc.

So while we definitely live modestly – within our means rather than beyond –  meaning they don’t know the extent of our financial situation, there’s just no way to pretend that we are as broke as any of them. So if we can’t hide it, what to do? I suppose we’re fortunate in that it’s mainly only one family member who tends to need bailing out, and that T now says enough is enough. I honestly do think this is enough for more than just a brief reprieve, but I’m not under the illusion that this will be the end of it.

Have any of you successfully – and completely – concealed your financial status from relatives?

11 thoughts on “Playing poor

  • Reply ScribblesNZ July 13, 2011 at 12:13

    It’s interesting… we’ve never really concealed our financial status from relatives but we have from some friends. It’s not in our five-year-plan to purchase a house (we are instead choosing to have our children and wait for me to return to work before purchasing) but we know we’d feel the pressure from our friends to buy a place if they knew our current financial position. It’s not that we lie, it’s more that we divert conversations about money more towards upcoming expenses (wedding, replacement car) than our actual financial position… I guess that gives the indication that we are less well off than we are.

  • Reply Kelly July 13, 2011 at 14:30

    Yeah- I don’t like to reveal endless info to people but I don’t think I could pretend to be seriously poor or seriously rich if I am actually close with the people. Annoying that you have to deal with this at all, I think!

  • Reply Sense July 13, 2011 at 20:06

    …and you can’t pretend it’s all on credit, because, well…BAD example! I wish you could impress upon them how much thought and hard work has and continues to go into making sure you can afford the nice stuff you have!

  • Reply First Gen American July 13, 2011 at 23:21

    It’s very clear in my family that we are the ones with the most money. On my husband’s side it’s a non issue. His mother still tries to pay for stuff, but on mine there are definitely expectations for handouts and lavish gifts. I ended up cutting off one relative completely out of my life and am majorly limiting another.

    I share my finances with my Mother and MIL because they both try to give us money and we want them to use it for themselves, but I don’t dare tell anyone else our exact situation. The only things I share are our big expenses..like yeah, we have 2 incomes but we also pay $20,000/year in daycare and $800/month on groceries and diapers. I think it’s hard for a single person to understand the added costs of a family. They just know we earn good money and that’s all that matters.

  • Reply Serendipity July 14, 2011 at 08:18

    I hide stuff from my family very easily because I know how they are. I know my dad would never borrow money from me but I feel like because they help out his wives children so much, they should offer to help me out with my education. I think if you help on child, you help all, but his wife begs to differ. That’s a totally different story actually.
    And I never tell my aunt anything because she is so rude about things. She asked for my mothers wedding ring ( her only ring I have) because I shared the new ring Rambo had purchased from me. She is greedy and I already know what goes on in her head. I just choose to keep our finances to ourselves but, we do live far away and trips home are rare compared to what T does.
    I don’t think you could hide or should hide it, because you’ve worked extremely hard to be at the place where your at. You should be proud. I just would hate for his family to try to take advantage of you guys again. You should not be bailing them out on a regular basis because they think you can afford it. Again, just my two sense, but your way too good for that.

  • Reply Kim July 14, 2011 at 15:48

    I downplay my salary and the state of my financial health on the regular to most acquittance and non-close friends. I do this because I was one of the few lucky ones out of my friends to obtain a decent job right out of school, I don’t want to invite jealousy from others, and also so that people don’t expect me to treat them with dinners/drinks and lavish gifts often (trust me, I’ve seen such expectations thrust upon others who are relatively well off). I don’t necessarily pretend to be poor per se, but I keep everything vague, and definitely act like I make less than my actual salary (not that it’s that much to begin with).

    I always pretend to be poor to my dad. He left my mom and me when I was a teenager to start a new family, which left us in a financial mess that took a long time to dig out of. If I don’t ask for financial help and pretend that I need it urgently, I never got any help from him. So I’d lie straight to his face about how poor I am, which is easy as he lives in a different country. I don’t feel bad about this lying and would do it again in a heart bit. Sorry, this may not actually help, as my situation is quite different than yours…

  • Reply Amanda July 14, 2011 at 17:26

    Ooh this is tricky… I’ve learned through watching my parents’ problems between each other and extended family’s money troubles (aka mum going SIGH FINE and letting dad lend away lots of money to his family which we’ll never see back) that I will never ever fall into that trap with my future partner’s family. NO WAY IN HELL. And maybe you can’t conceal, but just point out the harsh but obvious truth – you guys have what you have because you can afford it. You can afford it because you worked hard and saved hard for it. They aren’t. Simple theory.

  • Reply superfrugaletteSuper Frugalette July 14, 2011 at 19:18

    I have known many people who “cry poor” and do have money. I have seen people struggling be very generous. I do not hide our finances. However, I think many of the people in my family have similar incomes, but what we do with our money is very different and how it “looks” is very different.

  • Reply Tracey July 17, 2011 at 15:38

    It amazes me that this is such a common issue. Why do so many people feel they are entitled to a hand out from more well-off family members? I try to keep my mouth shut about financial issues around certain people.

    In my family, it’s a bit strange. When I was in debt up to my eyeballs, my family provided great support to help me out of it. Then once the debt was gone and I started to save money for a house, things changed. They were really agressive and would make snide comments. Now that I’ve bought my house and all the money has gone on paying lawyer’s fees etc, they’re supportive again. Go figure.

  • Reply Miss J July 20, 2011 at 17:08

    My family is mostly based overseas & I do try and conceal our financial state from them. The economy of the country I’m from is being held up by remittances – money sent from relatives abroad – this makes some people over there very very dependent on people that live in “Western” countries – you know, because we earn dollars. Sometimes it gets so bad that even distant relatives would ask me for money (my uncle who has 6 grown children – all working full-time) without any degree of guilt. So when I notice that the conversation is turning into money (and it always does) then I back off very quickly. This is a problem I’m going to have my whole life!

  • Reply When your significant other’s family is a financial mess | Musings of an Abstract Aucklander October 21, 2011 at 18:10

    […] on the other hand, are, going nowhere fast. The easiest way to deal with this is obviously to disclose as little as possible, but the fact that we can take any holidays at all, or will be funding a (very frugal) wedding, […]

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