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Everyday Cheapskate: Grumpy Unhappy Cheapskates

Mary Hunt on

Dear Cheapskate: I have cheapskates in my life. My father is one. My boss, my boss's mom and my boyfriend's mom. All these individuals have the following in common: They are unhappy. They avoid birthday parties, anniversaries or any type of holidays that require gift-giving, such as Christmas, at all costs.

They often choose to be by themselves rather than have people at their homes. I don't mean they are unhappy because they avoid gatherings. They are unhappy because they are grumpy. They don't smile and are afraid of their own shadows. They feel somebody might steal from them, so they're always guarded.

These cheapskates all wear the same clothes over and over again no matter the occasion. For example, my boss still wears his 1980s shirts. I've known my boyfriend's mom for over a year. She always wears the same black pants, white blouse and black sweater. And yes, it's the same exact outfit. My dad doesn't buy clothes. We have to buy them for him with our money.

All these cheapskates in my life have money. Lots of money. They are financially well off. Here's my dilemma: I want to have the kind of money they have when I retire. But I don't want to be grumpy or unhappy. I am afraid of becoming one of them. They have all the money in the world and don't enjoy it. Am I overreacting? -- Name Withheld

Dear Withheld: I once shared your attitude and determination. I went to extreme measures to make sure no one mistook me for a "cheapskate!" I bought nice things, drove fabulous cars and bought lots of clothes. Our kids went to private schools, dressed well and had most everything they wanted. And I ended up in terrible -- worse than horrible -- debt. Thankfully, I reformed, repaid all the debt and have gone on to call myself a cheapskate, simply because it's a fun way to point out how far I've come from the credit card junkie I once was.

I suppose there is a chance the cheapskates in your life are happy, but I wouldn't count on it. For sure that's not what I want for my life. That's why I advocate a balanced lifestyle where you give away 10% of your income, save 10% for the future, then live the best life you can on the other 80%. Live your life with an open hand, not a closed fist. The 10-10-80 formula works because it prevents the kind of extremes you cite. When you are giving, saving and doing all you can to live an abundant life, you won't be grumpy.


I suggest you set your own agenda for your life and begin managing your money in such a way that you stay out of debt, prepare for the future, and bless others less fortunate with generosity. That's the secret to a happy life. May your joy be infectious to all those grumpy people around you!

Thanks for writing. It was great to hear from you!


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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