How to feel rich when you’re the brokest person in the room

Today we have a special guest post from Mrs. Picky Pincher. She is the blogger and resident money-saving maven at Picky Pinchers. She writes about living the good life while paying off $225,000 of debt.

Shiny new job

I remember that it was my first week at a squeaky-shiny new job. I was fresh out of college, horribly impressionable, and bad with money. The ladies in my office gathered in the break room to chat about life one day. One coworker had just bought a Lexus and the other gushed over her Prada glasses. After we took turns ooh-ing and ahhh-ing over them, they turned to me.
“Oh! Um. I got this purse at the thrift store for $15. It had a wad of gum in it, but I cleaned it out with Goo-Gone,” I said with the biggest freakin’ grin. My coworkers nodded, exchanged a look, and changed the subject.
It sucks feeling like you’re the brokest person in the room. At the time I actually was broke because I didn’t know how to manage my money. Fast forward four years later, and I’ve paid off most of my debt and I’m on the road to financial independence. But I’m still the lady in the room with the thrift store purse and hand-me-down Wal-Mart cardigans.
No matter how frugal you are, it kinda hurts to be on the outside looking in. I know that ditching my obsession with impulse shopping, clothes, and restaurants were my saving grace. But coworkers, strangers, and even family can make me feel like the brokest person in the room. I don’t have the latest car, clothes, or gadgets, and most of the time I don’t mind. But some days you just want to fit in, you know?
Here’s how I make an effort to feel rich when I feel like the brokest person in the room.
 Feeling rich when you are super broke

Do Something About It

If you’re actually broke, like I was, take this chance to do something about it. Find a better-paying job (I know from experience it isn’t easy, but bear with me), ruthlessly murder extra expenses, and build a small savings cushion. This is a separate journey by itself, but taking hold of your finances is the first step to feeling like you’re actually rich. I remember the hot panic in my throat when I once realized I had zero money to buy groceries. The second I was able to buy groceries without worry was cathartic–I felt rich and empowered.
After you conquer your own financial demons, the next step is to not buy a bunch of crap with your newfound money. Prada sunglasses and BMWs are nice to look at, but owning them is a pain in the wallet. These are illusions of wealth. It stings a little when people try to rub their Sperrys collection in your face as proof that you’re less of a human being.
But you do you and remember that real net worth isn’t tied up in trinkets or the newest iPhone. Every time someone brags to me about their new possession, I nod my head and remember how gigantic my savings account is–and how small my debts are.
Secure your finances and you’ll feel rich, no matter how much money you have.
DDD: I could not agree more. Don’t buy random stuff. The happiness it provides has been shown to be fleeting. Try a bit of minimalism or at least moderatism. Remember that often experiences are more lasting then items. 

Don’t Play The Reindeer Games

People are more than willing to talk about how great their lives are and how shiny their things are. Don’t be tempted, like me, to participate in braggy, consumerist conversations if you don’t want to. If you want to, then by all means, enjoy learning about the high-end tanning process of your coworker’s $2,000 purse.
I don’t recommend playing people’s little reindeer games. Keeping up with the Joneses is a dangerous exercise that can tempt you into excess.
Heck, this still happens to me. I’ll see that another gardener has a very fancy/expensive watering system and I’ll want it. Like, now. Comparison can sometimes help you, but it can also do harm. There’s no easier way to feel poor and deprived than to remind yourself of all the things you don’t have.
I avoid this line of thinking by practicing gratitude. If I’m stuck in a conversation where people are talking about upgrading their one-year-old truck, I’ll still nod along. But I’m really thinking of how grateful I am to have a paid off truck.
DDD: As a doctor you think it would be hard, but luckily I am not a plastic surgeon in LA. Instead I chose to practice in a place with like minded people. Sure there are a lot of Teslas in the garage but no one judges me for driving an Altima. So if you can work somewhere with likeminded people, then do it. My wife reminds me every time I think about buying a new car that we have 2 paid off cars and in 5 years we will still have 2 paid off cars. Seems like she also practices the picky pinching method!
Watching a moonrise in the mountains is quite free and fun.

Treat Yo’self

Guess what? Living a money-conscious lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. What a relief that we don’t have to live like cave hermits!
I feel rich when I treat myself. I had to adjust my idea of what a “treat” was, though. I used to buy hundreds of dollars’ worth of crap from Amazon as a treat. The result was a lighter bank account, clutter, and a growing “gimme-gimme” attitude.
That’s not fun. Don’t do what I did.
Learn how to treat yourself for free. For me, that means giving myself extra time to do things I like (Pokemon, anyone?), taking a luxurious bubble bath, petting a cat, taking a nap, renting free books on my Kindle, renting a free movie from the library, or baking my favorite treats from scratch.
I’ve found that I’m much more satisfied with these treats than with storebought goods. I feel rich because I let myself do the things I love without guilt. I can restore myself with time and comfort and keep more money in my pocket.
DDD: I love the Treat yo self reference from Parks and Recreation! I am curious in this Pokemon infatuation…I played Pokemon Go for a bit but had to take it off my phone after it consumed to much of my life. Personally I prune my fruit trees and try to go hiking for free. Beyond that it is some ice cream to treat my self!

The Bottom Line

I’ve had plenty of low moments where I’ve felt like the poor lady in the room. But you know what? There’s no reason to feel that way. Do what you want for your financial situation and screw anyone who thinks your shoes are your worth. Empower yourself with these tricks to stay the course and feel rich.
DDD: Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher. I agree with you. Don’t fall into the hype of colleagues and consumerism. Save where you can. Find cheap activities you enjoy doing regularly. Save. Decrease stress. Love life. 

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Also published on Medium.


I am a Dad and Doctor trying to find financial freedom by owning my dollars and debts. Helping dads with their finances so they can focus on the family.

12 thoughts on “How to feel rich when you’re the brokest person in the room

  • October 22, 2017 at 7:10 am

    As a physician with colleagues who love to spend money, I struggle with this feeling often. For me, one of the key things is remembering my reasons for being frugal (freedom and choice). Although my colleagues are years ahead of me, I will likely (hopefully) be in a position to retire long before they are.

    I also like to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude, at least in my head. A bit of moral superiority helps to balance out the feeling of being “poor”.

    • October 22, 2017 at 7:29 am

      It’s a interesting predicament in deed. We are in a profession where spending is expected and being frugal is looked down on. Keep up the good work!

  • August 5, 2017 at 6:12 am

    I get it! I have to bite my tongue a bunch when people are talking about their expensive purchases, and then they’ll turn around and say, “Oh we’ll never retire.” Sometimes being frugal does make you wonder, “Will this be worth it? Will it actually be worth it to carry the thrift store purse and wear the hand-me-down cardigans?” Or having people think you’re poor. And then your net worth hits another milestone marker and you’re like, “Oh yep. It’s worth it. It’s just a very secret, private worth it.”

    • August 5, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      I hear you completely on this. I am a doctor and I often go to dinner parties and hear about the latest Tesla purchase or a $7,000 watch purchase (more to come on that later). To me, my time is more important then these purchases. Honestly, the less I have the happier I am.

  • July 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Totally with you, Mrs. PP! (And Mr. DDD!) It really does come down to your attitude. I’ve had many shifts in mindset from cheap to spendy and back to cheaper and then cheapest again! From hairstylists to clothes to cars to meals out, you can always get used to a new mindset that helps your bank account. I don’t feel a bit deprived with my old minivan; I LOVE knowing it’s paid for! And I don’t need the fancy $100+ haircuts anymore; I’m content with a $8 haircut at Great Clips. It certainly helps one appreciate the big, more expensive treats when they’re rare, too☺

    • July 20, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      I started cutting my own hair! Got tired of making small talk at great clips! Glad to hear you can shift your mindset back to being spend. I have found it a slow and steady climb to being more thrifty. Not easy but I am happier for it.

  • June 24, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I feel like people are super quick to share how awesome they are doing but aren’t always willing to share when things aren’t going as well. It’s like they want to show off the shiny object to deflect on some of the other deficits in their life. I definitely feel like it says a lot more when people share some of the re-purposing of items they’ve done over the years 🙂 Great post!!!

    • June 24, 2017 at 9:25 pm

      Agreed. Part of it is that our fulfillment in life has become how we appear in front of others instead of focusing on what truly makes us happy.

  • June 24, 2017 at 9:17 am

    It ultimately comes down to the only person you have to or should make happy is yourself. Your fooling yourself if you think showing off things will gain you anything in life and there is no way you can be the best at everything. So be the best at being you.

    • June 24, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Very true….I would only add that you should probably be interested in making your spouse happy too. I would happily live in an RV right now, but my spouse would prefer a home. So for now, compromise. I still am a huge fan of finding personal contentment and forgetting what others want.

  • June 24, 2017 at 9:09 am

    I’m with you, Mrs. Penny Pincher! A majority of my clothes, my purse/wallet, and our cars are all thrift store bought or 10+ years old!

    Its amazing how personal priorities can suddenly get so skewed by popular opinion or those around you. I now work remotely for my company, but when I was in an office everyday, it was harder to be satisfied wearing the same 3 skirts/pants with a rotating 4-6 tops when there were some fashionistas flaunting new, trendy outfits every week! I don’t even like trendy cloths and would prefer a pair of athletic shorts or jeans and a t-shirt, but when I am surrounded by trends or a certain “type”, it does add pressure to conform.

    And I love the “treat yo’ self” too! Mr. Adventure Rich and I have the BEST times going for a hike and indulging in a local craft beer at the beach afterwards or sitting outside while we grill up some food in the summer. It is amazing how satisfying the simple things are 🙂

    Thank you Mrs. Penny Pincher and Dads Dollars Debts for the great post!


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