Worry About Money Not Your “Image”

Get your head out of your ass, you can’t afford that!!! Haven’t you ever wanted to just grab someone by the shoulders and shake them like a rag doll while screaming that phrase in their face?  I know I have…plenty of times, and even more often lately.  Whether it’s a family member, friend, co-worker, client or whoever, there has to have been at least one or two times where someone just blew your mind with their thoughtless, reckless, or even ignorant attitude toward spending.  Forget about failing to budget, or the fact that they use a credit card instead of cash, I’m talking about the person who is months behind on their bills yet continue to spend on “frivolous” things like they have and endless supply of money (with frivolous being a subjective term of course).


Here’s a little example of what I am talking about for those who may be unsure of what I am talking about. This is the story of a client of mine and what I see of their financial situation.  Since everyone is so enamored with the “keeping up with the Joneses“, I’ll call him Mr. Wannabee:


Mr. Wannabee is married with 3 children.  He and his wife run a respectable business that should turn quite a nice profit annually.  Mr. Wannabee in the past few years has had his Cigarette boat taken from him.  His Hummer was repossessed.  He was several months behind on his mortgage payments.  He had to dip into his children’s  trust accounts in order to pay bills.  His business started to fall behind on its payments to vendors.  The business fell behind on its rent payments and was eventually locked out and forced to move.


Not a great picture of financial health, is it?  I certainly don’t think so, but then again, what do I know?  Mr. Wannabee apparently seems to think that he’s in great shape because he was able to get a loan modification on his mortgage and go from $3500 a month down to $2350 a month.  Mr. Wannabee is in such great shape, that he takes his car bimonthly for a $100 detailing.  He’s in such great shape that he spends on average $700 a month dining out–on the business account of course, which by the way this particular business is a retail-type venture which does not require the wining and dining of prospective clients.  Mr. Wannabee is in such great shape that he still hasn’t repaid the children’s trust funds.  He’s still not caught up on the payments to vendors and the landlord who took him to court.  Mrs. Wannabee still goes shopping at boutique shops, and gets her hair and nails done at an upscale salon.


One day, I asked Mr. Wannabee what his aversion to being financially responsible was, and his answer was simple:  “I have an image to uphold”–although between me and all of you, that “image” isn’t a very good one in my opinion.


There you have it folks, one of the biggest reasons so many people are in financial trouble these days: image.



Andre Agassi famously uttered the words “Image is everything” in his early-90’s Canon commercials and it wasn’t just a slogan; he actually lived by that phrase.  Everything was about his image, even that huge head of hair which was eventually revealed to be a wig.  How’s that for placing too much emphasis on one’s image?  After a couple of years, however, even he learned that it really isn’t. Agassi shaved his head in 1995 and from there went on to have his most successful period in his career.


Forget the fact that you may lose your home or your car.  You don’t have any savings for your kids’ future education, no problem.  Why worry about those things, when you have to make sure that you keep up appearances for the satisfaction of others?  Why teach your children how to be fiscally responsible when it’s more fun to spend like there’s no need to pay it back?  Why do the right thing when in the end you can go on unemployment and welfare, and become a burden on society?  Well, maybe that was one was a bit of a stretch, but it is the path that many people are on.


If the “image” you are trying to put out is bankrupting you, it might be time for a new one.  If this so-called “image” is really just a reflection of who your friends want you to be, then guess what: they aren’t real “friends” and you need to find new ones.  If  your “image” is just your way of dealing with the worry of fitting in with your neighbors or other social environment, then guess what: you probably don’t belong there anyway.  Harsh words, I’m sure, but sometimes it takes something like that to wake people up and open their eyes to the important issues in life.


Now tell me, isn’t this the exact type of behavior that makes you want to grab someone by the shoulders and shake them like a rag doll while screaming “Get your head out of your ass, you can’t afford that!!!” in their face?  I encourage each of you to try it and let me know not only how it felt, but what the result was!

  • Andrea

    I know from my experience, both as a would-be shaker AND as a would-be shakee, that it’s really difficult to convince someone to think differently if they don’t want to. That said, I think a lot of people would be better off if others were more open to saying, “You can’t afford that!” It took me a long time to realize that I couldn’t live a lifestyle that was 3-4 times my annual income, but once I did, I kind of wondered why no one ever said anything. I guess they were being polite, but it really didn’t do me any favors. The truth hurts, but sometimes it’s necessary.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      The truth is totally necessary Andrea, especially when someone has a hard time even recognizing that they are doing something wrong.  I know a lot of people are open to the idea that there are better ways, and many declare that they will change, but actually acting on those remarks is where the real problem lies.  Hopefully the people who really need to change will get it sooner than later.

  • http://twitter.com/DebtChronicles Travis Pizel

    I wish someone would have shaken the shit out of me about 15 years ago – probably would have done me some good.  I wonder what kind of image Mr. Wannabee thought he was portraying as his Hummer was taken away, or as customers walked up to his front door to find them locked.  These days I’d rather give the image of someone that’s selfish with my money.  I’d rather have people thinking, “What a cheap ass…..I wonder how much he’s got stockpiled away..”  

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      Tell me about it Travis.  I could have used it in my early 20’s as well.

      I definitely don’t like to give the impression of having money, that’s why I don’t wear jewelry or drive around in a fancy car or live in a huge house when it’s just me or flash cash when I go out.  I would much rather be the low-key guy just chilling in the back watching others screw themselves over with all that stuff while leaving nothing to put towards the important things.  On the other hand, I don’t like to be cheap with myself either since tomorrow is never a guarantee so I try to find a healthy balance between now and later.

  • http://twitter.com/Lbeemoneytree Lauren Bee

    My mom and my boyfriend have both become great at telling me “no”. so if you could have just one or two people in your life like that I think it would go a long way. Great post, Eric!

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      Thanks Lauren!  It’s great to have people in your life to help keep you on track in the important areas :-)

  • http://www.getacopywriter.com/blog Crystal @ Get A Copywriter

    Oh baby do I ever want to do some shaking. When people look at ME weird because we don’t have credit card or car debt, I just am dumbfounded. My favorite is when my neighbors (not doing very well) let me know that they thought I was wasting money on our new house…while they were smoking and drinking and complaining they have no savings…

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      Everyone has their own idea of what’s wasteful Crystal.  Some people looked at me funny for buying a condo in a nicer area rather than a house in a less desirable one because I lose the “privacy” and space for the same money.  I don’t necessarily see smoking and/or drinking in the same light as I would constantly going on vacation or going shopping every weekend if they didn’t have anything in savings.

  • Amanda L. Grossman

    I definitely have wanted to. What has held me back is I don’t want others in my life to feel as though I am talking down to them. So I try to diplomatically steer them another way…

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      I’m a believer in the opposite approach, Amanda.  I’d rather tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.  It sometimes may come off as condescending, but being up front and direct is the only way to get to some people.

  • http://twitter.com/eemusings eemusings

    Oh heck yes. I’m hugely judgemental, but I try to keep my opinions to myself.

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      It’s hard not to judge others, and I do the same thing sometimes.  Somehow, I think it makes it alright if the judgment isn’t being made public ;-)

  • http://www.vanessasmoney.com/ Vanessa

    I am judged relentlessly for my lack of fashionable clothes and toys but I judge back equally hard for their frivolous spending (or, their spending of mommy & daddy’s money)

    • http://www.dollarversity.com Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

      Isn’t it funny how the ones who judge aren’t free from judgement themselves?  I just let people do what they want, as long as they aren’t crying about or coming to me for money when they have their prioritize mixed up.  Then, it’s open season :-)