Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015, this one ranks #45. This one was originally posted 2/6/2015.
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I used to go to this barbershop back in the day. All the barbers were drag queens. No kidding! It was great. They were also practical jokers. They used to do things like leave remote-controlled fart machines out on the sidewalk and blast people as they walked by.
So after theyou would go in the back room to pay, and one day they had their appointment book out, and I looked, and next to some of the names it had the letters "CF." I asked, "what is CF?"
"Cheap f*ck," he said.
I got a kick out of that. I was relieved to see that there was no CF next to my name. But that's only because I tipped more than normal at that place, because it was so awesome. Usually I was a pretty bad tipper. At restaurants, I would tip the minimum necessary, 15%, which is below average by most people's standards.
Especially for a Wall Street guy.
I used to be a legendary CF. You can ask all the guys I worked with at Lehman. Instead of going out for lunch, I used to bring in a 49 cent can of baked beans, pop off the top with a can opener, and eat beans out of a can with a plastic fork at the desk. I used to make fun of these guys getting $20 lunches. Ha ha, you losers are spending 20 bucks on lunch, I am eating for 49 cents.
Thing is, they thought I was the loser. And they were right.
There is something to be said for frugality. Saving $10-$20 a day on food adds up after a while. At the end of a year, it's a real number. But eating baked beans out of a can is taking it a little bit too far.
My reputation as a CF extended outside of work. We'd go to a bar afterwards. They used to call me "Alligator Arms" (because I could never reach my wallet).
I am no longer a CF. But seven years later, I am still trying to live down that reputation.
I think it is the worst thing in the world to be a CF. You leave a trail of destruction wherever you go. People remember acts of financial unkindness. Children will remember that you wouldn't pay for the college that you wanted to go to. Or, on a smaller scale, your friends will always remember you as the guy who demanded a reduction on the dinner bill because someone ate some of your fries.
I know a number of people who suffer from this affliction. They have it bad. And these are people with lots of money, people who have more money than they know what to do with. If you have a seven-figure bank account, you probably shouldn't be clipping coupons, or stiffing the guy that mows your lawn, or making people chase you down to pay an invoice. Or tipping like an absolute jackass.
Some people think that it isn't rational to give big tips to people you are never going to see again. Okay, maybe it isn't rational, unless you think it is rational to be a dick. But it is perfectly rational to be a good tipper in neighborhood places you go to often. If you are tipping 30-35%, nobody is ever going to be unhappy to see you.
But these people, these CFs, they have a serious mental illness. They think they are always on the verge of bankruptcy. Probably this is because of some scare they had in their upbringing. Maybe Dad's business failed and everyone was eating ramen noodles for a year. Maybe they just were the poor kid in school, with the other kids driving Jaguars and BMWs. These kinds of financial indignities can last a lifetime, or else, take years of therapy to unwind.
Take it from a former CF. It's taken a lot of work to change my behavior on this. And you know what I've found? The more generous you are, the more it comes back to you. And that's not just a corny Facebook meme. That's really true. Let me put it to you this way. If I am on the verge of going bankrupt, I am not going to wish that I had that $5 tip back. People don't go bankrupt because of big tips. They go bankrupt because they get the big financial decisions wrong.
There are a few things that you can do to make or break your personal finances:
1) Buy a home (or second home)
2) Start a business
3) Take out too much debt
Everything else is secondary, including yourand investing. Making 8% instead of 10% is not going to mean the difference between solvency and insolvency. But when you start screwing around with debt, that is another story. But nobody ever, ever screws up their life by not being a CF all the time.
I have heard of a funeral where the children were so sick of their CF father that they threw cash into the grave as the casket was being lowered. "Here's your f---ing money," they said. Financial wounds, for whatever reason, just don't heal.
Think about that if you are one of those guys who is tight with a buck. Trust me, everyone is well aware of your reputation. Being known as a generous person is one of the best things in the world. People will always remember.