“I Need Money Bad, But I Don’t Want a Roommate. Also, Can I Buy These Lottery Tickets?”

That’s a conversation I ran into this morning at our 7-11. While, randomly enough, turning in some of my own lottery tickets! Hah! (I received some as stocking stuffer gifts this Christmas (love that!) and won a whopping $8.00 :))

Let me set the scene for you:

  • The person who spouted this was a male
  • Probably in his 50’s, maybe even 60’s
  • He was a heavy smoker (the air wreaked around him)
  • He didn’t have a full set of teeth
  • He worked in construction/paving (at least I assumed so by his outfit)
  • And he was friends with the cashier – who was giving this gentlemen ideas on how to save some money after he was complaining about always being broke
  • The guy was listening, but not really listening. He seemed to enjoy complaining more than he wanted a solution.
  • By the time I left he must have been on his 5th or 6th scratcher

Now, as you can already tell this guy wasn’t in the best of shape physically. Nor, mentally, for that matter – at least in terms of finances (I tried to stick around and eavesdrop as long as I could but eventually ran out of ideas to make myself appear busy ;)). I wanted so bad to jump in and shake him, but I also knew it wasn’t any of my business, nor would I really change his mind anyways. He was pretty set in his ways, and I’d probably be too at 50. Plus, he looked pretty scrappy and I didn’t want to be on the opposite end of a fist ;)

Still, it saddened me. This poor guy seemed to be living paycheck to paycheck without any real hope whatsoever. And, let’s be honest, with an outlook like that how could he?

It actually reminded me of something a friend once told me that merits repeating:

“If you’re going to complain about something, be prepared to take action!”

I literally hear her voice almost every day. It’s amazing how many times I catch my friends or myself (or, apparently random strangers I run into) blowing smoke all over the place without any real intention of doing anything about it. Not that everything is always inside our control or that we’re not allowed to vent or whatever – we are, of course – but more often than not we waste a lot of energy with nothing productive to show for it. Or, worse, we annoy our friends ;) (I should have asked her what she does when she realizes she’s smack dab in the middle of a good bitch-fest?!)

Anyways, the point of all this today is to:

  1. Try to catch yourself the next time you complain w/out any real purpose
  2. Get a roommate and stop buying lottery tickets* if you’re dead broke!

I get that it’s hard to sacrifice, but if you want a desired outcome sometimes you’ve gotta own up and take one for the team (that is, the team of YOU). Or, at the very least, keep it to yourself and spare the rest of us the drama.**

Count how many times you come across this over the week ;)

** I give you permission to bitch at me, though, but only if I can then blog about it.

* I’m still a huge fan of playing the lottery, but only as a form of entertainment. Like, when your livelihood doesn’t depend on it.

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  1. Clarisse @ Savvy Scot February 11, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    Honestly, I have lots of relatives that always complained that they are very poor, they don’t have nothing to eat, blah-blah, but surprisingly they have money to buy for lottery tickets! This really makes me wonder what kind of attitude they have.

    1. Lizzie February 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      I know what you mean. I have relatives who complain that they are always broke, but they still manage to buy cigarettes.

      1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Yeah, people are conundrums sometimes. We all spend money on stuff that may not be the best for us, or our wallets, but when you start complaining about it and not doing anything is when it starts troubling me.

  2. a terrible husband... February 11, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    The guy was listening, but not really listening. He seemed to enjoy complaining more than he wanted a solution.

    ^^^ this ^^^

    I run into this a lot. I’m not sure what’s more challenging, biting my tongue and not politely offering a few solutions or offering solutions and hearing 1,000 excuses why the solutions “won’t work.” With a stranger I usually don’t say much. Sometimes I suggest a “great book” on the topic and move on.

    Hope is key though IMO. Crazy how powerful hope can be.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      At least hope can be really good too! Like me hoping this blog makes me a million dollars one day! ;)

  3. Lance @ Money Manifesto February 11, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    The guy was just complaining as you said and really wasn’t looking for a way out. He automatically said that by saying A) I don’t want to fix it by finding ways to save money like roommates and B) I don’t want to quit buying lottery ticket.

    Sometimes I wonder if education would help people that have these problems, but even then, it’s habits that have to change. The guy actually seemed like he knew exactly what he needed to do to get in a better financial position. He just didn’t want to do it.

    Maybe someone should come up with a way to help these people shift their mindset so they’re more willing to make the changes rather than offering ways to save money. I wonder if that’d be more effective?

  4. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life February 11, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    I encounter this mentality all the time among actors. I get that your in your 30s and want to live in a nice apartment without a roommate, but if you’re not bringing in enough income, you can’t live by yourself on the upper west side. I’ve started by responding to these kinds of people’s complaints, suggesting frugal alternatives- they just counter by justifying all the things they were complaining about. Vicious cycle.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      “Help me, help you!” haha…

  5. Michelle February 11, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    I hear these type of things all the time, especially now that my friends (and all of their friends!) now know that I blog. I hear all of these sob stories but so many people don’t actually want to change. I think they are hoping that I’ll say something like “and then a magic genie will eliminate all your debt!” LOL

  6. Brian@ Debt Discipline February 11, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    Unfortunately I think this is all to common. people need to change behaviors, habits first and they they can accomplish anything they want. When I have a staff member come to me with an issue/problem at work asked them to come back to me after then find a solution to it. This avoids just unless complaining.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 8:55 AM

      I like that!! And they’re the ones who have the best insight into their problem, so you’d think their idea for a solution would be a good one!

  7. Anne @ Unique Gifter February 11, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    This is a total tangent to this, but I often feel like my boss thinks I’m always offering excuses. He hasn’t worked in this role for terribly long and at a minimum of once a day, I say “we can’t do that because of X.” It’s frustrating!

    1. Scooze February 11, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      How about you rethink how you’re responding…. bosses hate to hear “can’t”. Youu definitely don’t want to be thought of as the brick wall stopping them from being successful. You could instead try to figure out how it could work. Then present the options so s/he is making an informed choice.

      Change is hard, but doable, especially for the boss. They can help eliminate obstacles and actually may have some good ideas.

      1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        Definitely a tricky one… You could also try playing out the situation they’re asking for out loud, and then sharing what would happen if implemented. Which would then kinda be like saying “no, we can’t do this because of this” but really be “sure, we could do this, but then here is what would happen” and let the boss decide whether to shut it down or not :) I used to do that all the time, and then tack on a “Happy to move forward though – it’s your call” to let them know that while yes, I prob don’t agree with it, at least I’m a team player and I’m gonna follow order.

  8. jestjack February 11, 2014 at 8:16 AM

    I will never forget our Governor’s speech when he was fighting to have the Lottery started in our state…He termed it ….”voluntary taxation”…That phrase has always stuck with me….AND has limited my Lottery purchases to 5 tickets…in 25 years….

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:01 AM

      haha yeah – I’ve heard of that one before too. I think of it more as “entertainment taxation” for me ;)

  9. John S @ Frugal Rules February 11, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    I saw situations similar to this all the time when I worked in my brokerage job. I’d hear one excuse, or complaining, about why they couldn’t save for retirement. Of course there could’ve been situations why they genuinely couldn’t, but many times it was something along the lines of I can’t give up this or that kind of mentality.

    That being said, I love the quote by your friend! I believe we’re all guilty of this at times and need to be mindful of when we do it. It can be very easy to believe the lie that we “can’t” do something.

  10. Mike Carlson February 11, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    This lottery is making the poor’s lives even more miserable. These people are sacrificing even their last centavo for that so little luck.

  11. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer February 11, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    J$, we’ve got relatives like this and it pains us immensely! They are in a crapload of a financial mess, but it’s “totally out of our control”. They work their tails off 70 hours a week and blow every bit of their income and more. I’m guessing lotto tickets are part of their retirement plan too – that, or the casino, which we all know has great returns. ;-)

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:02 AM

      Hey, I once won $3.00 at a casino – you back off! ;)

  12. Dave @ The New York Budget February 11, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    I don’t [think that I] complain too often, but I think this is good advice. I think it is good for me to be conscious of when I AM complaining for the sake of complaining and try to either take action or realize that things aren’t bad enough for me to take action, and therefore aren’t bad enough for me to complain.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Yeah, and I think it’s totally cool/normal to vent and let off steam every now and then too – especially if you preface it with “I’m going into bitch mode now – please just listen” haha… that way your friends/family aren’t trying to come up with solutions for you, when really you already know all that stuff – you just want to complain and get it out of your system :)

  13. Liz February 11, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    It’s always frustrating when you hear people complain about how hard their lives are and fail to do anything about it. I have a friend who is always a victim. Everything bad just happens to her and none of it is ever her fault… sometimes I really want to pull my hair out!

  14. Kathy February 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    People like the one in the store have their own set of priorities that we think are warped, but make perfect sense to them. They smoke, drink, get tattoos, buy lottery tickets all the while complaining they don’t have any money. As Jeff Foxworthy once said, “The rich have IRAs and 401Ks. The poor (rednecks in his words) have the lottery.” Trouble is, even if they won, they’d blow it all .

  15. Becky @ RunFunDone February 11, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    I don’t mind if strangers complain about finances, but when friends do complain it drives me crazy because I want to help them so badly, but they don’t necessarily want my help. I always offer to sit down with them and figure out a plan with them if they want, but they never do. Instead I just try to focus on the positive that I see in them.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      I find beer or coffee helps with that :) The part about offering them help – not trying to find the positive in them, haha.. if you need alcohol to do that then we’re in trouble!

  16. Mark Ross February 11, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    If you’re going to complain about something, be prepared to take action!

    ^Nice one!

  17. Kristie February 11, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    I see one more roadblock in his road trip to riches…smoking! Now I know it’s a hard habit to break–not firsthand, mind you, I’ve heard that it is–but I’m quite sure his cologne “stank du smoke” would have a negative effect on his ability to find a good roommate, or a bad one for that matter. If his “cologne” was strong enough for you to take notice in a public place he only frequents as a customer, imagine what his home must smell like–his car! His finances are probably worse that what he realizes–health maintenance costs, real estate losses (a smoke filled home will sell for less than its identical “smokey-less” model), vehicle resale losses (same as home), and of course the cigarettes themselves (and the readily available scratchers), which must be a staggering number within itself.

    Our habits are so easily overlooked as a means to cut back and save more money, and very rarely, if ever, do we sit down and analyze the broader effects of our habits, particularly as they relate to reaching financial independence. If I gave up wine, I bet I’d add at least a couple grand to my savings by the end of the year. Hmmmmm…….

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      You’d have a couple extra thousand, yes, but what joy you’d be missing out on! :)

  18. Crystal February 11, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I try not to complain about anything I am not trying to change. But I do whine amazingly well about stuff that is annoying me while I am trying to change/fix it, lol. As for this exact situation, it annoys the crud out of me when I hear anybody complain about money problems while they are spending on stupid stuff – daily habits, entertainment, etc. I have a couple of friends that complain occasionally about being broke or in debt…one of them owns like 200 pairs of shoes and the other spends more than my husband and I combined on food every month…and we aren’t frugal when it comes to food…

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      Right. And again – it’s totally COOL to spend money however you want, whether on shoes or real estate, but it’s the act of complaining about it and not changing that makes it the worst. I could care less what another person spends their money on, but if you bring me into a $hit storm of complaints I’m gonna be mad! Haha…

  19. Wunderwriter February 11, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    One of my adult children complains constantly about financial issues; when an inheritance was received, despite my repeatedly advising pay off debt with half and put the other half in savings, all the funds were spent in less than one year on restaurants and toys.

    I have come to the conclusion, after spending most of my life living in the fog of financial irresponsibility and seeing it all around me, that your finances change when you do, and not before. You could have handed that guy a million dollars, and a year from now he’d be in the same position.

    If you really want to make a change, be willing to sacrifice, learn to say no to yourself often and with conviction and don’t feel sorry for yourself over it (feel privileged to know your future is getting better every day), keep your eyes on the prize. The time will pass anyway, spend it working toward a goal that will change your life for the better forever! Be an adult; sacrifice for five or ten years and be comfortable for the rest of your life rather than fill your house, your life and your brain with meaningless clutter of no real value.

    I come from the school of hard knocks on this; been there, done that over and over and over again. I didn’t truly “get it” until I was facing spending my father’s hard earned money (my inheritance) to get out of debt ($100,000 on student loans, car loans and credit cards). The sting of that has made me realize what the meaning of “waste” really is: sacrificing your future financial health and well being for the momentary thrill of buying something you don’t really need and will rarely use just because you think you want it.

    Perhaps our educational system should consider budgeting and financial responsibility as viable offerings; I can honestly say that, with the exception of my brilliant father, I have rarely met a person who could not benefit.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      Preach on!

  20. Grayson @ Debt Roundup February 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    I used to complain without taking action. While it was nice to get that crap off my chest, it never changed my situation. I got out of doing that and now if I do complain, I take immediate action. You get a lot further that way!

  21. Steve February 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to stop listening to what someone says but watch what they do. Their actions, not their words are what count.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:08 AM


  22. Pengepugeren February 11, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    I really like that quote from your friend. It’ll be stored in my brain for next time I feel like complaining.

  23. Done by Forty February 11, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    That’s funny…and sad. But like with AA or NA, people need to hit ‘their’ rock bottom before they are ready to surrender, admit the things they are doing are not working, and make a change.

    Having a housemate is, by far, the easiest ‘big’ change to make in your finances. Typically, people have way too much house when put in the context of what they make. That guest room or office in the typical household has enormous opportunity costs.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      Agreed – you have to REALLY want the change in order to make it happen. If only they can pipe down on their complaining about it in the meantime ;)

  24. Jacob February 11, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    I love that quote! Complaining is so easy, and so very counterproductive. I always feel slimy after being complained on, especially with no action plan behind it. UGH.

    Thanks for the Tuesday inspiration, J. Money!

  25. EL @ MoneyWatch101 February 11, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    J. you could be right that this guy looks poor and broke. But in my experience people use small talk like that to exaggerate or seem like they are struggling towars others, but in reality have some dollars saved. Granted we don’t really know the situation, but never assume a customer and a cashier conversation to be all too truthful. This story brought me back to a time when a lady was beggin $$ for food in front of Mcd’s and then went across the street to buy lottery tickets. HA LOL I witnessed the whole scene.

    1. J. Money February 12, 2014 at 9:10 AM

      Oh jeez, haha… You’re right though – he very well could be wealthy and just having an adventure out of life, but sadly the odds are against that.

  26. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life February 11, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    It’s sad when people just complain and don’t realize that they can change the situation. I’m terrible about sometimes complaining and whining, but then decide to actually change it. Whenever I run into someone who is like that I try and sneak in a little piece of advice and see how they react to it. It’s terrible to watch someone drown in debt, but sometimes they really have to hit rock bottom to get going on the right road.

  27. Uche@wisdom for wealth February 12, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    Two points noted
    dont complain if you are not willing to take action.
    Play the lottery for fun and not necessarily as an investment because you cannot depend on luck to make money.

  28. Paula / Afford Anything February 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    “He seemed to enjoy complaining more than he wanted a solution.” — That says it all, right there.

  29. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar February 13, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    I’m going through my backlog of blog posts and just got this one.

    β€œIf you’re going to complain about something, be prepared to take action!” I love this damn quote. I want to use that on my daughter as she grows up!

    1. J. Money February 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      Print it out and stick it on her door :)

  30. Caitlin February 14, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    I so feel you when you say you want to just shake people like this, especially when they’re older. I always think “shouldn’t you know this by now?”

    Also, it’s probably good that we don’t have scratch tickets in my state or I’d spend too much money on them. They’re fun!

    1. J. Money February 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      You don’t have them in your state? I thought all did!

  31. Thomas @ i need money ASAP! February 22, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Those situations are always tough. I can sympathize with the guy because it’s hard to know what to do if that’s all you’ve ever known. But just complaining definitely won’t solve the problem.