Eating My Financial Words

As I age, my worldview and opinions change. Each year, I become more accepting of myself and others, more liberal, more relaxed, and happier. I also like to think I get a bit smarter as time goes on. Which is why I have to recant some of the earlier financial beliefs I posted here. I wouldn’t want you to continue to doubt my intelligence by thinking I still believe everything I’ve ever said on this little ol’ blog of mine.


I started Red Debted Stepchild about 10 months ago. In that time, you guys have let me get away with blogging some seriously warped views on money. Therefore, it is your fault it took me this long to remove my head from my ass. I’ll accept apologies in the form of cash and bottles of wine.

Nah, not really. Y’all know I don’t blame other people for my mistakes. And while I don’t like admitting I’m wrong, and I almost never am do, I’m here to accept my status as a flawed and fickle human being. Look at me, growing. (And not just from Chipotle…)

So let’s work our way through my embarrassing past financial belief system and discuss how I feel now.

Stockpiling Cash — Keep it in your pants

Previous belief — money hoarding is basically a perverted sexual act. In my youth (eight months ago), I wrote a riveting piece about cashgasms, a term I coined to describe the reaction I assumed cash hoarders got from hoarding cash. I thought they were cray and possibly twisted. This post has since been deleted, THAT’S how embarrassingly wrong it was.

Current belief — hoard on. As long as you are not living a miserable existence in pursuit of a fatter bank account than your neighbor, hoard as much cash as you want. Then use it to say “fuck you” to a crappy job and retire early. Or blow it all on pizza rolls. I really don’t care. You do you.

Frugality — You’re gross and cheap and I hate you

Previous belief — being frugal is icky. I wrote two pieces (here and here) on being frugal on accident. Because I would never be frugal on purpose. Frugal people are gross, right? They dumpster dive and steal ketchup packets from fast food establishments.

Current belief — “frugal” and “cheap” are two different words. I have since developed my own working definitions of these two words.

Frugal: not paying more than you have to on goods and services within the realm of your value system. Which, in the logical world I apparently wasn’t previously a part of, makes complete and total sense.

Cheap: employing unethical and/or unsanitary methods of saving money, and neglecting personal health and relationships to literally save pennies.

They may not be perfect definitions, but they work for me.

Early Retirement — Your entire life must absolutely suck

Previous belief — early retirement is dumb. If you drop dead tomorrow, you’re never going to be able to spend all that hard earned money. Because spending money is the true measure of a successful life, you guys.

Current belief — I want to go to there. (If you didn’t read that in Liz Lemon’s voice, please leave. Something is wrong with you.) Okay, so I am still having a hard time fully admitting to this, but here it goes. I want to reach financial independence…before I’m old. Not sure why that’s difficult to say, but there it is.

I really dig my life and I don’t spend much to maintain it, so saving a high percentage of my income is weirdly okay to me now. Even if I don’t live forever. However, I have to get through this whole crippling debt thing first.

I’m sure I’ve said 1,001 other stupid things, but those are my big three. I still fully believe minimalism rocks, Chipotle is the greatest fast food restaurant in the world, I’m not ready to procreate, and the Cheddar Bo Biscuit came straight out of hell.

What is the dumbest past financial belief you held and have since changed your mind on?

Rockstar Finance

[Image from imgur]


  1. Thanks for coming “clean” with what you feel like has been wrong. I think we all change over time. I used to think I should always have tons of money cashed away, but have since realized it’s better for that money to be put toward debt. I still want to grow my EF to a tolerable degree, but I used to feel sick having less than 10k in savings. Now all that money has gone toward debt. I’m living on the edge, man!

  2. I think the dumbest thing I changed my mind on was settling for my student loan debt because it was “good debt”. There is no such thing as good or bad debt, just debt. By being passive and just throwing money at it without a plan, I was being dumb, “good debt” or not.

  3. That I didn’t need an emergency fund because it didn’t make sense to me to have money in an account that I could put towards debt….that tune changed pretty quick!

    • I hear that! You need at least something in there. I learned that the hard way when we had to put our trip to Jordan on credit because we used our e-fund to pay off another credit card. Vicious cycle…

  4. I wish we would stop using the word frugal altogether. There’s cheap and then there’s being conscious of your finances. Frugal has such a negative connotation now

  5. Nailed it on reading “I want to go to there” correctly.

    It’s not stealing when the fast food restaurant WANTS you to take ketchup packets you haven’t used… 🙂 I don’t remember the last time I bought a bottle of ketchup. Yes, I do. Never. I’m more of a hot sauce girl so I hoard ketchup packets for the occasional dinner guest who may want some.

    I’m still not in camp early retirement. I respect the mantra and effort, but it’s not a lifestyle I aspire to. Financial independence, sure. But I don’t see it as a I want XX sum by XX age so I can live on XX amount forever.

    • I knew you would!

      Haha, you hoard ketchup and hot sauce packets? Okay, it’s not stealing as long as you aren’t taking unreasonable amounts, assuming you just didn’t use them on your current meal. I wouldn’t suggest going in and grabbing a handful every time you past a fast food restaurant 🙂

      I can’t see Steve ever stopping work entirely and I would continue writing because I enjoy it, so I’m considering saving up enough to pay basic expenses and making fun/travel money while in early retirement? I don’t know, I’m still thinking it over.

  6. I’m starting to think that my dumbest financial belief is that “real estate investing is for slick and scummy people and overall, it is a scam”.

    Sure, there is a lot of that, but I am slowly being converted to someone who sees value in real estate investing, if you do it in the right way.

    • I haven’t really thought about RE investing yet, but it sounds like something to look into in the future. I have a feeling my husband would enjoy it.

  7. Love this! I’m still not sure how I feel about early retirement, but I’m all for financial independence! 🙂 Before I’m old would be great as well.

  8. I used to think credit card churning was for people who couldn’t pay their balances off and had to juggle them from one card to the next. Then I started doing it myself, several years ago, as a way to get “free” travel. I realized that banks want me as a customer and are willing to reward me for it. Of course they are hoping I slip up and start carrying a balance all the time.

  9. Too funny! I am, thankfully, not burdened with incorrect viewpoints, but kuddos to you for owning up to yours!

    Just kidding. One of my early posts took the point of view that our purchases were not reflections of our values, nor were they attempts to be efficient with our dollars, but were in fact just reflections of our desire to be cool. My car and my house and clothes are just attempts to create social standing…stuff like that. Pretty immature stuff.

  10. Getting my husband to sign up for a credit card. I thought he needed to build his credit after paying off his debts that were in collections. A very stupid move for such a big spender. After his $2500 laptop purchase, I feel like we will never be able to pay off the balance in full each month as intended.

  11. I like your definitions. In my earlier days, I thought debt was normal, largely because my parents have been in debt for most of my life. I also knew I would graduate college with student loans, and it didn’t seem like a negative at the time. Now I know better! Debt is not something to blindly accept and shrug our shoulders at.

  12. I still hate the word ‘frugal’.

    We need to make up another word for this. I like to say “spending priorities” instead. 😛

    • It seems that way because people use the word “frugal” to describe exactly one lifestyle — one 1500 sq. ft. house, one car, one pet, no eating out, thrift store clothing, etc. But what if you choose to live in a small place without pets so you can eat out (like I do)? Or what if you drop quite a bit of quality clothing but only pay $300 for rent and have plenty in the bank (like you!)? Frugality shouldn’t just apply to one specific lifestyle.

  13. I’ll keep my comment short: I 100% percent agree with your definition of frugal and cheap. There is an important difference, but most people lump them together.

  14. Erin you are awesome because you have mastered saying “I was wrong- here’s why” in PUBLIC no less. So many people refuse to be open to new ideas because “hey I decided when I was 21 that this is how it is and don’t go trying changing me now. This is who I am.” Just reading these blogs in the last year I have changed my views on
    1. 6 months pay “emergency fund” sitting in a money market earning less than half a percent.
    2. Suze Orman says so and that’s Gospel. and
    3. I’m lucky to have this job even if I miss my kiddos everyday this is what I have to do because thats what everybody does.”
    I think once we can admit we don’t have it all figured out, thats when we are open to some really extraordinary revelations.

    • Thanks, greenietina! Not budging on viewpoints you held when you were young is not being consistent, it’s being closed-minded and immature.

    • Number 3 is exactly what me and my husband are working on. I thought I would never want to be a stay at home mom, which is why my husband is in grad school right now, but I miss my son every day.

      We are trying to figure out if there is any conceivable way for us to live on $24K per year for the next 3 years.

      We might have to live a pretty extreme lifestyle, but we actually think its possible. Crazy.

  15. Great post Erin. I appreciate you being able to come clean over changing viewpoints. I’ve definitely been there. I actually told someone in their comments (before I was blogging, and before I was actively paying down my debt) that they should use their EF towards debt.

    Now? Every time I post about my Emergency Fund and debt repayment, someone tells me the same thing. I then have to explain the reason I have an EF. What a 180 🙂

  16. I have many similar change in worldviews. Oh, how wise we are! I used to think “early retirement” was absurd! But now I view it as “retirement from status quo”. I like the term “financial independence” so much more.

    I also agree with your definition of “frugal” and “cheap”. I tease my dad about being cheap, but he’s frugal and I’m proud of him for it.

  17. I think it’s OK to change your mind and adjust as you go. Your values and beliefs will change over time as your life and finances change/grow, etc. 🙂

  18. Good to know we’re still allowed to change our minds over time. And be blatantly wrong occasionally. Heaven knows I regularly am.

  19. Thanks for finally changing your mind on frugality. 🙂 But actually! The parking thing was pretty frugal!

  20. I think my biggest mistake so far has been thinking that I could *easily* cut eating out from my budget. Yup turns out that is hard. Like reallllllly hard. Really, really hard.

  21. Great post, Erin!! My dumbest financial belief was that it was okay to have debt as long as we could afford the payments. I seriously want to smack myself for that one. 🙂

  22. Ugh. Totally agree. I can’t believe I wrote, let alone, actually believed some of the things I’ve said. I think my biggest financial idiocy came with reference to credit cards, and thinking they held no value whatsoever. After seeing all the free vacations people get by being smart about it, I’ve changed my tune. Although I’m sure in another couple of months I’ll have to have my foot removed from my mouth several more times. After all, I’ve only been at it for about 4 months now.

  23. Congrats on your evolution of thinking. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re not changing you mind on things your not growing and how depressing would it be if at 30 or 40 you were the same person you are now?

    Your thoughts on frugality and financial independence will change your life in ways you can’t imagine. Trust me…

  24. Haha amazing. I’ve definitely learned a lot about money over the years, and I think the best thing I learned was that I shouldn’t compare how I manage my money with others. I’ve always been frugal (sometimes just down right cheap) and I used to be ashamed when I was with friends and they just wanted to spend tons of cash on dinners or whatever. Now, I’m glad I was making good choices and didn’t succumb to peer pressure, but also I don’t want to judge how what other people choose to do. What’s important is what I do.

  25. Us bloggers have a whole new level of difficulty when it comes to changing financial perspectives – having to explain to our followers! I know exactly how you feel. I once made it known that I didn’t “need” an emergency fund only to correct myself a few weeks later 😛

  26. I think this is a natural progression as you get older and your outlook becomes longer. For me once I’d reached 30 and I realised that I would almost certainly be around for another 30 if not longer years, my outlook changed quite dramatically and I started looking for ways to improve my life, both financially, health wise, and so on. It’s made life a hell of a lot more fun as well so I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t do this earlier, so it looks like you are well on the right path a lot earlier than I was!*

    (*One thing, I never got into debt. But I fully believed in spending most of what I was earning!)

    • I finally realized I should probably invest in my health, so my body keeps working for me for a very long time. And I’m working on my finances. Hopefully, by the time I hit 30, I’ll be rocking at both 🙂

  27. Financial independence would be awesome. But one thing at a time right!?!? Those FI’ers do seem to be pretty happy but it’s going to take a bit more time before I can save 70% of my income each year.

  28. Frugal and cheap are definitely two different words. I wouldn’t dumpster dive but definitely would buy something off of Craigslist from someone who might have dumpster dived.

  29. Chipotle is definitely the best fast food.

    I personally doubt I’ll change my mind on FI. Nothing against it just not for me. Perhaps if my circumstances were different (I disliked my work and the numbers meant FI was more of a realistic goal) but things are what they are.

    Personally I’ve changed my mind on car loans.

  30. The water’s fine, isn’t it? Glad you chose to jump in after testing the waters first…always wise in my book.

  31. Love the authenticity! Your previous beliefs are totally the norm. We have been taught that money is dirty even though we need it. This education has created a lot of strange taboos and perversions…similar to sex.

    Your journey and article is an inspiration and I will share it with the Real Money Community.


    Alan Steinborn

  32. It’s good that you came around on these, especially the early retirement piece. That’s my destination and I hope to see you there, my friend!

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