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Hate the Cheap Side

CD Knowles 10 months ago

Dear Knowles,

I have a close female friend who’s very cheap and I’d like to know what to do about it. I’ve known this woman since college (I’m now forty-six) and her cheapness never ceases to amaze me. If we go to dinner with a group of girlfriends she’ll go over the bill with a calculator, figuring out who owes what to the penny, and refusing to split it evenly three or four ways, especially if everyone else had iced tea and she didn’t. If we go in for a group gift for someone’s birthday, she’ll be sure to insist on the least costly item. If she owes money, even a small amount, she’ll take a long time to pay back (one has to keep reminding her). Though her husband makes a very good salary, she goes to discount stores for clothing and she’s been known to argue over prices, even doctor bills. I love her dearly, she’s a loyal friend with a great sense of humor and a sweet nature, but I’m sick of the nickel and diming and haggling over anything with a dollar sign. What do I do to maybe get her to take a step back and have a good honest look at herself?

All the best,

Hate the Cheap Side


Dear Hate,

I assume that you and your friends have talked about the cheapness problem of your mutual girlfriend? There are so many things that could contribute to a situation like this — how your friend grew up, her parents’ attitude toward money, whether or not they had sufficient funds for extras such as travel, entertainment, dinner out, extracurricular activities when she was growing up, whether she is working or living on her husband’s salary, whether they owe money and are paying off debt, whether they are saving for their kids’ college, have high medical or dental bills, etc. I understand that inherent cheapness in a person is negative and unattractive, but it’s important to look at the full picture (which I assume you have done) before casting aspersion. If your friend is just plain cheap because that’s her nature, then it’s important not to let her get away with little things, such as nickel-and-diming it over paying extra for iced tea when she only had water. A joke about this could go a long way — not cattiness, please, but sympathetic good humor; your friend, remember, may be unaware of her cheapness, or embarrassed about what could be a reflex action. Friendly discussion could also help. For instance, when you and the friend go out with others for a meal, you might announce beforehand that you intend to split the bill evenly even if there’s a disparity of a few dollars here and there. Try and get her talking, using very kind words to encourage her to open up about her problems with money. If you are buying a group gift, let her know in advance that everyone is expected to contribute $20, no exceptions. If she has a problem with that, act surprised — it’s a small amount, what’s the deal, no one else is complaining. See where I’m going with this? Just keep gently confronting her. I wish you the best in helping your friend.

CD Knowles



confused daughter

Dear Confused,

Ew that’s one hot potato I wouldn’t go near! Life is complicated enough without being dragged into parental problems. Since you can’t weigh in on one side or the other, I say avoid the whole thing.

Jenny J., Saratoga Springs, NY


Dear Confused,

I don’t believe in all this delicate PC stuff. You saw your dad pawing a woman who wasn’t your mom, so you should confront him directly and let him know you don’t approve of his behavior. Someone has to call him out and that person is obviously you. Believe me, you’ll feel much better after doing that.


Jimmy D., Houston, TX


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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.

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