Author Topic: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"  (Read 11513 times)

financialnewb

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Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« on: December 20, 2013, 10:12:22 AM »
Has anyone else here dealt with harsh criticism from family for trying to do the right thing? 

My in-laws are great people but their philosophy is to not save, since you're not guaranteed tomorrow.  Enjoy your money now.  Of course, we'd all like to buy whatever we want all the time, but as a young family of 5 living on one modest income, it should be apparent to them that we cannot live that lifestyle.  We are very close to my in-laws, both geographically and emotionally, and their influence on my husband it great.  For example, both his parents and his brother just went out and bought new-ish SUVs with money borrowed from a family friend.  This makes me see black, greasy dollar signs, but it makes my husband look at our paid-for, decade-old sedan and think "junky". 

As the money manager for our household, I feel like I've done a pretty damn good job of righting our ship (we lived close to them when we first got married and knew nothing about money and believed them when they said that we needed to lease a new car, buy a home with no savings and $0, and have babies young even if that meant doing it on the state's dime).  However, this past weekend, I felt like I was attacked when they all called me cheap because we're contributing 200/month to my husband's 401k.  Now, according to everything I've read and researched about money management, this is minimal.  We're working on paying off debt (we're about 35k in debt between student loans, paying off the aforementioned car, and some credit card debt), and all calculators say we're about 10 years behind in retirement savings, but when someone you love and respect accuses you of squirreling away money at the expense of your children (apparently I don't spend enough on them and am a cold, uncaring wife for not letting my husband spend recklessly), it is hard to hear. 

Thankfully, my husband is on the same page with me, but I feel trapped now.  I worry that everything I do is being thought of as cheap, instead of frugal.   I used to be proud of all the ways I've figured out how to save money over the past 5 years (when we lived out of state and by my family, who is very frugal and have no mortgage and some retirement savings to show for it, even when they made less than half of what my inlaws do).   I know this shouldn't bother me, and if it weren't family, it wouldn't.   We're spending Christmas with them, and I know every dollar that I do or do not spend will be scrutinized. Does anyone have any tips on how to deal with this family pressure?  I've never been ganged up on before for trying to do what is right!

matchewed

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2013, 10:31:57 AM »
As long as your husband is on the same page as you then let it go. Don't hold yourself to their standards, as long as you're meeting your goals and living life to your standards you can (in a polite way) tell them to piss off.

It is either that or you sit down with them and tell them that your finances are not a conversation topic for discussion. What you guys decide to spend your money on is because of your goals, not theirs.

sol

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2013, 10:34:40 AM »
I suggest you start drinking shortly before breakfast.

arebelspy

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2013, 10:36:26 AM »
Stopping $200 contributions to the 401k and blowing it on crap you don't need to impress in-laws is definitely the optimal way to live your life.
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tariskat

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2013, 10:42:44 AM »
I suggest you start drinking shortly before breakfast.

Put a few shots in their coffee, too.

Really, though - tell them to stuff it.  You're providing for Future You, as well as making sure your kids don't have to take care of you in forty years.  That's being responsible.   

vespito

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2013, 10:44:33 AM »
The best gift my parents gave me is their financial security.  They were always awful with money and it stressed me out to no end (even though I was just as bad at the time).  They finally got their act together and now I don't have to worry about their financial well-being while taking care of my family.  There is no greater gift they can give me. 

I hate to say this, but your husband needs to speak up on your behalf and stop all this.  It will be incredibly difficult for him, but he needs to let your in-laws know that he is lucky he has you looking out for his family's interests.  His old car isn't junk - it's an opportunity.  An opportunity to take the kids on a school trip, a vacation, to the zoo, or to stop working just a little earlier so he can spend time with the people he loves.

You are doing the right thing.  Don't get defensive, don't get angry, just keep on saving.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 10:53:12 AM by vespito »

.22guy

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2013, 11:10:13 AM »
Your in-laws kinda sound like jerks.  If I was your husband, I would shut them down on that crap or we would not be visiting any longer. 

golfer44

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2013, 11:27:56 AM »
This is going to be a long, long project, but one I suggest you start right away.

You need to develop a sense of worth that stems from YOU. You've already discovered that self worth does not come from material possessions (you're ahead of most Americans on this), but now the hard part... your self esteem shouldn't hinge on the approval of others.

If you can begin to tie together financial responsibility with your sense of self, you'll build up this incredibly strong shield that will deflect even the harshest criticism from your in-laws. You know that what you're doing is best for you and your family. You can still love the in-laws like, well, family, but your decisions are no longer affected by what they feel is suitable.

This silent sense of pride will speak louder than words can, and eventually they'll leave you alone. I promise!

Greg

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2013, 11:47:51 AM »
You and your husband need to have a shouldn't-be-needed talk with the in-laws and let them know that you want a stable financial future for yourselves and your kids, and that money management is probably something you will never agree on.  Stick to your guns (figuratively).

People who borrow money for cars, especially SUV type cars, should be pitied not envied.

the fixer

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2013, 11:49:58 AM »
Something I've learned from others' interactions with family: if they make your finances a conversation topic, they're implicitly also opening up the possibility of you criticizing their own choices. Get to a point where you can declare a truce: they don't talk about your money, and you don't talk about theirs. You might need to get on the offensive a bit to make this an equitable arrangement, or perhaps they're actually insecure enough about their own situation that you don't have to do more than make a casual threat. The latter would of course be preferable, but realistically a "counterattack" from you might be necessary for them to take you seriously.

Eric

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2013, 12:22:38 PM »
I'm afraid your inlaws are right.  I thought everyone already knew that the only way to make kids happy and well adjusted is to spend a lot of money on them.  What's the alternative?  Spending quality time with them?  Psshaw!

TrMama

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2013, 12:40:31 PM »
Something I've learned from others' interactions with family: if they make your finances a conversation topic, they're implicitly also opening up the possibility of you criticizing their own choices. Get to a point where you can declare a truce: they don't talk about your money, and you don't talk about theirs. You might need to get on the offensive a bit to make this an equitable arrangement, or perhaps they're actually insecure enough about their own situation that you don't have to do more than make a casual threat. The latter would of course be preferable, but realistically a "counterattack" from you might be necessary for them to take you seriously.

^^This. Stop telling them about your finances. They can't criticize what they don't know.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2013, 01:14:50 PM »
Something I've learned from others' interactions with family: if they make your finances a conversation topic, they're implicitly also opening up the possibility of you criticizing their own choices. Get to a point where you can declare a truce: they don't talk about your money, and you don't talk about theirs. You might need to get on the offensive a bit to make this an equitable arrangement, or perhaps they're actually insecure enough about their own situation that you don't have to do more than make a casual threat. The latter would of course be preferable, but realistically a "counterattack" from you might be necessary for them to take you seriously.

^^This. Stop telling them about your finances. They can't criticize what they don't know.

+1

They have no reason other than curiosity to know about your finances. There is no reason to share this, or really any subject with your family if it doesn't directly effect them and they are overly critical of how you handle it. No details, tell them you don't remember or other vague response if you're not ready to be direct, but otherwise tell them that "X" is not something you feel like discussing with them and then change the subject.

the fixer

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2013, 01:52:18 PM »
Those who are "agreeing" with me I think have a slightly different take on the matter. I agree with the premise that you shouldn't over-share if you don't want their feedback, but I'm gathering the problem is coming from them assuming and judging your decisions without you directly telling them. People do this all the time by evaluating each other's transportation choices, clothing, declining offers to eat out or only drinking water when you accept, etc. My advice is applicable to the latter stuff; get them to back off with an equal threat against criticism of their own decisions.

arebelspy

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2013, 02:02:08 PM »
get them to back off with an equal threat against criticism of their own decisions.

Adding more negativity into the relationship will make it better?

I disagree with this advice.

But it'll be a personal decision, so do what works for you.
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Eric

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2013, 02:02:59 PM »
Those who are "agreeing" with me I think have a slightly different take on the matter. I agree with the premise that you shouldn't over-share if you don't want their feedback, but I'm gathering the problem is coming from them assuming and judging your decisions without you directly telling them. People do this all the time by evaluating each other's transportation choices, clothing, declining offers to eat out or only drinking water when you accept, etc. My advice is applicable to the latter stuff; get them to back off with an equal threat against criticism of their own decisions.

Alternatively, you can also show complete satisfaction with your own choices.  So if they start criticizing you for your "old" car, you can just flip it and say how much you love your car and how well it fits you and how you don't know if you ever want to give it up because you love it so much.  That way, they can't be mistaken that your choices say anything about them, as you point out that people do for some odd reason.

KingCoin

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2013, 02:39:09 PM »
Realize that criticism of frugality often comes out of a place of insecurity. Spendthrift as they may be, they probably know in the back of their minds that borrowing to buy an SUV is a poor decision, and teetering on the edge of solvency may be an ongoing source of anxiety. Any discussion of saving or frugality on your part is implicitly rubbing their poor decision in their face and primes them to lash back.

So my advice would be

1) Drop all discussion of personal finances and spending decisions unless some explicitly asks you for thoughts or advice. Even if asked, I'd offer to discuss is later one on one, and not in front of other family members who will likely want to toss in their 2 cents.
2) If the criticism continues, plainly explain your feelings. Simply say, "I try to make the best financial decisions for my family that I'm able. I find it extremely hurtful when I'm mocked for those decisions, and it sometimes makes me uncomfortable to be around you. I'd truly be grateful if you guys would lay off." It will certainly be an awkward moment, but just being honest and explaining how their criticism is affecting you can go a long long way. They may consider their jabs "gentle ribbing" and not realize how you're affected.

If those strategies don't work, you need to consider spending less time with your in-laws. Going on the offensive is likely just to lead to more acrimony and could even make you persona non-grata.

StetsTerhune

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2013, 02:46:17 PM »

Alternatively, you can also show complete satisfaction with your own choices.  So if they start criticizing you for your "old" car, you can just flip it and say how much you love your car and how well it fits you and how you don't know if you ever want to give it up because you love it so much.  That way, they can't be mistaken that your choices say anything about them, as you point out that people do for some odd reason.

Agree totally. I've always found that you're preemptively confident in your choices and values, there's almost no one who has the guts to argue with you.

On that same note. Drop the quotation marks. You're not "doing the right thing." You are doing the right thing.

aj_yooper

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2013, 03:32:34 PM »
Congratulations on your sensible ideas about improving your family finances!  Keep up the talking with your DH.  We all have to deal with a highly commercialized, vulgar world where living large is the new normal, even if there's no money to sustain it all.  Be proud of your family's frugal ways and keep hanging out on the forum to get more support and techniques to position your household and financial life where you and your husband want it headed.  For me, I'd just add finances to the list of problematic family topics best avoided. 

I was lucky-my parents were nicely frugal and inventive and interested more in people, than objects while my f-i-l always told me his rules were "Family is first, live below your means, and money is power". 

Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2013, 06:59:21 PM »
Those who are "agreeing" with me I think have a slightly different take on the matter. I agree with the premise that you shouldn't over-share if you don't want their feedback, but I'm gathering the problem is coming from them assuming and judging your decisions without you directly telling them. People do this all the time by evaluating each other's transportation choices, clothing, declining offers to eat out or only drinking water when you accept, etc. My advice is applicable to the latter stuff; get them to back off with an equal threat against criticism of their own decisions.

Alternatively, you can also show complete satisfaction with your own choices.  So if they start criticizing you for your "old" car, you can just flip it and say how much you love your car and how well it fits you and how you don't know if you ever want to give it up because you love it so much.  That way, they can't be mistaken that your choices say anything about them, as you point out that people do for some odd reason.

But, but, a "counterattack" sounds way more fun! 

Wouldn't life be so much easier if you were a supervillain?  When someone annoys, all you have to do is DESTROY THEM!!!

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2013, 07:28:56 PM »
Those who are "agreeing" with me I think have a slightly different take on the matter. I agree with the premise that you shouldn't over-share if you don't want their feedback, but I'm gathering the problem is coming from them assuming and judging your decisions without you directly telling them. People do this all the time by evaluating each other's transportation choices, clothing, declining offers to eat out or only drinking water when you accept, etc. My advice is applicable to the latter stuff; get them to back off with an equal threat against criticism of their own decisions.

Alternatively, you can also show complete satisfaction with your own choices.  So if they start criticizing you for your "old" car, you can just flip it and say how much you love your car and how well it fits you and how you don't know if you ever want to give it up because you love it so much.  That way, they can't be mistaken that your choices say anything about them, as you point out that people do for some odd reason.

But, but, a "counterattack" sounds way more fun! 

Wouldn't life be so much easier if you were a supervillain?  When someone annoys, all you have to do is DESTROY THEM!!!

FIRE, freedom, and happiness the best revenge. :)

Bruised_Pepper

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2013, 07:43:50 PM »
FIRE, freedom, and happiness the best revenge. :)

They always say "living well is the best revenge", but it doesn't quite have that same "stepping on their fingers as they dangle from the edge of a cliff" satisfaction to it. 

Charlotte

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2013, 03:21:41 AM »
Maybe embrace it?

"Yes! I am cheap! Woot woot!"

Best of luck, we are consider the poor members of both my family and my husband's family and we are okay with that (it is *somewhat* true). And it keeps them from expecting much of us financially!

JanMN

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2013, 09:59:42 AM »
Yeah, I would enact my inner-Bhudda and stay away from discussing your finances with the fam.  Be the model of peace, love and contentment :-)

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #24 on: December 23, 2013, 10:49:55 AM »
We take some flak from the fam for being cheap.  My brother in law once commented that the lamps in our living room looked like they were at a garage sale.  I agree with Charlotte:  embrace it!!  :-)  When anyone accuses me of being cheap I just laugh, agree with them, and give them another example. 

wtjbatman

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #25 on: December 23, 2013, 06:56:41 PM »
We take some flak from the fam for being cheap.  My brother in law once commented that the lamps in our living room looked like they were at a garage sale.  I agree with Charlotte:  embrace it!!  :-)  When anyone accuses me of being cheap I just laugh, agree with them, and give them another example.

That is incredibly rude. I would never say something like that to someone's face.

I save my criticisms of people for when I'm talking about them in private, like any decent person should.

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2013, 10:24:35 AM »
We take some flak from the fam for being cheap.  My brother in law once commented that the lamps in our living room looked like they were at a garage sale.  I agree with Charlotte:  embrace it!!  :-)  When anyone accuses me of being cheap I just laugh, agree with them, and give them another example.

That is incredibly rude. I would never say something like that to someone's face.

I save my criticisms of people for when I'm talking about them in private, like any decent person should.

LOL!  Telling you what they think directly to your face is what family is for!!  ;-)

tat96

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #27 on: December 26, 2013, 11:31:53 AM »
My $.02.  I grew up around people like your are explaining and the biggest thing you can take away from this is that time will expose their carefree, laissez-faire, live for today attitude. 

I remember a quote from a reformed hippie who said something to the effect of: "I spent my whole life not thinking about money and now it is all I think about".  I think your in-laws will get to the point where they are going to look back on a life of bad decisions and realize you were the smart one. 

I think your bigger problem is going to be in a few years or decades when these very same people come to you looking for a loan or handout.  It is happening to me right now!! 

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #28 on: December 26, 2013, 01:18:29 PM »
Just focus on living your own life how you want to and not living some other life that others think you should live.  You know what you value and desire in life.  Chase it!

As for your husband, is he totally on board? You said the 10 year old sedan makes him think "junky".  I look at a 10 year old sedan and think "practical".  He may just be playing along with his family since he's not secure enough to openly tell them "hey you guys suck at finances, and we're working in being winners". 

If family gets on your nerves and they are hostile and ugly about your frugality, keep your contact with them to a minimum.  You get to choose how you structure your relationship with them.  Just remember, they aren't the ones responsible for your financial security and financial independence.  You are. 

And if you want to know how life will turn out for your spendthrift in-laws, just think where they'll be in 10 or 20 years.  I have a couple in my family and I can best describe them as about 1 paycheck or government bennies check away from the street. 


randymarsh

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #29 on: December 26, 2013, 01:56:29 PM »
I remember a quote from a reformed hippie who said something to the effect of: "I spent my whole life not thinking about money and now it is all I think about".

Glad you shared this.

I've always been a little jealous of people who (seemingly) just don't care about stuff. Throughout school, there were always people who seemed to just...not worry about grades or anything. Ever. High school for them was about football games and drinking and that week's date. I did some of that too, but school was always on my mind. They did OK, probably had the same GPA as me because they didn't take advanced courses. We all graduated - made it to the same finish line after all. But I felt like I took a more stressful path and sometimes I'm not sure it was worth it.

BPA

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #30 on: December 26, 2013, 02:20:53 PM »
I remember a quote from a reformed hippie who said something to the effect of: "I spent my whole life not thinking about money and now it is all I think about".

Glad you shared this.

I've always been a little jealous of people who (seemingly) just don't care about stuff. Throughout school, there were always people who seemed to just...not worry about grades or anything. Ever. High school for them was about football games and drinking and that week's date. I did some of that too, but school was always on my mind. They did OK, probably had the same GPA as me because they didn't take advanced courses. We all graduated - made it to the same finish line after all. But I felt like I took a more stressful path and sometimes I'm not sure it was worth it.

There is another way to look at being a hippie:  Live frugally and you won't need to worry so much about money.  FI will follow much sooner and easier. I prefer that line of thinking.  Very ERE and not far off MMM.

oldtoyota

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #31 on: December 26, 2013, 05:48:36 PM »
This is easy to handle.

1. Draw boundaries.
2. Do not discuss your finances with your hubby's family.
3. Tell hubby--if needed--to ask his family not to make comments like they've made. If it works at all, it'll be better coming from him since it's his family.

You might not need #3 if you do #2.


AlexK

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #32 on: December 26, 2013, 06:18:34 PM »
If someone comments on my frugality I take it as a compliment. Of course if they are rude about it I won't be hanging out with them in the future, family or not.

ender

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #33 on: December 26, 2013, 08:29:03 PM »
My brother jokingly said something this Christmas about how it doesn't matter what I make, since I never spend anything.

I wanted to respond something like, "actually I'm in the process of 'buying' something more expensive than any of the stuff you'll buy in the next 10 years [ie my pathway to FI]" but decided not to. Not sure how that would have gone over.

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #34 on: December 26, 2013, 09:08:39 PM »
In my "quiver" of comments, I would flip the conversation back around into their wheel house-  I might say "Can you believe that less than 50% of people over 50 have more than $25,000 saved for retirement?"  I assume your in laws might be in that age demographic and your follow up could be "How much do YOU think you will need to save to retire?"  I bet the subject of your $200 per month goal gets dropped rather quickly.
BTW, My wife and I had our children early... and have zero regrets.  I loved raising them, and now all major expenses are behind us allowing us to focus on on funding our retirement during our prime earning years.  We built our nestegg off the "small contributions" starting in the early 1980's.
Congratulations on having 3 children. As grandparents ourselves, I would be horrified to paint their parents as "cheap" by trying to save for the future.

Will

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Re: Fielding criticism for trying to "do the right thing"
« Reply #35 on: December 26, 2013, 09:17:44 PM »
My 2 cents:

Cent #1:  Fight fire with FIRE.  Financial Independence and Retiring Early will show them!

Cent #2:  One of the best pieces of advice I ever read (and still try to live by today):  "What other people think of me is none of my business!"  As long as you feel it is the right thing, it doesn't matter what they (or anyone else) think.