The Thrifty Doctor
If you ask my soon to be ENT cousin Lane aka “lil Spark” (smart guy!), he would vouch that I’m fairly frugal. Actually, he would call me “squeaky.” Some people would take offense of that….but I actually pride myself of being “thrifty.”
But You’re a Doctor…
I don’t know your personal situation, but if it’s anything like mine, I occasionally get comments such as:
- “Why are you still living in your first house?”
- “When are you going to get out of ‘that‘ neighborhood?”
- “Are you a member of an expensive hunting club yet?”
I’ll be honest, these used to bother me until I realized what it was like to become DEBT-FREE. If I were to buy the “Doctor House” or join an expensive hunting lease, more than likely it would involve taking out more loans…and I ain’t ever going back to the dark side!
When I first began making decent money, it seemed like I needed to prove myself around family and friends. Buying them gifts or always picking up the tab at restaurants seemed like the thing to do. It seemed like it was “expected” of me because now I was a doctor. That’s what society would say anyway.
Finding a Happy Medium
At times being put in these situations was uncomfortable even though I really didn’t mind spending the money. I had sacrificed for many years and now wanted to be generous with my money as so many others had helped me get to where I was along the way. But on the flip side, I didn’t particularly want to be taken advantage of, nor have others “expect” you to ALWAYS pick up the tab. So I set out to find a happy medium.
For me, I compare this to being at work. For most of us, we don’t mind doing a “freebie” case every now and then. Especially when it’s someone who is busting their tail, trying to keep lights on & kids fed, while working 3 jobs. They are truly heroes.
But where I get “turned off” are patients that want me to do work for nothing claiming they’re broke and leave in their Escalade. Ummm I don’t think so.
I used to think the solution was to hang out with other high-income docs in order to “fit in” socially, but most of the time I would hide would I did for a living until I got to know them better.
Now, I’m sure you’re family is the same as mine, especially when I first got out of residency. Of course they’re proud of us and want to show off their “son” to others as this is “my boy, the doc.” I catch myself at times doing the same thing when I introduce my doctor friends to others. I guess it’s human nature to want to “talk up” people you know and respect.
Keeping It Real
I remember a local doctor telling me when I first opened my practice about a story that involved a lawsuit. He left his office to go have lunch with his wife and got into a slight fender bender. Obviously nobody was injured, they traded insurance cards and went on their merry way.
He was surprised when he received a call about a week later from an “ambulance chaser” letting him know that he was being sued. Come to find out, the lady realized he was a “doctor” (he was wearing scrubs) and dollar signs flashed in her head.
From that day on, I vowed to never leave my office with scrubs on. You’d probably laugh if you saw me leaving my office as I typically wear my old school “balling clothes.”
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “stealth wealth.” I love flying under the radar and especially enjoy the relative anonymity of going to our local health club or college to play tennis. Tennis is a fairly cheap sport (I used to golf) as I typically only spend about 10 bucks a month on balls. Actually, I typically buy a can one week and whoever I’m playing will do the same the following week.
I also recently got back into shooting hoops again after a 7 year hiatus. There’s nothing like the feeling of a 40+ something year old still able to play pick up games with the local college kids. It helps to keep me young (at least that’s what I tell myself.)
None of those kids know what I do for a living. It’s nice that they could care less. No expectations. Nothing. I’m accepted for who I am instead of for “what I do.”
Unfortunately in our society, one of the first questions people ask is, “What do you do?” I’ll admit, it used to bother me until I read Rabbi Lapin’s “Thou Shall Prosper.” In it, he references that God makes us for a purpose and we should share what we do for a living as for many of us, it’s our purpose in life.
Today, I’m still NOT comfortable whenever someone asks so I try to swing the conversation back on them and not me. I want someone to accept/like me for who I am and not for what I do.
If you ask most people that really know me, they’ll tell you I’m a cheap guy. I think we are all cheap in some degree but everybody has 3-5 categories that typically money is not an object.
Take for instance, the past CEO of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca. My marketing mentor, Dan Kennedy, once told me a story about Mr. Iacocca. He was at his house with a handful of others when they all decided to go out for lunch. Mr. Lee suggested they go to grab a few pizzas and made a point to grab the pizza coupons off of the counter before they headed out the door.
Dan was flabbergasted. Here is the past president of both Ford and Chrysler worrying about a few bucks off of a pizza. Heck, Dan told me that the shoes he was wearing to the pizza place had to have cost close to $1000.00. When Dan pressed Lee about the issue, he claimed that his mom would roll over in her grave if she knew that he wasted any of his hard earned dollars while coupons were available for a discount.
You see, food was NOT on his radar as something that he valued. He typically chose the cheaper places to eat but instead would spend any amount of money on clothes or cars.
I thought about this and realized it was true to some degree. There are certain areas in my life that I refuse to pay high prices for such as our place of residence, it’s just NOT that important to me. Most of us leave everyday and go to work to pay for houses that we are rarely there in the first place.
So for me, I would rather spend my money of experiences, especially with my family. Growing up, we didn’t get to travel much. An annual beach trip to Florida, Dallas to visit my grandmother, or South Louisiana to visit our aunt, uncle and cousins was about the extend of it. Snow skiing was out.
Travel wasn’t big on my dad’s list. No big deal. But when I got to the point when I could afford to travel, I loved it! I remember when my wife and I first went skiing together in Steamboat back in 2009. We loved it so much that we went back two months later.
And don’t get me started on Disney. I’m a huge Disney fanatic for both pleasure and what they can teach you regarding customer service, sales and marketing. Spending 7-8K on a Disney trip making memories with my kids would seem crazy by some but it doesn’t matter. I like what I like thus I’m going to spend money in those areas.
What About You?
What areas do you tend to spend more in?