I don’t know about you but I’m extra stealthy because I get a huge kick out of it. I think it’s hilarious. That or maybe because I’ve been dirt poor most of my life so I don’t have any other programming in me to be anything different.
Remember in my 11 Perks of Growing Up Poor post I mentioned no one will bother to be fake with you if you don’t have anything to offer them? Yup! That’s basically reason enough to be as stealthy as possible even though there are plenty more reasons out there.
I’m very protective of my blog, I keep it as far away from my personal life as possible. No Facebook. No family. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but I’m better off being open to Internet strangers who are pre-conditioned to understand than trying to explain and convert my lifestyle onto someone else.
We’re an odd breed you know. Our community of personal finance
I have some random stories here that happened to us while we were…being us. I think they are pretty amusing but you can be the judge of that.
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1. Homeless Hippo
Last year, I got a case of the stomach flu and my husband had to cover for me during an Airbnb weekend turnover. He was cleaning up and found some stains on a pillow. Tried to get the stain out of the pillow but it was a no-go with limited cleaning supplies. He ended up needing to take the pillow home with him along with some old laundry that couldn’t fit in the super tiny apartment size washer. Our washer and dryer at home are bigger and more powerful. He had to put the old laundry in a garbage bag to take home.
I thought he was going to take a rental car home but, let me tell you, my husband is plenty cheap himself. He said there wasn’t enough Car2Gos around. For him to walk to a nearby car, it would be the same distance as walking to the actual bus stop. He decided he rather save $20 and take the bus back if it’s all the same.
So there he was…looking sad, sitting on one of the seediest Seattle bus lines, carrying a black garbage bag filled with blankets and towels, after a day of sweaty cleaning, hugging a dirty pillow.
This friendly homeless man on the bus came up to him and started telling him about a good homeless camp nearby that they can both go. He kindly asked my Hippo if he’s got a warm place to sleep tonight etc. He thought my husband was homeless. LOL.
It sounded really funny when Hippo told me what happened afterward. I thought it was cute but my husband told me it was such an exhausting day dealing with Airbnb that he zoned out for most of it. He told the homeless man that he was OK for the night. He lied and said he was going to bunk with a friend for the night.
Hippo did look bummy. Most large metropolitan cities have a sophisticated network of homeless folks that know each other and look out for each other. I saw similar instances back in San Francisco where they openly share food and cigarettes with each other. Some are part of these casual “street” families. They all seem to know each other and share the best spots to sleep, eat, hang out. It’s a very “what’s mine is yours” kind of culture.
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2. Mail Theft
We live in an ugly house. There, I said it. It’s ugly from the outside and we almost didn’t get it because it was so ugly from the outside.
We also live in a strong working-class neighborhood only getting near gentrification down the line. The median salary is about $50,000 in our neighborhood while the Seattle median salary is $78,000. I’ve grossed more money last year than that alone without my husband so I say we’re atypical for the area.
We’re also the youngest couples on the block.
Most people buy here because it’s more affordable and they’re seniors. I bought here for the other reasons…lots of greasy divey eateries, Asian gentrification, and lots of local thrift stores to rummage through. There have been minor cases of break-ins and mail theft in the past 2 years and these crimes aren’t profitable enough for law enforcement to get involved. It’s not as bad as I’m selling it but it’s definitely no gated community with a pool club.
One day a senior gentleman showed up to our doorstep and asked if we received a package that was addressed to him. We both told him “no, we didn’t get anything.” He then told us that he called the post office and the post office told him that they had misdelivered it to our address. It was an important package and I asked him what was in it he said: “it’s nothing valuable to you.”
Ah, I see his thought process, he thinks we do have it and we were going to keep if it was something valuable.
Well at this point we already went back and forth telling him we didn’t have his package about 4+ times and I was getting annoyed that he didn’t believe us. He noted my patience running low and left.
Over right? Nope! He came back the next day to ask the same thing – did we have it? I said, “no we don’t have it.”
He came back the third day and asked if we really don’t have it and I said, “no we don’t have it.”
The doorbell rang around the same time on the 4th day and whewwwww boy, I had a bad day. He was going to step into my wrath. I had a huge speech all prepared about how he was treating us like criminals and it was going to sound so epic like I’m an attorney or something.
But I open the door and it was the mailman standing there.
………………the mailman asked if we had the guy’s package.
“Excuuuuuuse me, sir, no, for the 100th time, NO!!! We don’t have his stupid package. Did he send you over here? Did he send you over here because I saw you talking to him earlier. WE DON’T HAVE THE PACKAGE. If it was so valuable maybe he should have sprung for signature confirmation. Maybe USPS should stop screwing up mail delivery. Whoever is doing our neighborhood has been screwing up street names for the past month. We had to do YOUR job 3 times this past month and deliver the mail ourselves to the correct addressee blocks away. We don’t steal, we don’t NEED to steal, WE WORK, how am I in the middle of this —“
Anyway, I went on like that for 3 minutes and the poor postal service guy was like…
I don’t know what happened after that but neither of them bothered us again. Hopefully, the USPS was able to redeliver because we didn’t have it and it couldn’t have walked away on its own. I want our names cleared dang it.
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3. Trash At Tiffany’s
I mentioned this before but remember when I went to Tiffany’s?
I walked in with a regular t-shirt and khakis pants and I knew I was not properly dressed when the uniformed associates looked over with wide pie eyes.
Hey, I was only there because my Airbnb guest wanted to go check out American stores.
I have never been inside a Tiffany’s! How am I suppose to know what’s the right dress code? Bottom line is it’s just another overpriced jewelry store in a mall.
The sales associates kept an eagle eye on us and were reluctant to give us too much attention besides patrolling. I had to sneak in words like “investment” and things like “which can hold value better” until the associate I got loosened up and started giving me her sales spew.
It reminded me a lot of the Anna Delvey story. If you haven’t read it by now, you NEED to read it! Basically, it shows how a lot of our society relies on superficial words, gloating, and perception of wealth to gauge wealth.
I took a really good quote from Metafilter (I love this forum):
It’s a really fascinating look into how much the world of high finance is run on handshakes, reputation, and trying to save face. Like, there’s no way my bank would let me withdraw more than a couple hundred from a check I just deposited. But a $100k line of credit based on a phone call from a fancy lawyer, and a scan of a forged receipt [is OK.] Obviously that’s the real thesis of this piece, not just the [Anna Delvey] story.
That’s basically what I had to pull at Tiffany’s!
My snuck in blurbs something along the lines of “I was thinking of buying a classic Tiffany ring as an investment since all of our assets are in stocks blah blah blah.”
Her eyes lid up. She handed me her business card and she even wrote down her personal WeChat messenger ID so I could contact her anytime. (I didn’t add her, I was just having fun trying to see what clicked.)
Humans are silly.
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4. Amateur Profiling
OK, I need some reaffirmation for this one: do you guys and girls get followed when you’re shopping in the mall?
I don’t go to malls very often but when I do, I’m usually treated like a shoplifter or something.
I remember going to an Ulta with a group of 2 other girlfriends and 1 of their boyfriends. We were looking at NYX makeup products when a sales attendant suddenly came up from behind us and asked loudly if we needed help finding anything. We told her we were fine and that we were just browsing the new releases. All words of truth, we were straight-A college kids.
We continued browsing and we noticed the same sales attendant continued to hover and track behind us closely. Eventually, 2 MORE attendants joined in. Now there’s 3 and my friend was getting ticked off. I thought it was funny! But she was very offended and we all left in a huff.
It’s hard to tell our age actual age (20s). We probably came off looking like a gang of broke teenager girls. Can’t fault them on that. it was in a seedy area, they probably get a lot of girls coming in to steal makeup out of vain desperation.
We didn’t wear expensive clothes, all of our sneakers were dirty, I was rocking my home haircut and the one boyfriend was wearing a dirtyMisfit jacket. We fit the profile for a gang of troublemaking punks…even though we were total dorks.
Honestly, I don’t know what the Ulta staff was thinking though. You can track people but it was so obvious…having 3 of them move right behind you. The best irony would be if another girl 2 aisles down from us wearing the $500 dollar shoes and $100 hair extensions looted $200 worth of makeup when the associates were busy profiling us. How else did ya think she be able to afford $500 dollar shoes and $100 dollar hair extensions? Amateurs!
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5. Lamp Man
There are some really cool superheroes: Clark Kent as Superman. Bruce Wane as Batman. But there’s one superhero that has my heart in near totality and his name is Lamp Man.
When we first moved into our house I was on Craigslist furniture hunting like a madwoman. I spent hours looking specifically for mid-century modern pieces. It was our first house and I was very excited about my blank canvas. We decided to buy a house HALF the price of our housing budget so we had money left over to fill it.
I didn’t want to walk into an IKEA or any big box furniture store to get the same sofa as my neighbors. I wanted the old “Golden Age of Hollywood” glamor pieces and rare mid-century pieces and I was being VERY stubborn about getting them.
Our living room was empty for like…5 months because it took me that long to hunt down each piece in my desired price range…as it came on the market.
After 3 months of waiting, I finally found the perfect floor lamp but the sellers couldn’t deliver and it was across town; about a few blocks away from my husband’s work building. I told my husband how much I wanted it and he went to pick it up for me.
The bus home wasn’t far from the apartment where he picked up the lamp…so he took a giant floor lamp…onto the bus…during rush hour.
He told me EVERYBODY on the bus stared at him. Not surprisingly. Even the driver was grinning. They probably thought he was a hoarder or grifter with his wild hair and bushy beard.
When he came home with it (holding it like a fishing pole) I asked him why he didn’t just rent a car but…then…I realized it wouldn’t have fit in a Car2Go anyway. He saved maybe $50 not having to fetch a full-size car to pick it up.
But more importantly…how special is my husband?
Would most husbands be willing to ride the rush hour bus with a floor lamp and dangling light bulb on their shoulder for their wife?!?
(Noooo, because no other man should be that special! That’s my special guy! Oh…I totally thought he was going to rent a car…)
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Ahaha, I’ll add more if I remember or if something new happens to us.
The most common assumption of our abject stealth is homeless for him and petty thievery for me. Hmm, interesting.
There were plenty of other instances but they’re not worth mentioning. There was the time hubby and I carried 5 chairs back home from another Craiglist ad a few blocks away. It was too close to get a car but still a good 5 to 8 minute walk on the main street. Everyone on the way back stared at us either with amusement or pity.
Like I said, I find it very amusing and not embarrassing at all. That’s what I mean when I say frugality is much more fun when it’s not required. You frame things differently and framing something can make all the difference.
Do you have any stealth wealth stories to share? Have you ever been profiled or type casted?
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Accidental FIRE says
He was going to step into my wrath.
Ha ha, you were going to go postal ON the mailman, how cool would that be? Great stuff Lily, love it!
Holy crap I did huh!
The profiling thing is so true. Every time I go car shopping , about once a decade, I seem to be dressed grumbly when I show up. The salesmen leave me alone. But man do they pounce if I show up after work well dressed.
Good pro tip to go grumbly!
At such a young age you have already have such interesting life stories. Love it. Mr Hippo sounds like a great catch especially with the lamp story. I bet majority of guys would have complained and not done it.
It is funny for sure about being profiled in store. That happens to me sometimes even at my age. For a doctor I definitely do not act or dress the part (in and out of work).
I sometimes check out really nice stores as well dressed in very plain clothes and I’m sure the salespeople think I would waste their time by my looks. It’s sometimes nice knowing that even though you are probably the wealthiest person in that store that you can sneak in and be stealthy bc of your attire
He is definitely a catch doc 🙂
Stealthy also comes with a lot of self-discipline! I love the irony!
Joe @ Retire by 40 says
Nice job with stealth wealth! You look young so it’s easy to pull off the college student look. That’s a great ticket to stealth wealth. I think it’s great that wealthy people can relax and don’t feel the pressure to impress other people anymore. In the past, you need to look respectable. Now, nobody really cares. 🙂
I’m pretty good with stealth wealth too. Although, I haven’t been mistaken for a homeless person yet…
Because you’re in Portland haha. Pacific NW has the low down grunge look down to a science haha.
“In the past, you need to look respectable. Now, nobody really cares.”
So true! I read in the 1940s, people spent 3 times on clothing than today. Clothes back then were of higher quality and they made sure it was nice. People cared more for clothes in general.
Amusing anecdotal examples of how everyone often jumps to conclusions about people. We all do it everyday. However, I was touched by the kindness of the homeless man to your husband – homeless people are human beings too and are shunned and ridiculed by many in society. Regarding the missing USPS package delivery; it is possible it was delivered to your door but was stolen – just an additional thought – and perhaps the package was prescriptions by mail as the inquiring neighbor is a “senior gentleman”….someday you will be an old lady who will likely annoy a younger neighbor. Finally, having worked in retail when I was a college student I can tell you from first hand experience that shop lifting is a real problem and often done by young bright people not out of need but for a thrill. Straight A students. I commend your husband for his willingness to go out of his way to accommodate you – he sounds like a Prince Charming not a Hippo. Love your blogs.
I was really touched too. I wanted to explore it but it ran too far away from the topic. The culture is super interesting.
I hope it wasn’t a prescription, I would feel so bad! I think the gentleman said it was a really expensive magazine but I’m not sure if that was really the truth or just a white lie. We have had mail thefts before and I had some gift cards taken and I felt very awkward going to the neighbors and asking if they seen it x_X!!
Actually, the shoplifting thing is true. I found an old high school classmate’s blog online where he said he stole pens and stuff from Walgreens for the thrill and got caught. My jaws fell to the floor!!! He was a straight-A kid and president of some football club. Crazy!!
When we met, he called himself Mr. Hippo and that just stuck because it’s so cute ^_^ he’s Mr. Wonderful to me haha.
angie pannkuk says
Wow…the Anna Delvey story is crazy! Lily…keep up the good work. I love how you and your husband are kicking butt financially!!!
I’m so glad I spread the Anna Delvey story around some more. It’s just crazy. Thanks Angie ^_^
haha, nice stories. when I go to the mall sometimes, I get mistaken for the security guard when I have a company logo shirt on (how did that happen, I’m the tiniest human being ever)
jojo got mistaken as homeless many times due to this unruly beard. He got cash, offers to buy food etc. etc.
“He got cash, offers to buy food etc.”
Did he take it?! xD
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early says
It’s interesting you two have had so many of these experiences here in Seattle, because I feel like there is a ton of that kind of stealth wealth in the area, starting with Bill Gates himself (expect most people will recognize him by face these days). And I thought that was a pretty sweet story that the homeless guy was looking out for your husband who even though he didn’t know him.
It could be that it was Aurora and the neighborhood has a reputation for poverty and drugs. There is a lot of stealth wealth here though. I’m sure we would have gotten more stories in California.
I thought it was sweet too, I wanted to go into it but ah, too far from the topic at hand.
Financial Orchid says
I laughed so hard through out the whole article. This writing is solid ?. I love this so much
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
I loved all of your stories! The one about Jared looking like a homeless person sounded pretty funny hehe. I have to say the homeless man sounded nice and friendly when he was trying to “help” Jared out. I think it’s also important that Jared doesn’t really care what other people think and just does his own thing. Sometimes people get so caught up with what other people think of him and buy expensive stuff to impress those they don’t know.
We’re nowhere near wealthy. But we would also like to embrace stealth wealth if we become rich one day. The people who treat us well regardless of how much we make and where we shop are the ones we want to stick with.
I look forward to part 2 of the post one day 😉
Sometimes people get so caught up with what other people think of him and buy expensive stuff to impress those they don’t know.
Another good thing about being poor! We didn’t have that choice hahaha.
You and Mr. FAF are wealthy to me, because of your careers. It’s just earlier on, you’ll see the compound effects of money in a few years. It builds and sneaks up.
Dr. McFrugal says
OMG this is too funny. I almost LOL’d at work (doing a weekend shift FML).
Anyway, Homeless Hippo is hilarious. And it’s funny because I can totally imagine it! I feel like a lot of everyday people in the PNW look homeless even though they are not. I think it’s part of the bearded hipster / lumberjack / grunge culture of the region!
“I feel like a lot of everyday people in the PNW look homeless even though they are not.”
Yuuuuuup! It was probably hugging that dirty pillow that did it. We’re all grungy here but not hugging pillow grungy. PNW for life man!!!
Financial Orchid says
One of my super stylish Korean coworker who went to prep school in the east coast went to UW for undergrad. When she first moved to PNW her first impression was “wtf is dis… all these hobos in ugly North Face jackets” LOL. She’s still here after 15+ yrs
Half Life Theory says
I love the stealth wealth community… it does get annoying from time to time though when i get followed through the stores at the mall… Like yeah, i know i’m not wearing the nicest out fit but calm down! You sell $70 pairs of tennis shoes…. I can literally but 2 boat loads. Go away and let me shop LOL!
Great post Lily!
I know right!! The mall is like a showdown of gloating wealth.
freddy smidlap says
i haven’t been to a mall in about 15 years. i did used to go to tiffany’s in nyc and always got treated pretty well. i remember a euro-trash jet set girl asked me to help her pick out a gift for her boss and then said the decanter i liked wasn’t expensive enough. ok then. i claim to be stealth wealthy but i might just be a slob.
Haha oh yeah…slob might be a more fitting word 🙂 Thanks Freddy
I experience “Amateur Profiling” often! Sad to say when you think about it.
The no- fail one is car dealership! So much for “don’t judge a book by its cover!” Of course I would never buy a new car anyway, but they don’t know that and just assume I can’t afford it. If they just knew. But it does drive me crazy (haha )
You get profiled Caroline?! I never been to a dealership before, can’t believe they could be so vain. I guess the stealthiest simply don’t visit dealerships often because we get cars from elsewhere!
Well I know nothing about car so it is a great place to start and they do sell used too! Which is usually where they start with me.
Mr. Tako says
Some pretty funny stories Lily. Over the years I’ve seen some pretty strange things on the bus, but never a giant lamp!
Bet that got some good chuckles on the bus! 🙂
I just want to sayyyy…I love my husband. Hahaha. Very much.
Get readdyyyyy tooooo rummmmmble! I’m surprised you didn’t go all WWE on their asses Lily! ???
Ah the upper echelons work by handshakes and winks. That is very true. I was also wondering when you were going to talk about the Delvey post you linked in an actual post.
The majority of the time I get treated well regardless, no need to break out stacks or the black card for fake treatment and concern.
If there are ever times where I do get snobbiness, the troll level goes over 9000. ?
Ohhh I thought about going ape if it wasn’t so funny to me
I totally don’t care……but did you say you have the black card?!! :O xD
But I kinda don’t want to read someone of your description has been put in jail for going all John Cena as funny as that would be.
I only have it because of a friend. Or should say her parents? Lol they like me enough it seems ?. I paid my dues tbh as I was the assistant/chaperone/bodyguard/bullshitter negotiator.
The Cent comes with nice perks, but isn’t as great as people make it out to be. Kinda of anticlimactic. Woooo invitation only… Woo sign up fees and subs…. ?
I got met with hushed silence and wide eyes. Then there’s the flip 180 MF… Lol
Our third car, the fun spots car for my highway trips, melted down the other day. It had 150,00 miles on it and was in great shape I thought but the engine blew up. Putting in a new engine was going to cost more than the car was worth so I looked around the dealers lot, found the same old model sitting there and wrote them a $7,000 check to buy a replacement car. On the one hand I’m driving a $7,000 car but on the other it looks brand new and because they are fairly rare I’ve had people ask if it was a 2018 model! So while I feel like I should be getting stealth wealth credit for driving a 2008 with lots of miles (when I’m a millionaire) instead I’m getting fake wealth credit because the car is so shiny new looking people are mistaking it for an expensive new INFINITI sports car! Sometimes you can’t stealth it even when you try to.
$7k! How did you get a nice car so cheap?!
Mark Dias says
Those were cute stories. I just wanted to check one thing. Do you have that package?
I love the floor lamp story, and that you left the living room empty for 5 months. Better to wait til you find what you really want for sure than to fill it up with stuff you don’t!
I have also been mistaken for a homeless person while waiting for a bus on a trip. A church group offered water and directions to a shelter. I let them know I was going to the airport and thought maybe I should dress at least a LITTLE better. And I also get followed in stores. Apparently gym clothes plus a very large purse is a red flag 🙂