Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Tar babies

If you are not familiar with the Uncle Remus story of the tar baby its a folklore tale written in the 1800s about Br’er fox who creates a baby out of tar to trap his enemy Br’er rabbit who is always taunting him.  When the rabbit engages the “baby” it doesn’t respond so the rabbit pokes and prods the object until it snares him.  The tar baby is a sticky mess that consumes the rabbit and there’s no hope of getting unstuck.

Food and kitchen 2016 079

The dictionary defines tar baby as “a situation or problem or the like from which it’s nearly impossible to extricate yourself” and that is about the only explanation we need.  You get the idea.  When you’re stuck, you’re stuck.

Do you have a tar baby?  That would be someone in your life who is high maintenance, puts you in a bind, or otherwise drains you financially.  If so, you’re not alone.  I have tar babies in my life too.  There are many like us around the world and we’re all in trouble.  If we don’t put distance between us and our tar baby we’re going to be in a big long-term sticky mess.  Here are some examples of tar babies that you may have in your life.

  • An adult child who depends on you for rent, food, pocket money, and so forth.  Usually this child has a sunny personality because they don’t have the worries and burdens of holding a job or paying bills.
  • A friend or neighbor who borrows money or food or other things but never pays it back.  Just like with street beggars; give them something once and they’ll identify you as a resource for future begging.  These are the tar babies I have in my life.
  • A significant other that enters the relationship with clothes, a car, and a television but nothing much else.  You’re the one providing the rest including the house and all the money necessary to run the house.  They are a type of leech or parasite tar baby.
  • A significant other with a drug or gambling problem.  You end up feeding their addiction with hard earned cash, or they find other resources (of yours) which they resell to support their habits.

Food and kitchen 2014 182

The best way to rid our self of a tar baby is to cut them off completely and stop enabling them to continue spending our money.  Its hard enough to take care of our self.  What kind of friend would continue being a financial burden on us?  What kind of child would want to burden parents in such a way?  We can’t save a drowning person if they pull us down with them.

I read about financial tar babies several years ago.  I can’t remember exactly where though.  A few months ago I suddenly realized I had lots of tar babies in my neighborhood.  Poor neighborhoods are like that.

A couple of my neighbors in particular are the most frequent tar babies.  When these two started calling me “bank of Anita” the story of the financial tar babies came back to me like a slap in the face.  (sometimes it takes awhile for stuff to sink into my brain)

People take advantage of us only to the extent we allow it.  I’ve gotten myself unstuck from all the tar babies in my neighborhood.  I’ve cut off the food supply by simply not having a visible food storage.  I don’t let neighbors stop by on shopping day so they can’t know what I get.  This makes it easier to say no.  I stopped being “bank of Anita” and there won’t be any more micro loans that somehow slips their minds when time to pay back.  I tell them to “support your own habit” and let it go at that.  A micro loan is small amounts that don’t seem significant until added together over time.  Fifty cents here, a dollar there, etc.

Its time for my tar babies to sink or swim for themselves. Yes, I do know we’re supposed to be kind hearted and sensitive.  We’re supposed to have compassion and to realize not everyone is as fortunate as us but helping others has the potential to hurt – both of us.

Sign on my front door

(Sign on my front door – click photo to read it.)

There are many folks out there that know how to scam the system to take advantage of the good heartedness of others.  Some people do need help now and then.  I know this.  I’ve educated myself to know the difference between occasional need and a tar baby.  I simply can’t afford them anymore.  It’s my responsibility to know when I’m being scammed, misled, manipulated, taken advantage of, played, duped, and abused by the gauntlet of the human tar babies that live around me.  I hope you have or will too.

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14 comments on “Tar babies

  1. Deb
    April 11, 2016

    I finally got the courage to cut off one of my Tar Babies this year. It wasn’t that I did not have the money in my account, but it was budgeted for something else. I never loan money, I give it, if I see it back that is good, if I don’t, then I do no hold on to any anger. However, my final straw was after the last time of “loaning money”, a new tattoo appeared a week later.

    • Anita
      April 12, 2016

      Yeah, I know the feeling. Its like paying for what is not necessary for survival.

  2. Clara
    April 3, 2016

    I can relate to that! I got rid of an emotional tar baby some time ago – a colleague at work who would tell me all her troubles on a regular basis. I need to be alert: it took me years to realize this person was wasting my time and energy while it was in my hand to put an end to it.

    Thank you for the article, Anita!
    Blessings and the best vibes for the new stage in your life you are about to enter.

  3. KAYTHEGARDENER
    April 2, 2016

    Easier to declare an occasional holiday from the rules, than to tighten them up later… Even pre-kindergarden kids learn how to push the adults buttons like pros!!
    Good luck on your move — it’s a chance for a fresh start after your recent family losses…
    Within a month after their in-laws’ deaths, my great-grandparents packed up & moved to the USA, knowing that they would never return to the old country…
    Good thing that they left when they could — they missed being caught in several revolutions, at least 2 deliberate genocidal famines & 2 worlld wars that swept over their home region … any survivors of these horrors were finally shipped off to Siberia by Stalin!!

    • Anita
      April 3, 2016

      Moving is really sad and exciting at the same time. Your great grandparents were very lucky for sure. America was built with people leaving home country for places unknown and learning from the native people.

  4. Amy Wilson
    April 2, 2016

    I have “emotional” tar babies. A few “friends” who want to come over or call and drain me of my emotions and energy. Or they feel they need to enlighten me as to what I’m doing wrong. ” why do you use Splenda, non stick cookware, believe in Jesus.” I need to put a stop to this also.

    • Anita
      April 3, 2016

      Hmm, I hadn’t thought about the emotional tar babies. Those can be big problems as well.

  5. sarasinart
    April 2, 2016

    All very well said! We all have to take care of ourselves and you can still be kind to others while doing that, by eliminating those who really are tar babies.

  6. Donna
    April 2, 2016

    Oh how right you are! My husband and I had to do the same thing Anita! Once always leads to more and it never ends if you don’t put a stop to it. I hate the words “I will pay you back when I get paid.” Apparently they never get paid.

    • Anita
      April 2, 2016

      Payday is like tomorrow, it never arrives. OR, they think being a senior means we forget the loan took place.

  7. Linda Smith
    April 2, 2016

    Excellent article! My mother always said, “You train people how to treat you”. I love your sign on the door as well.

    • Anita
      April 2, 2016

      Thanks Linda the sign on the door stops the strangers from asking for my money. I like that saying from your Mother. Its stuck in my head now so I’ll keep it in mind when I move. I may have to train my neighbors from the start.

      • mem37814
        April 4, 2016

        My daughter has a sign on her front door almost like this one.

        • Anita
          April 5, 2016

          Similar ones have been around for awhile.

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