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7 Telltale Signs That Your Neighbors Are Broke Print E-mail
(35 votes, average 3.49 out of 5)
Personal Finance - Credit Cards
Written by Karl Wolf   
Thursday, 01 April 2010 03:00
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7 Telltale Signs That Your Neighbors Are Broke
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Are they broke? Nobody in your family likes to talk about it and it's definitely not neighborly to bring the subject up imcmansionf the neighbors don't. Even so, you can't help wonder how the Joneses managed to build their McMansion and put a Mercedes and a Jaguar in the driveway. If you want to know whether they have been bitten hard by the Great Recession or are maxed out on their debt, here's 7 telltale signs to look for.

The Grass Doesn't Lie:

As the Spring turns to Summer, you'll notice that the neighbor's lawn has a new color - a light shade of brown. Water is downright expensive in many places and when money is tight, the sprinklers get turned off. If you live where mother nature provides plenty from above, look for lawns that resHighGrassemble a Southeast Asian jungle as the telltale sign. When people don't have any cash, the mowing service gets cancelled and the grass starts reaching for the moon.


Bye-Bye Bercedes-Benz!

You raised an eyebrow when your neighbor brought home that shiny S class Mercedes, or was it a Cadillac sedan? Either way, you suspected that it was leased. When they pull into their driveway with a used 1999 Kia Sephia, your suspicions will be confirmed. This one is worthy of the question to your neighbor, "So what happened to the Cadillac?" If the answer includes something about "being green" or "wanting a commuter car", smile and nod your head and give them a pat on the back for learning the virtues of living cheap. Better late than never.

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DocsMom23  - Neighbors Broke? |2011-11-16 18:16:18
Well, checking up on your neighbor's financial health could be considered shallow in some circumstances. In others, knowing what's going on with them might give you a heads up.

I'm a Realtor. If my neighbors started showing signs of going broke, and my house was in a subdivision, I might start to worry: Foreclosed homes not only lower the value of all the other houses in the neighborhood, but in some cases they can become a gathering point for drug activity, etc.

So yeah, you need to know whether or not your neighbors pay their bills. What they do CAN affect you - to the tune of thousands of dollars in decreased home value.
Liway |2010-09-20 05:17:50
I don't get it. Why do you care what your neighbor have or don't have?

I have coworkers who keep telling what things they bought even though I wasn't asking just because I do not see the point. I don't tell people what I buy because I don't see the point either. Why? Why? Why is there a need to?
Stuart  - Wow, how shallow |2010-06-11 06:17:47
This is really shallow.
Maybe you should use these as signs to GO TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBOR! Be their friends. Ask them how it is going (not if they have a job, that's just prying for gossip or embarrissing them). Take them out for coffee. Tell them about something difficult you are going through in your life.

I drive a 2001 Altima that has a side all dented in and a 2004 Chrysler, so don't try to judge me by my cars. I also never water my lawn, period. I guess I don't qualify for being a yuppie.
frugal nomad  - Lighten up - it's all in good fun |2010-06-11 09:32:25
This is stand up comedy. Some jokes can be mean without being mean spirited. It's not about a real person who's going around prying into his neighbors affairs - it's about what goes through inquisitve minds. If it was a short story describing - you might even think of it as being insightful. And this story describes people with beer budgets and champagne tastes and what the happens the morning after. And for what it's worth - there is a moral to the story - drink beer if that's all you can afford.
I agree with Stuart  - This is shallow |2010-08-23 13:00:13
Joke or not, this article really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The same information could have been presented in a much less dirt-digging gossip-rag tone.

This is the first article I've read on the site, and I'm not sure I want to be a repeat visitor.
Professional Humorist  - Where's the joke? |2010-12-20 21:59:25
This isn't funny -- plain and simple...there is no joke place for people to see themselves and the folly of the general human condition. This is angry ****. Pure mean. I'm leaving and never coming back.
Kevin |2010-06-11 04:58:24
You know I am seeing a lot of really hateful comments and can tell you first hand a lot of these signs can mean any number of things and should be taken with a grain of salt.

For example...

Grass I live in Houston I don't run my water all day because I see it as wasteful. I mow my own lawn because I am not lazy and I find that flowers just die because I am not home enough to spend the required time tending to them.

I don't drive a fancy car because my VW gets me where I am going just as easily as any Lexus or Mercedes however mine is paid off.

My house is dark a lot. I work nights and sleep during the day why do I need lights? When I am home the TV or computer light thing just fine as do table lamps.

The mail...I get so few bills because I am not out buying things I can't afford I check my mail 2 times a month so I haul a ton o junk mail out of my box.

Living frugal allows me to spend money on what I want to for my daughter and I and not on stuff I really don't need. Like extra lighting or fancy cars.
DC resident  - Suburban idiots |2010-06-11 04:39:31
Is this what suburban people do? Compare their cars and lawns and speculate on each others' wealth? Pathetic.
frugal nomad  - Let's not single out suburban people |2010-06-11 09:36:44
It's not just suburban people. City folk are just as likely to buy things they can't afford just to enhance their social status. There is a little bit of the peacock in all of us. As far as I'm concerned, I won't spend a dime to impress somebody else. The only exception is on a first date. Just joking.
Dan  - Screw Em |2010-05-24 16:50:04
I hope every loser American that had been living beyond thier means loses it all. I know it's not good for my property value, but I'm here for good and it will all come back around. We just need to weed out the white trash that are suppose to be in apartment complexes. I have a jacka## next to me with two lexus' and an inground pool all on credit. Now everyhting is maxed out and it all just hit home for reality sake. I'm sure you can tell that I hate him and his loud noises and incosiderate ways. I can only hope he forecloses faster than the average two years. See ya later loser.
Michelle  - Wow, Dan |2010-06-10 04:01:03
If you and your neighbor were in a knife fight, I'm not sure who I would be rooting for.

Hateful and envious is no way to go through life, son.
frugal nomad  - Make sure they're plastic |2010-06-12 04:41:28
Let's not lose Karl in a knife fight over one article. And could we please use plastic knives or cardboard swords.

Cheapskate  - Pleasant Valley Sunday |2010-05-22 09:10:34
The author also advocates trying to help a neighbor who is learning to tighten the belt. Ease the flames already. The "borrowed affluence" lifestyle is/was very common, and these observations can be right before the house goes dark due to foreclosure. Many have bought things they don't need, with money they don't have, to impress people they don't like. "I" have always insisted my picture is in the dictionary under "cheapskate", and I will gladly offer advice to others others who wish to be practical, and seek good value for their dollar.
haverwench |2010-05-03 14:06:08
The sad thing is that if you simply took each of these telltale signs and reversed it, this article could be a primer on How to Appear Rich to Your Neighbors. Just follow these seven handy steps: keep your lawn green and lush; park something impressive in your driveway; leave your lights burning all's like a guidebook for the anti-frugal. And by implying that if your neighbors *don't* follow these rules, it's a sure sign that they're "broke" (as opposed to frugal or green), the author seems to be buying into the whole religion of Keeping Up Appearances. I don't find that particularly amusing.
Omiewon  - I think it's the opposite |2010-05-03 14:43:33
I think Karl is poking fun at the excesses that our society has built up as norms. There are many people exactly like this although I think that Karl has put all of these non-frugal traits into one neighbor. I doubt he buys into any of this, but knows that much of the world has (or at least did till it all came crashing down). I think it's his way of taking a swipe at those that have always looked down on the cheap and frugal.

In my experience, there are many, many people like the "neighbors". I've had 24 year olds work for me that owned cars equal to their annual salaries. Guys that would come and do maintenance work at my business that owned 3 houses, 4 cars, and a boat. None of them were rich they just took all the credit the banks would give them.
Gtk1  - Love This Article |2010-04-01 12:26:35
Someone has the balls to say what we are all thinking. Screw them and there live beyond their means ways. Do you think they were weeping for the rest of us when we couldn't afford healthcare?

These people got us into this a big gnarly mess and who do you thinks gonna pay to bail them out. Let them take the bus and see what real people are like. Don't drive a Mercedes that's certain.

zt |2010-04-01 07:11:31
Whether or not (and I'm inclined toward "not") it is any of your business to track what mail your neighbors are getting, or to be otherwise nosy about their financial situation, I don't think most of these "telltale" signs are telling much of anything.

No matter how much money I had, I wouldn't pay someone to mow my lawn. And other landscaping, trimming trees, etc., can easily be done for free. It is, perhaps, an indication of laziness, not of poorness.

With turning off lights: being frugal is not being broke. In this case, it is good for both your wallet and the environment to turn out lights that are not being used. Keeping unnecessary lights turned on is just wasteful and has nothing to do with "status."
frugal nomad |2010-04-01 07:31:53
This is written as a lark. Some people might miss the humor. It's not about your 'neighbor' - it's about a certain kind of consumer who goes overboard with their spending and has to make 'adjustments.' There is always a little mischief in humor. You can tell you're a redneck when ..... fill in the blanks. One comedian made a fortune with that line. So take it in the spirit it was written - you can tell when they're broke ----- fill in the blanks.

I think it was the mail thing that freaks people out more than anything. Or joking about hard times. No harm intended. Just a little humor.

zt |2010-04-01 08:04:29
Maybe because this was picked up on The Consumerist, the humorous intention seemed a bit more diluted when I read it.
john  - A Consumerist Humorist |2010-09-05 14:51:24
Put THAT on your resume!
Many of us are in this spot. Compassion is the best medicine in many cases. It is a relearning process.
tran  - Missed the Point |2010-04-01 07:35:10
These are Mercedes driving McMansionites who likely didn't mow their own! The rest of us could do our own landscaping but these people wouldn't....maybe 'til they got broke.
frugal nomad  - RE: Missed the Point |2010-04-01 07:56:25
Even if the article hits home with some people who overextended themselves - it's good to laugh about it. We all take our lumps. Getting over them is easier with a little humor. I thought it was a real nice touch for him to lend the neighbor the lawnmower after going through their mail. That was supposed to be funny. If it's not - I won't laugh at your jokes either.
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