after I asked for a raise, my boss told me I buy too much coffee

A reader writes:

In August, I made the decision to begin a job search. After spending seven years with the same organization, I felt it was time for me to leave when it became increasingly clear that I would not get promoted, partially due to a lack of movement within the organization and partially because according to my boss, we did not have the money to give me a promotion (where I work, raises are tied to promotions).

Since my review in August with my boss, when I mentioned that I was unhappy with the amount of money that I was making (according to Glassdoor, I was making about $5,000 less than industry standard) and have only received a three percent raise annually over the last several years, my boss has made several comments related to personal spending habits — specifically my coffee buying habits.

I routinely buy coffee at the coffee shop across the street from work. I go before work hours and order in advance, so that the trip is quick. While the coffee is on the pricey end (think $4 for a coffee), it is the one item that I splurge on.

My boss made a comment in my review that if I cut back on the amount of coffee I buy, I would be more than satisfied with the amount of money I am making. Since then, she has several comments about the amount of coffee I drink (only one cup per day, which I don’t find to be unusual) and has even asked me to pick her up coffee on my way in to work.

Her comments and other questionable behavior, coupled with the reasons I mentioned above, influenced my decision to leave. I am pleased to say that I recently put in my two weeks notice and am excited to be starting a new job in the same industry soon. (Thanks for all the job advice!)

Although I am leaving, I had to ask — am I wrong in thinking that this is inappropriate? I keep my personal life private, and she knows very little about my financial situation. My coffee buying does not negatively impact my job performance, my ability to get to work on time, etc. I understand she is unhappy that I made mention about being displeased about my salary, but I don’t think that warrants being subjected to rude comments about my personal spending habits.

Sidenote: I am a 30-something-year-old woman who does not buy designer clothes (most of my clothing comes from the thrift store), I rarely buy shoes, jewelry, etc., I do not get my nails done, do not carry a designer purse, and spend a minimal amount on makeup each year. I do not go on extravagant out of the country trips, live in a small rental property with my husband, and currently do not own a car.

You could be dripping with designer clothing and have an out-of-control makeup addiction, and your spending habits would still be none of your boss’s business.

It pains me to see you justifying your lifestyle and spending choices, as if maybe your boss would have been more justified in commenting on your coffee buying if you liked jewelry and had your nails done every week.

She wouldn’t be.

The salary you should get paid — and the salary you should feel entitled to ask for — is based on the market value of your work in your field and in your geographic area. It has nothing to do with your spending or what it takes to support your lifestyle.

Your boss’s comment that you’d be more satisfied with your salary if you cut back on coffee is ridiculous and insulting. You should be dissatisfied with an under-market salary even if Elon Musk personally paid all your bills, because your pay is about what your work is worth, both to your employer and on the market. It’s not a stipend that your boss gives you to cover your living expenses. And your budget certainly isn’t up for her approval or part of your wage negotiations.

You get to expect fair market pay for your work because that’s what it’s worth.

Your boss was commenting on your coffee buying because she wanted to transform her obligation to pay you fairly into an obligation on your side to decrease your spending so she could continue to pay you below market.

And that’s not how this works.

It would have been reasonable to say in response to her comments, “I asked for a raise because I believe my work warrants it and because I’m being paid below market for our industry. It’s not about my spending.” It also would have been reasonable to say, “My personal budget shouldn’t be part of our discussion about what my work is worth.”

I’m glad you’re moving on.

{ 612 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    Ugh. I have no poker face, so if a boss ever said this to me, they’d immediately know what I thought about their comments on my spending habits.

    1. Dragoning*

      I would be mostly to respond with “No, I wouldn’t be satisfied, because I wouldn’t have my coffee!”

      1. AKchic*

        I’d be very tempted to say “Well, then I’d not have my coffee and still be paid under market value; which would leave me more likely to angrily let it slip to anyone wanting to apply here… I think the coffee is a necessity, don’t you agree?”

      2. Emily S*

        Right, “Cultivate a non-material lifestyle to obtain inner peace,” is not advice that falls under a manger’s purview.

      3. wittyrepartee*

        There’s actually research on how spending on little luxuries makes people happier. Coffee, nails, a bright red lipstick, funky dress socks- they give you a little joy every day, which is important.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I feel like this list needs something on it specifically associated with men. Maybe like… a hot shave at a barbershop?

            1. PeanutButter*

              I don’t wear ties myself but I sure do get a kick out of seeing a guy rocking a silly/bold tie! Same thing with a woman in a subdued business suit but with a statement necklace or funky earrings. I tend to wear funky socks (knitting them is a hobby) so that if anyone catches of a glimpse of them hopefully they’ll get the same feeling from me.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I often ponder how few “little luxuries” men have. Especially at gift-buying time; the list of “gender-specific generic treats” is much longer for women.
            They wear more jewelry, more makeup, more clothing articles…

            1. Clear Eyes*

              Tools, video games, beer, ball caps, football-related paraphernalia, coffee… Plenty of gender-specific presumptions of spending.

            2. PeanutButter*

              My boyfriend looooooves scented soaps and lotions, while my allergies and dermatitis means that I have to be verrry selective about what touches my skin. As a result a lot of the “generic woman bath gift set” stuff I get ends up going straight to him, ha ha.

            3. Alienor*

              I think a lot of men skip the little luxuries and go straight for the big stuff. I’ve known many a dude with an expensive hobby or collection that knocks the cost of coffee and manicures into a cocked hat.

            4. Julia*

              My husband drinks my fancy tea. We may think fancy tea is more of a gift for women, but it really isn’t if you think about it. (Of course, when I buy him his own fancy tea, he is too lazy to make tea.)

            5. Caroline Bowman*

              In my own experience with men, their treats tend to be bigger, like gaming equipment, sports gear, often very expensive.

            6. Zennish*

              I have to say I find this a little stereotypey… I’m 100% male, last time I checked, and my biggest indulgences are probably organic tea and beeswax candles. If you think in terms of individuals, instead of males or females, the list suddenly becomes much longer.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I actually carved out room in my budget to go out for coffee on weekdays even when I was unemployed, because at that point I had almost nothing in my life that brought me joy. Going out for a latte got me out of my apartment and forced me to speak at least 3 sentences to another human being, and paid my rent to sit someplace that wasn’t my house for a while, and I just really love a good latte. I was in the fortunate position that $4/day would not ruin me, and the amount of happiness it brought me was absolutely worth it. I actually cut back on other stuff so I could keep buying fancy coffee.

          1. Ethyl*

            I know what you mean. When my spouse and I were going through a lean time some years back we actually had to re-draw our budget to include a line for at least some recreation, even if it was only $10/week for a fancy coffee date. We were so, so incredibly miserable and it was taking a toll on our relationship and health, both physical and mental. Carving out some pleasant time was so crucial in keeping our marriage strong and ourselves together!

            I hate the attitude in this country (US) that poor people should never have any fun. It’s toxic, and *dangerous.*

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              I agree with you totally! I’m in a much poorer country, where grinding poverty is very common, and the attitude towards those in need is just revolting so often. ”Why do you want the brand-name cornflakes?” ”Always got money for a cold drink!” types of statements, because being hard up financially MUST equal total misery and nothing nice at all, ever.

              All of us deserve a bit of fun and happiness and to feel like we matter in some small way, and if that’s by enjoying a nice coffee somewhere or by shelling out for transport rather than walking miles and miles in bad footwear, then so be it.

            2. selena81*

              i’ve heard of research showing that even the very poor (think: $1/day) will give up some of their food in order to have *some* entertainment (watch a movie or something).
              If people will literally go hungry in order to ‘splurge’ that means that poor people will never be as ascetic as rich people demand them to be.

    2. Zona the Great*

      I am a very agreeable person, I don’t talk back or challenge my bosses often but if this was said to me, I think I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “oh that’s not appropriate. Please don’t bring up my spending habits again.”

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Same. People talk about having “resting b*tch face” but I have a very active b*tch face.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            I haven’t heard a man say that to a woman colleague in probably 15 years. I’m shocked that anyone still thinks it’s acceptable.

            1. jy3*

              A good response: give the “chimp smile”. The one that says “my teeth are sharp, I will demonstrate if you don’t stop irritating me”.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        yesssss. One of the biggest reasons I am opposed to the recent diktat on webcams is that I have an excellent verbal filter, and absolutely zero filter on my eyebrows.

        1. Jadelyn*

          It doesn’t come naturally to me to keep my expression under control, but I learned after my boss (at the time, grandboss – VP over our dept) literally kicked me under the table while we were on a video call and hissed in my ear “control your face!” I don’t even remember what the topic was or what face I was apparently making? But man, that stuck with me, lol. I’ve since developed an excellent poker face for video calls, but it was definitely an actively learned skill.

        2. scmill*

          Resting Bitch Face, indeed. Before retiring, there were many days on conference calls where my eye-rolling and facial expressions would have gotten me fired if I had been forced to use a camera.

        3. TechWorker*

          Lol… just today I was in a meeting where I spent a reasonable part of it with my head on the desk and another rolling my eyes to the ceiling… but verbally I was super positive…

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Love it. Me too!

        Even when I think I’m doing a pretty good poker face, apparently. *sigh*

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I’ve gotten very good at what I call “the teacher glare.” It’s the perfect mix of “I am so done with this nonsense” and “I am very disappointed in you.”

          1. SusanIvanova*

            My choir director has an *awesome* Teacher Glare. She’s also got a great “I am so delighted in what I am hearing” look.

      3. RBF Queen*

        Oh, I’m stealing this! If I had $1 for every time someone told me to smile, I could be retired living on a private island somewhere!

      4. Anongineer*

        Same! It definitely helps to lower the amount of “Really?!” level questions that I have to deal with.

      5. Chaordic One*

        THAT’S IT!!!

        I knew there had to be a name for it, but I couldn’t come up with the words. Thank you!

    4. Threeve*

      I’m trying to imagine how I would react. I’m not sure. It might have just been a blank, baffled stare.

      Or “my rent is actually a lot more expensive than coffee…?”

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That would have been my response. People who make that dumbass statement that “if you just stopped buying coffee, you’d be able to live comfortably” make my ass itch. It’s not remotely true. If you pay $4 for coffee every weekday morning every week for a year, that’s only $1,040 – that’s not anywhere near being enough to live off of. That’s what I spend every month on rent and utilities.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          If only. I spend $2500/month for a 3-bedroom rental. Not including utilities. Ugh. When my kids graduate from high school, I’m moving somewhere reasonable.

          1. Lilo*

            The thing I spend by far the most in is my kid. Can you imagine “Well if you just hadn’t had that kid you would be happy with the salary”.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


              Then again, I’d be “well if I hadn’t had those kids, I’d find a career and a place to work more to my liking, instead of putting up with working for you.” (I would not really say that.) (Well, I might if they really did bring the kids up.)

            2. LondonCatLady*

              I actually had a colleague say something similar to me a few years and a couple of workplaces ago! She was a real busybody and a half. At that time, I was working somewhere three miles from home, and used to walk there and back most days instead of catching the bus or tube, because it was free, it kept me physically and mentally fit, and London is a very pedestrian-friendly city anyway. This woman was very fond of telling other people what they should or shouldn’t do. When she realised 1) I walked to work and 2) I had cats, she said “Maybe if you got rid of your cats you could afford to get the tube!” Like, why would anyone consider that appropriate to say to someone? I actually asked her whether she’d say that to someone with human children. She didn’t like that much! Thankfully, she was a temp and got let go three weeks later for being too rude and bossy in general. But yeah, wtf is wrong with some people.

            3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              Sadly I wouldn’t find it at all surprising if someone said this. We hear it all the time in relation to poverty, I can easily imagine some jerk boss saying this in response to a raise request.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            And avocado toast and lattes are singled out because they’re things the older people who complain about young spendthrifts aren’t used to, so they’re ‘frivolous’ whereas there’s a lot less shaming about older people hanging on to a landline or a cable package. (And of course no mention of the disappearance or pensions and tripling of student loans).

            Somehow millennials get shamed for “killing” industries (buying non-diamond or no engagement ring, killing golf, not using cloth napkins, you name it) and overspending at the same time.

            1. PeanutButter*

              My mom (72 y/o) didn’t understand why I spend ~$30/month on various digital subscriptions until I pointed out that she spends over $100/month on satellite TV THAT SHE DOESN’T EVEN WATCH.

              I did set up a profile for her to use on her TV under my account and she now enjoys being able to watch any episode of Poirot or Mrs. Marple any time she wants. :)

            2. Gumby*

              To be fair, almost every article about cost cutting does say to cut cable. Also newspaper subscriptions which I associate more with “older people” (and I basically count myself in there) than those in their 20s. The more generic “check everything that you have a monthly subscription to” articles were written in the past 10 or so years.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                And that’s good advice. It is undoubtedly a great idea every so often to really look at what you’re spending somewhat mindlessly because ”I’ve always had X” (cable, 4 huge lattes a day, a pricey gym membership or whatever) and to consider if it adds value to your life. If it totally does, then you should keep it, at least in some form, but if it’s not, THEN cancel and free up some money. Ideally of course you’d then take that freed up money and virtuously pay off whatever debt you have or put it into savings.

                But the notion that one should cancel or stop all of the things that truly add happiness and value to them is pernicious and extremely unfair. It also doesn’t work in the long run!

            3. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

              I rolled my eyes so hard when I first heard that that I practically sprained my brain. Lol.
              It is REALLY dumb because ‘young’ people didn’t invent avocado toast. I’m almost 57 – I’ve been eating avocado toast since I was a teenager, or younger.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Not to mention, they’re not even expensive when they’re in season. You can get avocados 2 for a dollar here… that’s about the same as apples. No one says boo about young people wasting all their money on an apple a day.

              2. Tina*

                I (23) was first introduced to avocado toast by my great-aunt (90) about twenty years ago. Various relatives assure me that it has been her favorite lunch since at least thirty years before I was born.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Plus, it’s not like you’re quitting coffee cold turkey. You’ll be buying and making your own coffee instead. So minus the price of your coffee, coffeemaker, grinder… oh look, there goes the savings of $1,040!

        3. Emily S*

          Plus, a lot of the people who are getting daily coffees aren’t getting daily lattes so are not spending $4-5 to on coffee to begin with. Even at the fancy coffee houses, a 20 oz drip coffee is like, $2.50. A 12 oz is going to come in under $2. Maybe 30-50 cents extra for a redeye.

          Also – my definition of “living comfortably” means “not having to think about whether I can afford to buy a single cup of coffee a day.”

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Exactly! “Living comfortably” for me means I don’t agonize over every little purchase. If my monthly order of high quality maple syrup were the thing to make or break the budget, then the maple syrup is not actually the problem.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Please tell me that this is not just a random example and you do in fact have a monthly order of high-quality maple syrup? Because that is awesome.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                Oh it is very much a real example! We don’t use refined sugar because it messes with my hormones so I use maple syrup in my coffee and any time I need to sweeten something. Converted my husband too. He won’t use anything else now. :D

                1. Caroline Bowman*

                  But in your case, you aren’t buying normal sugar, so that’s an offset right there LOL!

          2. EasyCheesy*

            So true. And some places have punch cards etc where you get free coffees if you’re a loyal customer.

            My go-to place has $1 iced coffees on Mondays, and because I have to watch my caffeine intake one big one lasts two or three days, kept in the fridge. And then periodically I get a free one. Even super budget-conscious people can figure out economical ways to have their coffee. It’s an affordable thing that makes me feel like my life isn’t completely devoid of small pleasures.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          The financial morality police get on my every nerve. “Don’t ever take out loans. I never do, I paid for all my cars and all my kids’ educations with cash!” is not evidence of a person’s virtue or thriftiness, it’s evidence of some extreme levels of privilege that not everyone has access to.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Well, or scrooge-levels of frugality. I had a friend who grew up with parents with this mentality, and they owned their house outright but also couldn’t or wouldn’t pay to change the carpets that she was extremely allergic to. It was bad, she had years of compromised respiratory health as a child.

            1. Gumby*

              Was her mother named Amy Dacyczyn? (That’s probably not fair. I’m sure the Dacyczyns spend money where necessary. But I find some of the ideas for saving money… interesting. Some are great. Others veer too far into trading massive amounts of time to save small amounts of money for me.)

          2. Lilo*

            Taking out loans can actually be the smarter thing to do. I have a decent am ou until of student debt but it’s low interest. Instead of paying it off fast I am instead putting money into my employer matches retirement account. It makes more just off of matching that I lose in interest in my student loans. High interest debt (like credit cards) can be bad, properly managed debt is not necessarily bad.

          3. Avasarala*

            This. I made some recent financial decisions and was simultaneously grateful and disheartened at how much money I saved by paying the total up front and other ways the cost was reduced because of how much money I already have.

        5. Elenna*

          That’s half of one *month’s* rent for a one-bedroom condo where I am. Needless to say, my tea habit is not my biggest budget issue.

          1. Collywood*

            Same. More than double that for my small 1 bdrm. And that doesn’t even include pet rent and parking fees.

        6. Fieldpoppy*

          I agree 100% with your post except I read your last line as “rent and ukuleles” and I LOL

        7. ClashRunner*


          This is like folks telling millennials that we can’t afford real estate because of avocados. There’s a very real affordable-housing problem in my city, and it’s probably not related to buying an occasional fruit-on-toast.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Ha! That’s awesome. What is with people, as a species, that we seem to love to put down subsequent generations?

            –Someone who was told her generation couldn’t buy houses because we are all slackers who don’t work hard enough (That’s right, all of us!)

        8. Massmatt*

          And where does this nonsense end? “You’d be happier on HALF your salary if you wore sack cloth and ate only government cheese! We could pay you even LESS if you lived in a homeless shelter”!

          That she became fixated on this topic and commented on it several times shows she is very weird. She was probably weird in other ways and might have warped your sense of normalcy. Just in case, it’s not YOU, it is most definitely HER!

          Congratulations on the new job! Better, higher, upward!

        9. Not Asking for Much*

          I’m a teacher, and we once had a superintendent who said to a group of teachers during a contract negotiation that we didn’t need an increase, we needed to manage our money better and buy our shoes at garage sales like he did. That was discouraging.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Yes, like the tweet about how a millennial saved money by buying store brands, picking lunch, having parents buy house and pay off loans because I’m daddy’s special boy, and making coffee at home.

        1. TechWorker*

          Or the ‘how to retire at 40 by saving 60% of your income’ articles that completely decline to mention that in order to do so you need to be earning enough to live on 40% of it… (or have some other nice advantage like inheriting a house maybe..)

      1. designbot*

        that’s where I’m at too, and I’m pretty sure my jaw would’ve dropped in the meeting where she started picking on my spending habits. oh nooooo, this is not a conversation you get to have with me, that’s not how this works.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This, and I’m technically a “Boomer”. (IMO, folks born after 1960 are really Gen X)

      2. Curmudgeon in California*


        I’m technically a “Boomer”, but this kind of personal nitpicking is peak Boomer. (IMO, folks born after 1960 are actually Gen X.)

    5. Baja*

      OMG I had a boss in the 1990s whose friend got a $25,000 contract and my boss — who had control over my salary and raises — said to me, “That’s more than you make in year!”

      Same boss has had a rent controlled apartment in a major city since the 1970s, so pays about $400 a month for a 1000-square foot apartment in a primo location that even in the 1990s would go at market rate for close to $2000 a month. I was paying $500 a month to live in basically a closet. She had the nerve to suggest I need to be more responsible with my rental options.

        1. Bee*

          No, it’s not subsidized rent, it’s just an amount that got locked in at a certain point. In NYC, there’s rent control (which is like…maybe a thousand apartments in the entire city?), which is where you get people who have lived in their apartments since the 60s and are paying like $500 a month, and rent stabilization (any building under 20 units, I believe), which just means they have to offer you a lease renewal and are capped at a certain percentage increase each year, and those are both about the apartment, not the tenant. There’s also affordable housing, where you DO have to prove that you make within a certain range.

          1. JoJo*

            Correct. When Harper Lee died a few years ago there were all these news stories about how she had this crazy cheap Upper East Side apartment in NYC due to rent control in the 1960s.

      1. Bee*

        About a year ago, I moved into my first roommate-free apartment (at the age of 30) and asked my boss for a raise because I’d found out I was being paid under market rate. She told me she couldn’t afford to pay me any more, and then a month later overheard me say how much I now pay in rent for a one-bedroom apartment in one of the cheapest neighborhoods of my city and said, “That’s more than I pay for the mortgage on my three-bedroom house!” Yeah, THAT’S WHY I ASKED FOR A RAISE. (And why I soon left for a new job!)

        1. SusanIvanova*

          The CEO at my first Silicon Valley company realized that there were several of us in that situation – new to the Valley and underpaid because Google didn’t exist yet and the VP of engineering had owned his house since the 70s, so nobody in the salary negotiations had any clue what to ask or offer – when I mentioned being barely able to cover the down payment on a car. So she gave us the max raises possible until we were all caught up.

    6. FrenchCusser*

      Once when I asked my boss for a raise (we’d had a person leave and her work split between me and another coworker, who DID get a raise), he told me my problem was that I was overqualified and he had to pile on the work to keep me from getting bored.

    1. Bostonian*

      That just about sums it up! Alison’s response to this question puts everything into perspective so well!

    2. Maria Lopez*

      Exactly! That’s why I would leave the words “I believe” out of Alison’s statement, “I asked for a raise because I believe my work warrants it and because I’m being paid below market for our industry. It’s not about my spending.”
      “I asked for a raise because my work warrants it and because I’m being paid below market for our industry. It’s not about my spending.”

    3. Sled dog mana*

      This and Alison constantly saying it are why I’m starting week 7 of new job where I’m paid market rate and was told that up front in phone screen.

      1. Whuhhubba Hello*

        I think this answer is one of Allison’s best to date. Not to throw shade on her other answers but this one feels particularly appropriate. OP’s boss is out of line.

  2. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so glad you’re moving on, OP – congratulations on the new job! I totally agree with Alison; your boss bringing up your coffee was totally inappropriate and insulting. It’s the same thing as the generational guilting of millenials for liking avocado toast, and ::drumroll, please::…COFFEE.

    It’s a form of bullying, if you ask me, and a way of putting you “in your place.” That sort of “you should be grateful you have a job at all” mindset. You are an adult, and you get to decide how you spend your money, but you should still be paid fair market value for your work, regardless of how you choose to spend your salary.

    1. Arya7*

      OP here – thank you so much! I told a few close friends about the situation and all were appropriately horrified, but it also feels nice to hear from Alison (and all the lovely unbiased folks on Ask A Manager) that I wasn’t totally off base in my thinking that this situation was so wrong.

      1. Clorinda*

        You’re getting out just in time, if you even suspected that her comments might be a little bit okay. Congratulations on the new job, which I hope is near a delightful coffee shop!

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          And on your last day, get yourself an extra large or a venti or whatever and make sure your boss sees it. Ha! :)

      2. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        Your boss is a first class ass.

        At least you’ll have some stories to tell about your old job…

      3. ee lemmings*

        Saying you need to watch your spending comes from the same place as “you’re single, so you don’t need a raise” or “x gets more because x has a family to support.”

        1. UbiCaritas*

          “you’ll get married and quit.” This is probably not as common as it used to be, but I’ve heard it several times. When I was programming in a (well-known) hospital, women were routinely paid 20% less than men doing comparable work.

            1. MuchNope*

              I was turned down for a county job with full benefits in a rural area because those jobs were for men with families.

              1. Julia*

                I was interviewed for jobs, ooohed and aaahed over for my skills, and then asked whether I was married and had kids. When I (female, of childbearing age) said no, I was focussing on my career suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed and I was rejected for some vague reason. Several times.

          1. HollyWeird*

            My mother’s boss at an ex-job told her when they were interviewing male candidate and female candidate that they should hire the female candidate so they could pay her less since she had a husband to help support her!

            She also had to tell him he can’t ask people if they are married or not during the interviews and he said “Well, maybe YOU can’t but I’m a doctor!” As if that makes it more legal! This was during the 90s.

            1. TootsNYC*

              (you CAN ask; you just can’t base your decision on the answer. However, if you DO ask, then it’s pretty clear you might base your decision on the answer; better to just not bring it up)

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve heard that ‘you don’t have kids so you don’t need time off/raises/promotions/respect..’ thing far too often in my career.

          Now I’m in my 40s I’m far less inclined to just take it. I fight back now :)

          1. BeckySuz*

            See that’s upsetting to me as a mom because it makes childless or child free people hate parents. Uh no I don’t want unfair favors because I have kids. Employers please stop pitting your employees against each other and just accept that everyone needs work life balance. And to be appropriately paid !

            1. Relly*

              Don’t worry, as a non-kid-haver I promise that if a job pulls that shit, I don’t resent the parents taking what flexibility they need — I blame the manager for not granting that flexibility to everyone.

              1. Caroline Bowman*

                Exactly! If companies simply applied fairness and reason to their staff across the board, it would largely work out well. My husband was told one epic review that ”if we give you more, then we have to take it from someone else in the team, and that’s not fair, right?”. Um…

                No. You have to increase your salary budget for everyone.

              2. lnelson in Tysons*

                Here, here
                One food industry job, ages ago, the smokers always got more breaks to go have a cigarette. The non-smokers, of course not. After one very busy rush and the smokers took their break (this was before smoking was outlawed), I looked at my supervisor and said, I’m going on a cigarette break. Grabbed a big glass of water, sat down at the employee table, was probably gone only 5 minutes or so, the other smokers were looking at me funny, but said nothing. Then went back to work.
                More employees in my section (which was the hot food section so getting away from the heat was great sometimes) took “cigarette” breaks. Most people were careful not to abuse this too much.
                Flexibility to all.

            2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

              Yeah, it’s not the parents’ fault. That’s totally on management. Parents and non-parents unite! :)

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            “You just don’t understand because you don’t have kids.” Ugh. I know there are certain pressures that come with children, but I do have a husband and parents that are aging, so that doesn’t mean I don’t have family responsibilities. Don’t use children as a crutch to screw people over.

          3. TootsNYC*

            I had a colleague who said, “If I don’t get the time off, or the reasonable work schedule, when WILL I be able to meet someone, get married, and have kids?”

        3. AnonForNow*

          In the 80s my mom was working at a government medical research lab and she was one of their top performers. Brought in a lot of grant money, published in top journals, considered the expert in her particular field of study.
          There was an opportunity for one research scientist to get a raise in the lab. It went to one of her male coworkers who was sloppy with his research, hadn’t really achieved much, and always needed my moms help setting up experiments. When my mom went to ask her boss why this had happened he said “well, Tom has a wife and kids, so he needed it more”
          Not only was this stupid reasoning for giving a raise, Tom’s wife had a very nice job at a hospital where she was making more money than most government researchers will ever see!
          My parents met at that job and the stories they have about that boss are all like this, from the boss asking for my moms name to be taken off of a paper she was a big part of to calling her potential boss at her next job and telling him not to hire her!

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            An almost identical thing happened to a friend of mine at a public university in 2010. Boss gave raise to lower-performing male colleague because he has a fammmillly. (His wife was a physician.) In this case, they were both paid under market-rate, I’m sure (see: public university in a state not known for supporting higher ed), but the boss’s instinct was to fix that problem for his male employees first.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I hate the “he makes more because he’s supporting his family” argument so, so much. Because aside from the fact that we all deserve to be paid what our labor is worth, that sentence usually means he’s a father with a wife who doesn’t work, or works part time around the kids’ school schedule. It completely erases all other kinds of family setups, including unmarried people with no children who financially support their parents and/or siblings.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Not to be silly, but I have two cats, and they demand to be provided a luxurious lifestyle. They’re petty tyrants.

            1. knitcrazybooknut*

              My spouse and I have four cats. They have a 200 s.f. outdoor catio, a One Fast Cat wheel, ramps along the entire den, cat beds and scratching posts everywhere. Three of them are on seven different prescription medications, and three (different three) are on three different prescription foods. We’re adding another section to our couch because there’s no room for us to sit.

              Beyond tyrants. Beyond luxurious.

              I have a coworker who wanted to be reincarnated as one of our cats. AGREED.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                I refuse to buy them any more cat beds. They completely ignore them in favor of a chewy dot com box and the bathroom sink. I feel you on the prescription food. My late cat was on 2 different kinds, and the two new monsters have digestive issues, so alas, I must now buy it for them (cries).

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                1) Amen to the feel ya on the prescription foods
                2) You seem like a possible convert to my son’s religion, Cat-ianity. I’m an atheist, but he’s working on me hard. He rang the doorbell one day to ask if I had heard about our lord and savior, [our cat’s name], and the Catianity references are constant.

                1. Hapax Legomenon*

                  Hello, I am interested in these ideas and would like to subscribe to your son’s religion. Do you have any weird pamphlets I can hand out door-to-door?*

                  *Not all door-to-door religious stuff is weird. I want the weird stuff because weird should be part of my religion.

              3. AKchic*

                Ugh. I feel you on the tyrants. I just finished a baby blanket and the tiny 6lb cat decided it was hers, not the baby I’ve been making it for. You do not argue with a 6lb void. The 55lb dog with attitude has also decided she likes it, but she won’t argue with the void on this one. It’s velvet yarn.
                I may have to smuggle it out of the house and hope none of them notice.

            2. Turtlewings*

              I legit stayed over three years in a job I hated, when I would have quit with nothing lined up if I could’ve, because my cat needed her insulin. It was the only thing that kept me in the job.

          2. MuchNope*

            It also ignores the fact that for most people having kids is a choice, one that impacts everyone in one way or another. People should plan for that, not assume they can take other people’s pay or perks to fill in gaps.

            1. Julia*

              This, and some people wait to have kids until they earn enough money, which will apparently never happen if they don’t have kids first!

            2. Salymander*

              When you do have kids, those bosses will say they can’t pay you fairly because you took time off for a kid’s illness or whatever. They always find something to get you with, kids or no kids. Coffee or no coffee. This boss’s argument is financial nonsense, as well as intrusively judgemental and manipulative. Gaslighting, pure and simple.

          3. Vincaminor*

            I pretty sure some parts of life are more expensive for me in time and money as a single person! There’s no one to split household chores or maintenance with, or anyone on-tap for jobs that need two people, so I have to pay someone to do tasks where someone else might be able to turn to a partner and say, “Can you give me a hand with this?”

            1. CarolynM*

              Preach. After my divorce, a friend (married, no kids at the time) was low-key complaining about endless errands and chores and how much she had to do. I sympathized with her about being busy and she replied “You don’t understand, though – you don’t have a husband anymore, you only have to worry about yourself – I have a hussssssband to care for, it’s so much harder!” It was a dark time in my life when the filter that keeps the things I think inside my head was on the fritz … before I could stop myself, I snapped back “You have a husband, a second human adult, who can help you get things done and brings in a second paycheck to help cover expenses. You are so right – it IS so much easier for me with half the money, half the help and STILL needing to get everything done anyway!”

              1. RainyDay*

                Oh my goodness, this is wonderful. I once also had an adult human partner I “had to care for” and in retrospect it was such garbage. It’s supposed be a EASIER with two, not harder! Good for you.

                1. Julia*

                  Yeah, maybe she just had a garbage husband who never did anything and spent all his money on things that weren’t rent. Still nothing she should have told a recently divorced and upset friend.

                2. Cedrus Libani*

                  There’s having a spouse, and then there’s being a single parent to an extra kid. It’s nice to have an extra adult in the house, but not everyone who’s of legal age is an adult. My view is that children who are old enough to support themselves should be encouraged to leave the house…with the aid of a divorce lawyer if necessary.

              2. Chaordic One*

                I can certainly relate to your friend’s reaction and I’ve often felt the same way and like saying something similar. She has my admiration. I think that having a spouse (or sometimes a parent or sibling) who can help you by sharing the errands is something that is taken for granted and unappreciated by those who have it.

            2. Alienor*

              This is so true. I was a single parent for most of my daughter’s childhood, and now that she’s older, I’m finally experiencing some of the benefits of having another full-size person in the house again (she’s living at home while going to college). Just having the ability to ask “hey could you run the dishwasher/give the cat his medicine/grab the other end of the sofa I’m moving” makes such a huge difference!

          4. Librarian1*

            It’s also an extremely sexist holdover from the days when middle-class families were expected to have a husband who worked and a wife who stayed home with the kids. And when women were expected to have kids and then give up their careers.

        5. ShortT*

          It also comes from the same place as “You don’t have a husband or a kid, who do you need time off/a market-value salary?”

          1. Mpls*

            Where the answer is “I need it BECAUSE I don’t have a spouse’s support to fall back on or a kid to support me if my retirement runs out. Pay me more because I don’t a built in support net”.

            (I acknowledge that the kiddo isn’t required to support parents in retirement, but is more likely to than a non-existant kid.)

      4. Audrey Puffins*

        Oh no, we’re pretty biased, we’re very much in favour of managers not behaving like yours did, so naturally we’re already against her. ;)

      5. animaniactoo*

        You were not even a little bit off-based.

        I am stunned. STUNNED. mind you. That she actually thought to mention this in your review. What the ever-loving fuck?

      6. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I once had a manager who, when faced with proof I was being paid way less than the men in my team, told me I couldn’t get a pay rise because:

        “You’re way too overweight to be paid MORE. Just cut down on cakes! Then you’ll take home the same money”

        Left that firm too. Let me reassure you that when I look back on that 20 years later I feel Really Good. I hope you’ll have these good feelings too :)

        1. Goldfinch*

          What in the blue everloving clusterfluck. Unless you were routinely buying royal cakes at auction à la J. Peterman on Seinfeld, this is in the top five stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Due to a lingering effect from a serious ED in my past I don’t even eat in front of other people or during the day anyway! He was one of those ‘Fat = lazy and overeats’ types.

          2. wittyrepartee*

            Yeah! Like… cheap food has more calories too. I could significantly lower my food bill if I ate frozen tatertots for every meal.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            You’ll be delighted to know his company collapsed a few years after I left. I know I was!

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          “You’re way too overweight to be paid MORE. Just cut down on cakes! Then you’ll take home the same money”


          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve worked out that 3 of the companies I’ve worked for in my career were staffed with managers that were my school year bullies in grown up form.

            Luckily that leaves 2 companies (10 years and 5 years service) who were fantastic. They are the ones I commonly use for references. The others all went out of business…probably due to lousy management!

        3. User 483*

          So does that mean the men were eating twice as many cakes if your take-home pay without cakes equals the same as their take-home pay with cakes?

        4. BeckySuz*

          What the what ??? I would have had to stop myself from buying a whole cake just to shove in his stupid rude face.

        5. Third or Nothing!*




          1) That is ridiculously inappropriate and rude and awful. 2) Being overweight does not mean you eat poorly, and even if it did it’s still none of his beeswax. 3) I kind of want to punch him in the face.

          Ugh that’s giving me flashbacks to a midwife appointment where I went in super concerned about how much weight I was losing on a diet of rice and bread and heard that it’s perfectly normal for overweight women to lose weight in pregnancy because they’re taking better care of their bodies. I ate pretty similar to Whole30 prior to pregnancy.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            And you’re here like “ok, but can you check for gestational diabetes or something crazy going on with my thyroid?”

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Oh I know what was wrong. All I could keep down was buttered rice and toast for the first 20 weeks, and I was lucky if I didn’t throw that up too. I was terribly worried about my daughter getting the nutrition she needed on such a diet. Also I really missed spinach.

              I ended up only gaining 10 pounds over that pregnancy..basically the weight of the baby plus placenta and stuff. Most women would be ecstatic, but I was pretty terrified.

            1. Betty*

              Like when I was told in my second pregnancy that I couldn’t have had gestational diabetes in my first pregnancy because I’m not fat. I mean, sure, I had exactly zero of the typical risk factors, but the weeks of blood sugar records are a bit of a hint that I factually did, whether I “ought to have done” or not.

            2. DerJungerLudendorff*

              It’s amazing how ignorant many supposed medical experts can be once biases and discrimination enter the picture.
              Not just about weight, but also about gender, race, income, disabilities, and so many other things. It gets so many people killed.

        6. Zelda*

          Gah. 20 years ago is exactly the wrong time for that sort of BS.

          40 or 50 years ago, and it’s no less stupid and wrong, but at least the jerks have the “excuse” that almost everyone around them was equally a jerk and they hadn’t ever had a better example. One or two years ago, and there’s maybe still time to report the [censored]s to appropriate regulatory bodies and see them suffer some consequences. 20 is just infuriating.

          Glad you’re out and have good feelings about your departure.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I used the experience to successfully lobby for equal pay (several women, plus two non-heterosexual males in my team were underpaid) at a much better firm later. I may have a spinal injury but I’ve got some serious backbone now! ;)

        7. Ice and Indigo*

          I feel like we ought to apologise to you on behalf of humanity for that one! What a horrid horrid person. So glad you’re no longer there.

      7. Mama Bear*

        Someone who tells you to drink less coffee and then asks you to fetch them coffee…does she not see the irony in that?

        1. Anonariffic*

          That’s when you need to tell her that you can’t afford to buy that second cup on the way in to work because it would be the straw that maxes out all your credit cards.

        2. Arya7*

          OP here – honestly, I truly don’t think she got the irony. Or maybe she did and didn’t care?
          …the irony was not lost on me.

      8. Smithy*

        In addition to nothing being off-base, I would also say that your manager’s approach to your dissatisfaction about pay/merit/cost of living increases was wildly unhelpful.

        I also work for a place where unless I get a promotion, the annual increases available to me don’t even always reach the lofty heights of 3%. It’s broad policy and there really is nothing my boss or a number of bosses above her can do to change that.

        In the conversations that I’ve had with my boss about this reality, by being understanding of what she can’t control and what I might ultimately want – I at least know that she’s aware that there’s a chance I will look to move on based on the reality of promotion opportunities. And she’s aware of this fact because of how she’s addressed the situation. At the end of the day, I may be in the same place that you are OP – but my boss and I will be in a place to have a more proactive conversation about it because of how she’s handled the reality.

      1. EPLawyer*

        why is it always “cut out coffee and you will be rich?” First of all I just did the math. If OP gets 1 coffee a day at $4 a cup and there are approximately 20 working days in a month (trust me I know this I have to calculate my daily billable goal to reach my monthly goal. This does not include holidays and weekends), cutting out coffee would save a whopping $960 a year.

        Yeah cut out coffee that would totally make up for being paid $5000 below market value.

        This is what bad bosses do. They make it YOUR fault you want more money because you know, you’re worth it.

        So glad you got the hell out of there. Good luck in your new position.

        1. Quill*

          Because those sorts of financial thinkpieces are written exclusively by people with trust fund, who are coincidentally sipping their own coffees as they write.

          1. Lu*

            Yup, and those same people also tend to believe that poor people should not be allowed to have nice things nor enjoy their life, and if they do/are, it’s a sign they’re not working hard enough!!!!!!!!!

            1. DerJungerLudendorff*

              “If they have nice things, it’s an outrage that they don’t contribute enough and take what they don’t deserve. If they don’t, it’s what they deserve.”
              Of course if rich people have nice things, that’s just what they deserve and it’s an outrage if they have to work for it or share with other.

          2. Ice and Indigo*

            Also, I think, because it’s one of those things people are really unlikely to cut out, because hey, people have to work long hours in boring conditions and coffee helps them stay awake. So of course they’ll keep drinking it, which means you can keep right on blaming them. If it was something they actually could cut, you’d lose your excuse.

        2. Dragoning*

          I don’t drink coffee, at home or from shops. Where is all this extra dough I’m supposed to be rolling in?

          1. Turtlewings*

            Right?! I had to stop reading most “how to save money” articles a few years back, because they were full of things like that. “Stop doing this thing you’ve never in your life been able to afford!” “Replace it with this cheaper habit that you ALSO can’t afford!” “Give up every small pleasure that makes your day-to-day life bearable!”

            (Sidenote: Gosh I miss The Billfold.)

            1. whingedrinking*

              The one that got me was “do your nails/skincare at home!” This is always presented as if it were some kind of revelation, as if obviously all ladies out there need our weekly manicures and facials and we’re too silly to realize that you can buy a bottle of nail polish and a face scrub on your own. (No judgement on people who do go out for beauty treatments because they want to – it’s just the vibe of “all women are definitely wasting money on this, the little featherheads” that rankles.)

              1. Turtlewings*

                Yes, exactly that sort of thing! I have to save up for a visit to Supercuts, dude. I am not out here getting my nails done, literally ever.

                1. Julia*

                  I have never gotten my nails done in my life, same for facials, I get haircuts on average like once a year, I drink coffee maybe once a month, and I still can’t afford to buy even a condo in my hometown.

              2. Quill*

                Then of course they counter with “Use this $40 / jar night cream to prevent wrinkles! So much cheaper than a $80 facial!”
                As if gendered marketing, beauty standards, and sanitary supplies taxed as luxuries weren’t a factor in all this…

        3. Goldfinch*

          David Bach’s The Latte Factor is to blame. It was brilliantly soundbite-able, and financial blogs have been regurgitating that tidbit nonstop ever since.

          1. Jadelyn*

            It’s the sort of thing that sounds reasonable, to a certain kind of person. And like…I kinda get it? If your expenses are all comfortably covered, and the only financial stress you experience is that you wish you could buy an extra luxury item or two a year – a new game console, or extending your annual vacation trip by a couple days, or some high-end clothes – then yeah, cutting out almost $1k a year in extraneous expenses could get you that.

            The problem comes when people who only need a nudge to save up a bit for a new Coach bag or Xbox think that their experience is universal, and since cutting out pricey coffee did it for them, clearly that means it should work to eliminate financial instability for people who can’t even cover their basic day-to-day living costs on the shit salary they make.

            1. Close Bracket*

              It’s the sort of thing that sounds reasonable, to a certain kind of person. And like…I kinda get it? If your expenses are all comfortably covered

              To me, cutting out what would actually amount to maybe $500/year (bc I assume they would make coffee at home rather than not drink it at all) is the difference between being able to afford a large car repair or medical deductible every year and not. So, yeah, there is a certain level of privilege in being able to afford to have a car or health insurance in the first place, but to pretend that $500 won’t make a difference to people living on the edge is a staggering level of not knowing where the edge actually is.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                I used this logic when I was trying to decide if I wanted to pay the extra $50 rent for an underground, heated garage space at my apartment. Basically, I just had to reduce my daily coffee purchase by 1 day and it was covered. I would never use this method in the long term though (unless I wanted to get really serious about spending and saving).

              2. 1234*

                So true. $500 may be your insurance deductible. I’d def rather have that. But its all about prioritizing and people have the right to choose their priorities even I think they’re wrong. Tis America after all.

              3. Jadelyn*

                It’s not that $500 doesn’t matter to those of us living on the edge, it’s that most of us who are closer to that edge aren’t spending enough on pricey coffees in the first place for a reduction in that cost to make a difference. So to pretend that most people living paycheck to paycheck even COULD get back $500/yr just by not buying Starbucks, given they’re likely not spending anywhere near that much on it in the first place, is still a staggering level of not understanding what working class people actually spend their money on.

                1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                  Yes, this. I read a lot of those articles at a certain time in my life and the tips to cut down on coffee etc were really not that applicable. If it were one “luxury” expense out of several, sure, but going out for coffee with a friend once or twice a month was literally the only recreation I allowed myself because I couldn’t find a job. So sure, I could have saved £20 a month (including bus fare etc) but that £20 was all I was spending on “extras”.

                  These days I have more money so I’m not constantly worried about every penny, but I still don’t get coffee very often. However I am now comfortable using the £500 or whatever that I saved to buy myself a new phone and a mattress, whereas before I’d be fretting about how that didn’t even come close to addressing the lack of money to pay rent or buy regular groceries.

            2. wittyrepartee*

              Yeah, and the expenses that people usually need to cut out at this income level are alcohol rather than caffeine. In my experience, the finance types that really have trouble saving (initially at least) tend to be feeling a lot of pressure in one way or another to rack up huge alcohol bills.

          2. Katefish*

            My first thought reading this article was, “Is this boss David Bach’s secret love child?!” (No shade to him personally.)

        4. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I wonder if they are related to a cousin of mine who believes anyone who drinks coffee must therefore be spending huge amounts on gourmet coffee roasting etc. at home too. That’s not even logic.

        5. Veronica Mars*

          For the last two years, I’ve participated in No Starbucks January to try to cut back on money and calories.
          And you know what I learned from doing it, both times?
          It is sooooooo worth the money to have a little slice of heaven before hell-work starts for the day.
          I mean, honestly, sure I COULD be drinking Folgers swill from the break room, but why would I turn the happiest part of my day to the least happy?

          1. BeckySuz*

            I tried to get my husband to give up his tim hortons by buying all the coffee makers, French press etc…I thought it would save us money(I love caffeine but I’m frugal). What I’ve learned is that it’s just as much the ritual for him as it is the coffee. So I let it go and he’s happy. And in return he gets up early and brings me a coffee before he leaves for work. So we are both happy and I find other ways to save money.

          2. Aquawoman*

            I had an era where my life was just effing rough, not monetarily but health, work, kid, all causing angst. And being able to go to the Starbucks on my way to work, where I was being taken care of for ten minutes, where they knew me well enough to know what I ordered and just…say hi, was sometimes the only time I was being taken care of rather than being the responsible one. I’m verklempt remembering it! I had forgotten about it but I used to think of it a lot when people would get their Puritan pleasure abstention rules all up in other people’s coffee habits.

            1. BeckySuz*

              I totally understand. So often it really is the little things that get you through the day. I think particularly when you have kids or a rough job and so much of your life is decidedly not about you. It’s nice to feel taken care of :)

            2. Anonya*

              I understand this completely. My sister and I have had entire conversations about how getting a coffee makes us feel like we’re taken care of, at a time when we’re giving, giving, giving so much of ourselves.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’m unemployed, and I still get a coffee at our local store when I can because it’s such a boost to my mental health to have that odd hour sat with a hot coffee and my Kindle away from the house.

                Kinda like a scaled down mental health day. I think everyone should get some positive mental health time without feeling guilty about it.

                1. Collywood*

                  My parents bought me a Starbucks card when I was out of a job and I was great to be able to get out of the house and be around people and enjoy a coffee.

              2. PhyllisB*

                I make my coffee at home, but I LOOOOVE iced tea. I don’t like making it so I buy it out. I have discovered that McDonald’s make great iced tea so if I’m close to one, I will buy the large (A whopping $1.10) and bring in my insulated cup and fill it also. ( I asked, they don’t care as long as I pay for one cup, I can get as much as I like) so I have extra for the day. I figure my if my $3.30 a week habit is going to be my ruin, well…it will be worth it.

          3. Faith*

            LOL, that makes me think of what I always think when I hear a Folger’s “the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” ad: “if that’s the best part of waking up, I’m staying in bed.”

              1. pamela voorhees*

                Think of Folgers as just the generic U.S. coffee brand — they do instant coffee, yes, but also normal ground coffee, k-cups, pretty much anything coffee adjacent. Folgers is short hand for “adequate” — it’s not actively bad per say, just… sufficient. It’s fine. It’s coffee, and that’s all you can say.

                1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                  Sort of, but not exclusively instant coffee.

                  It hadn’t actually occurred to me before in 15 years of living in the UK, but I don’t think you can even buy anything that’s truly equivalent here. Since most people drink filter coffee in the US it’s a standard thing to have an electric drip coffee maker in the house and the office, but many people just buy standard ground coffee and not anything “fancy”. Hence you can buy a 3lb canister of basic ground coffee from a number of brands in any grocery store. I don’t think I’ve seen that outside of Costco in the UK.

          4. Delaney*

            Yes! I used to feel so guilty over my regular morning latte (including weekends) and would try to cut it out for a few days at a time. Then one day, I had enough of that. I get my morning latte and enjoy every sip. It is so worth it (to me) and the best part of my morning. (one of the best…next to a hot shower). I now consider it an integral part of my morning. If I am running late, I won’t skip a shower and I won’t skip my latte.

          5. 1234*

            My middle ground is making nice but not bank breaking coffee at home. I think its great that you tried it. Like you gave it a chance and decided it was worth it to you and I think that is spending wisely.

          6. writerbecc*

            I go to Starbucks every morning before work. I don’t drink coffee, but I like their tea and it’s worth a couple bucks for me to just have tea when I get to work instead of having to make it. I keep loose leaves and a kettle at work so I can make more when that first cup runs out, but actually having to make the first cup requires cognition I don’t have before my first cup of tea.

        6. Elenna*

          And even if OP was spending $5000 on coffee a year, that still wouldn’t mean they should be paid below market value. Because guess what, if they cut out the coffee, they would still be paid $5000 below market value! Because the details of their budget do not, in fact, affect what their salary is!
          You know what would make up for OP being paid below market value? This helpful little thing called a *raise*.

        7. 1234*

          I mean, I do think people spend a ridiculous amount of money on coffee (btw I am 29 so def smack dab millenial) but it doesn’t at all influence what they should get paid. I also think its really dumb that people pay $20 a day to park in the garage when the bus is $2.25….But I’m sure they have their reasons. They likely think its really dumb that I spend money on dog clothes.

          1. Oranges*

            I spend money on video games. Cute brainless video games.

            I think it’s redonk that you spend loot on doggy clothes. But you know what? It’s worth it to you. Someone would find it redonk that I spent $150 to get a system to play a video game from my young years.

            Or that I would spend $50 per game to anyone who can find the 2-3 games I remember from my childhood.

            To me though that money is well worth it since it will give me hours of entertainment. Your doggie clothes are totally worth the pleasure they give you. The OP’s coffee ritual is worth it.

            I just feel kinda privileged to be able to have small luxuries. They really do make things better.

        8. Keymaster of Gozer*

          My own sister tried the ‘give up coffee’ thing on me (she’s a financial director) and also the classic ‘try cycling to work instead of using your car!’

          It’s bizarre as she’s normally realistic in her money advice!

  3. Ethyl*

    Your boss commented on your personal spending *in your performance review*?!?! Am I reading that right???? That is so far over the line, the line is a dot to her.

    1. Arya7*

      OP here – yes, you’re reading that correctly! I’m usually not at a loss for words, but I certainly was when the comment was made.

          1. Paulina*

            “If you stop drinking coffee, your performance will decline, and then it’ll be in line with what we’re paying you.”

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        If you get an exit interview, I hope you bring it up as a key factor motivating you to leave. Your boss was completely inappropriate here.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s why I have a rude noise generation app. For those awkward moments :p

        Boss: *says something so incredibly insulting it’s unbelievable*
        Me: *FFRRRTTT*

        (Joke! Please do not do this in a performance review)

    2. Old Biddy*

      My former boss once said something about my weight loss in a performance review, so this doesn’t surprise me.

  4. remizidae*

    I agree with Alison. You don’t get a raise because you *need* money, and your personal budget should not be a part of raise discussions (on either the employee or employer’s side). It doesn’t matter if you chose to buy a house, have five kids, and commute three hours, while your coworker is childless and living with their parents with a five-minute commute. Personal choices should not dictate your salary; your value to the organization should dictate your salary.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Yeah this is why the site usually advocates not bringing up your personal expenses in your request for a raise; you probably don’t want to say, “my recent move means my commute is more expensive, can I have a raise?” or “my kids are starting college soon, can I have a raise” for this reason – it muddies the waters this way.

      1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        This is something a former coworker of mine could not comprehend. He was a chatty guy and usually told me more than I needed to know…in fact, I had to say a couple of times, “you really don’t need to tell me these things.” It became obvious after a while that he and his wife were spending beyond their means. He would complain about not getting paid enough, even though he was being paid a competitive salary, received allowance for his vehicle, allowance for his phone bill, etc. When his truck finally gave out, he bought a brand new truck with all the bells and whistles. Even then, his vehicle allowance still would have covered the monthly payment. Seriously, it’s a very generous allowance that no one but him has EVER complained about.

        His performance at work was not where it needed to be, so the owner of the company was having pretty regular check-ins with him to let him know where to improve. None of that seemed to stick, because he was always behind or needed me to step in and help, which put me behind. He was mainly kept on because we couldn’t afford to lose him in the middle of his project.

        He started complaining to our accounting/HR person (small company, we wear a lot of hats) that he should ALSO be getting paid mileage for his vehicle on top of the generous allowance he was receiving for using his personal truck for work. He didn’t last too long at our company after that, and I was glad to see him go. He was bringing down my morale with his complaints and feelings of entitlement!

        The point of my story is that it not only stinks for the company when you bring spending habits into the mix, but it can be very off-putting for coworkers if you’re bringing it up to them. It wasn’t my business how much he spent, but he brought the money aspect up so much that it was impossible not to feel resentful!

        1. JessaB*

          The only time one can bring spending levels into a discussion is BEFORE a layoff is scheduled, it’s outrageous not to warn someone about to take on a new large expense that they think they can handle on their current salary that they are about to lose that. And I know we’ve had this on this site before, where bosses find out and cannot tell the “I am about to buy a house” employee and honestly I think it’s wrong. But there aren’t good solutions.

      2. Mockingjay*

        “Please may I have a raise; I’d like to live in a style to which I am not accustomed.”

        Uh, no.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          Oh I love this! :D

          And apropos of nothing, I have just started rereading the Hunger Games

      3. Pay me what you owe me*

        Or the other way around! Last time my husband asked for a raise, his boss immediately asked whether he had kids. As if he could only deserve a raise if he had a “family to support”. Such old school patriarchal bull.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I once watched a trainer for a sales-type call center wax poetic about how his best employees are always fathers with kids to support, because “they hustle hard because they know they need to support their family”…to a room full of single mothers looking for work so they could support their kids. The fucking *looks* we all exchanged around the table while he was going on…it was hysterical, in an infuriating sort of way.

          1. Coffee Bean*

            It appears that the trainer had no business training. Seriously, how much more obtuse could this trainer have been?

        2. whingedrinking*

          On the flipside, I once had a landlord try to pull an illegal rent increase on me on the grounds that I “could afford it”. I like to think the expression on my face could have frozen a volcano.

          1. AKchic*

            Mine always pulled rent increases when she knew my company’s COLA increases came out. Because her daughter was also a non-profit worker and would get a COLA right around the same time.
            She figured if I got a raise, it should go to her. And she really didn’t want us to be able to afford to ever LEAVE.
            When I finally changed jobs, she started sniffing around asking about my new salary and hinting that the house was rented to us at a very below-market rate (no, even if it were in *pristine* condition, it was above market, and it was a S L U M and should have been condemned). We were out of there within 2 months. It took her over a year to get it re-rented, and she hasn’t been able to keep tenants for more than 6 months at a time.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      Reminds me of a discussion we keep having at the office. Our lease is up as of Jan 2021 so we’re looking for new office space. There is a group of women who are advocating moving the location closer to their homes because their commutes are too long (some over an hour!). The irony is every single one of these people actually moved farther away from the office since we’ve been in this location.

      1. Krabby*

        That would infuriate me. In my last job I had a guy move 3 hours away (3 hours both ways, so 6 hour round trip to work). After signing the lease he came in and asked if he could work from home four days a week. He was a manager whose main job was training, so no. He was flabbergasted he’d been turned down and slowly turned into a ball of rage about his commute (6 hours, anyone would have), but it was just like, you did this to yourself… What do you want us to do?

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          It’s ridiculous. I actually moved closer to the office because I hate commuting and wanted more time in the evenings with my family. When I mentioned this as a counter to the conversation there was a lot of eye rolling and snarky comments about how terrible our city is and how if my kid were school aged I’d sing a different tune.

          These are the same women who refuse to order dairy free food for me because “the company is already doing so much to give us free food and I should stop being so ungrateful.” The oblivious hypocrisy astounds me.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Same here. I refuse to live more than a 20 minute drive from my job (and the commute route should have more options than just the freeway because of winter weather shenanigans). I understand having to live a little farther out because of housing costs, but people who choose to have an ungodly commute (by car, I should say) outside of industry or employment constraints, flabbergast me.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Just did a search for 4 br 2 bth houses for under $250K in my city. 70 results in a nice wide range. Same search in a coworker’s city (90 minute commute): 17 results, most toward the top end. Same search in a second coworker’s city (hour commute): 1 result.

              Yep, our city sure does suck.

              Also I feel that at some point the cost savings of moving further away are eaten up in extra gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and loss of free time.

                1. Crop Tiger*

                  Ugh, I bought a one bedroom one bath duplex for under $95, and rent the other half out so it pays 3/4 of my mortgage. I can’t even imagine paying that much for someplace to live.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  Come to Texas! The summers suck but we make up for it with cheap COL, great job market, and super friendly people.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                I currently rent in a mid-size Midwestern city and the availability of affordable 2 bedroom apartments near my workplace is getting ever smaller. Oh, we’re seeing tons of apartments being built, but they’re all going for over $2000 a month. If the rent on our place goes up too much, we may be on a very frustrating hunt.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  We have a bit of a similar situation around here. Lots of luxury apartments being built. But houses rent for as low as $1250/month, so why not rent a house and get more space for less money? It’s a weird market in North Texas.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          How do you make that decision and not run it by your boss first to make sure that telecommuting is an option? It’s like he thought he could force you into it by moving and then “of course” you’d have to give in.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Reminds me of those people who buy non-refundable plane tickets and then ask for time off and are mad when the boss says no.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            Heh, I had a colleague who moved, and then was livid about being expected to find coverage for a class or teach it during a mild snowstorm for which there was plenty of warning. She was all, “Ugh, I guess Boss doesn’t realize that I now live 45 mins away in *good* weather.”

            Well, no, Boss may realize it, but your class still needs to be covered, and you knew from day one that it’s your obligation to teach or get a substitute for your class, soooooo it doesn’t really matter where you live? You’re not only responsible for covering your class if you live nearby … and you knew where you worked when you bought that house. Why is it now someone else’s problem that you live further away?

    3. He Said, She Said*

      I have an employee who 1. brings up being a single parent whenever she talks about my not acting on getting her a raise, and 2. spends what I think is an irresponsible amount on concert tickets, but 3. no way would I use my opinions about her spending as a justification that she doesn’t deserve a raise.

  5. crchtqn*

    An employee’s spending choices should never be the focus for a boss. In comparison, imagine if your boss told you that you should have one less kid cause it will cost your less or put down your dog so you save on medical bills. It’s the same concept, they have no right to comment, especially if they are using it to determine how much you are paid.

  6. Seeking Second Childhood*

    This boss’s thinking is right up there with that old turd trope of paying men more than women because they are supporting a family, paying married men more than single men (same reason), and giving them raises when their wives have babies.
    Not to mention the assumptions that “so & so can’t have financial problems, they’re paid too well.” And we all know how that goes in a world of underwater mortgages.

    1. Vemasi*

      My friend is currently dealing with a coworker who is demanding a larger bonus (even though the bonus he got is the largest he’s ever received, after a few years of no raises because the company was in danger), because he expected a larger one for no more reason than that he has made personal finance decisions factoring it in. Another coworker also received a raise a few years ago with no high performance or added duties because he “needed” it.

      She has to deal with it because she is payroll/bookkeeping/HR rolled into one, and the company owner is her relative. She is trying so hard to get the owner to understand the first thing about compensation. He only just started doing year-end reviews after years of tying bonuses to performance with no transparency, and he also doesn’t believe in COL raises. It’s a mess.

      1. Vemasi*

        Oh, the reason your comment reminded me of this is that the owner always weighs men’s family obligations in these considerations, but somehow does not think that it is relevant for the single mother on his staff. Such people often think they’re being logical and practical, but it is all just unfounded, in-the-moment conjecture on their part, much like OP’s boss with the coffee. None of it is relevant.

    2. Nanani*

      I have seen this with my own eyes. Funny how HE has a family to support and gets more, but SHE never needs a raise because of support husband/dad/future hypothetical man. *stabs the air*

      Keeping personal expenditures out of salary discussion is a vital plank in the platform of pay equality.

    3. TiffIf*

      Any discussion that brings up paying someone more because they have a family to support always reminds me of this West Wing scene:

      Young Jed: “Florence is married with no dependents and Mr. Hopkins has a family of four to support.”
      Young Mrs. Landingham: “If we paid people according to how many children they had Malcolm the groundskeeper would get triple what the headmaster gets.”

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I think it’s fair during like- huge layoffs or something to consider whether there’s anyone else at the person’s home that has a job. But I’d put “families with one provider” in the same category as “single un-partnered people”.

        1. Avasarala*

          I would hope it’s based on whose work is most valuable to the company, not weighing their individual family/financial situations and evaluating who “deserves” it more.

        2. LovecraftInDC*

          I understand the urge, certainly. As a manager, you want to do the least amount of damage to people and a lot of keeping people happy is thinking about their individual needs, so it’s generally a good mindset to have.

          But you still have to be equitable in your decision making, and that means that decisions about layoffs or raises or whathaveyou need to be entirely about work. and their job performance. Including other thoughts will undoubtedly lead to racism, ageism, and sexism.

    4. Kiki*

      >“so & so can’t have financial problems, they’re paid too well.”

      I’ve had people at my work say something to this effect about me because my husband is paid fairly well. But we’re still paying off $25k in medical bills and $80k in student loans so his salary is just keeping us from going under. He’s the definition of a HENRY (high earner, not rich yet).

  7. Service Dog Handler*

    This is really timely for me. I’m in the process of asking to be classified at a higher level (my current classification is the same as a data entry clerk, and I’m doing things way beyond that with higher responsibilities and almost complete autonomy), and I’m worried my “lifestyle” will be used against me, in that I live alone without a partner or roommates. Never mind that my living costs are below the average rent for a studio apartment in my area, I’m worried that it’ll still be a sticking point for HR. I’ve been practicing with friends with staying on topic, but it’s triggering all my anxiety about not being worth anything.

    1. Allison*

      I had older women talk down to me and treat me like a child at an old job, and I started to wonder if it was because I still lived with a roommate, wasn’t married, didn’t have kids, and didn’t own a house, so in their eyes I wasn’t a “real adult” yet. It’s frustrating how out of reach those traditional milestones for adulthood are for my generation, and we often don’t get married or buy houses until we’re well into our 30’s, unless we went into the “right” industry early in our careers.

      1. seconded*

        GenX currently dealing with same, believe it or not. I would love to get into the whole greater societal issue, but it isn’t worth the effort.

      2. Leslie Knope*

        I feel your pain. I’m the youngest person at a tiny company (less than 10 employees). I’m also the only one unmarried and without kids, who happens to live in a tiny house with a roommate on the edge of the city, but not quite in the suburbs. They assume I must have money to burn, but that is far from the truth! I finally paid off my student loan debt this past year, which has made things easier, but I’m no closer to home ownership or even living without a roommate. This city just keeps getting more expensive! Agh!

        1. call centre bee*

          I was actually in tears about this last night. My mother moved back in with me and it’s a nightmare. I tried budgeting for living alone and it’s impossible. I’m in my thirties. I work full time, always have. Not to sound like a petulant child, but it doesn’t seem *fair*.

          1. Oranges*

            It isn’t fair. I personally blame Regan (I think he’s the correct president). The stupid supply side economics. Massive tax breaks for the rich. Basically set us down this road of extreme wage gaps.

          2. Filosofickle*

            It isn’t fair. I live in the worst housing area in the country. All around me people are struggling, even those with great careers, even with roommates, and even with multiple families sharing. Buying is well out of reach for most.

            Due to some amazing luck I found a good place to live and the rent stayed under market for a long time. Until recently, when my rent started rising fast — it’s gone up $450 / mo in just 3 years! After years of living alone, I got a roommate first and then my partner moved in. Sharing is the only way I’m still standing. Having to find another place would be terrifying, it’s so so hard to get a place even if you have enough money. Buying has been out of the question. Both our families are here (with retired/aging parents) so moving isn’t likely. There are days I am simply terrified of the future and what old age will look like.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      The important thing to remember is that your lifestyle has nothing to do with this discussion, and is not up for debate. This conversation is about getting your work classified properly. If at any point your lifestyle comes up, steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. Don’t debate it with them, there is nothing for you to justify, and it doesn’t warrant a discussion. You are talking about the work you do, and nothing else.

      Some phrases to keep in your pocket:
      -“We’re here to talk about my work, not my personal life”
      -“I’m confused, what does this have to do with my work output?”
      -“Let’s get back to the topic at hand, my work.”

      You can do it! Remember, anxiety is a liar. You are worth something and absolutely deserved to be recognized and compensated for the work you do.

      1. Krabby*

        Also remind yourself that if your finances were different, they would be the ones telling you they can’t take your personal circumstances into account when giving you a raise.

        Because they won’t be giving you a raise if the rental market in your area changes and you can no longer afford to live without a roommate, let me promise you that.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Wanted to add that if they continue to focus on your personal finances, I’d consider directly asking them that if things changed for you for the worse, would they guarantee a raise? If the rental market got more expensive, would they cover it? If all of a sudden you had dependents or a huge amount of debt, they’d give you more money? (Knock on wood, of course.) It only seems fair to turn it around on them if they insist that your financial comfort means you don’t deserve more money, that potential financial upset would mean you did.

          I don’t recommend having this devolve into an argument, but it could serve a good point to get you to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand, which is getting appropriate recognition and compensation for your work.

      2. Service Dog Handler*

        Thank you, I’ll keep those phrases in mind. It’s very nerve racking for me, especially since asking for a classification change is seen as pompous and hostile around here, no matter how politely you do it. Luckily, I’m part of a robust union, so I have some protection.

        1. LQ*

          You’re in a union and it sounds like you work for the government. They won’t and if they do even the WORST union rep will help you with that lift. Just focus on describing your work clearly in a way that aligns with the role you should be in.

          The classification change process is a pain (I’ve done it twice, though to be fair, both times with the support of my boss), but it’s really entirely about the work you are doing. Not about you as a person or your life. Entirely about the work and the job.

    3. Sara without an H*

      I really think we should all resolve to put our employers and coworkers on what Captain Awkward calls “low information diet” about our lifestyles and personal expenses. It’s not their business and in cases like yours it can be used against us.

    4. Zelda*

      Why does your employer know anything about how large your apartment is or isn’t, or how many roommates you do or don’t have helping you pay for it?

  8. Old Cynic*

    I remember buying a car once, c. 1982, and my boss told me if I could afford a new car then I didn’t need a raise that year. And I didn’t get one. That damn Honda!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Actually, it’s still not your boss’ business, either way. If you’re not being paid market rate, that is your employer’s business. It’s not your employer’s business if your personal finances mean you need to earn more, for better or for worse.

        1. Dragoning*

          Oh, I know that. Fortunately I have never been in a position to say this or not, but much like many of the people in these comments, I am pointing out the logic flaws in this kind of argument regardless of it’s appropriateness.

    1. coffee, black.*

      Yeah, what is up with that? I guess it’s cheaper for some employers to turn it around on the individual? But, I’ve even had comments from coworkers! Coffee-shaming needs to stop. I’m glad the OP got out of there, but for their own piece of mind.

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s become a flippant thing people say whenever anyone has financial issues. I think it all started with a book in the 90s that claimed everybody was ruining their finances by buying coffee. And probably the book wasn’t even as simplistic as the message that filtered into pop culture. It was the avocado toast of its time!

        1. fposte*

          I think also it’s that luxury (comparatively) coffee drinks didn’t use to be a thing once upon a time. And because it’s something previous generations did without and it’s pleasurable, it’s easy to dismiss it as a frivolity and a generational entitlement. It’s a faulty syllogism: We didn’t have fancy coffee. We are financially secure. Therefore avoiding fancy coffee makes people financially secure.

          1. Allison*

            I guess that makes sense, did “good” coffee become a big thing in the 90’s? I ask because I was a child in the 90’s and obviously wasn’t drinking it at the time. Were people just drinking the free stuff at work up until a certain point in recent history?

            I do remember having a babysitter in the 90’s, and she did seem to get coffee every day, but it was always black coffee from Dunks, I remember saying, to my parents (I think I was probably 7 or 8 at the time) that she wouldn’t be so poor if she wasn’t getting coffee all the time, and my mom and dad were horrified and shut that crap down immediately! They made it clear to me that you do not tell people who are struggling financially how to spend their money.

            1. fposte*

              Yup, lattes and blended drinks were largely nonexistent until the Starbucks era really hit. Even in San Francisco’s Little Italy it just wasn’t a thing to take out before then. You could buy black coffee and put some milk and sugar in it, but it wasn’t a treat.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              In 1988 or 1989, I sat next to someone on a flight from San Francisco to New York whose briefcase smelled like coffee. She gave me some pamphlets and a recruiting effort, and how much different would my life have been if I had called her up and looked into marketing positions at her new company called Starbucks!

          2. Carlie*

            And if we want to make comparisons to ye olden days, back then people were paying 12-15% interest rates on their mortgages. Of course they didn’t spend money on fancy coffee – they were paying out all of their money on interest. Talk about wasteful spending!

        2. nm*

          iirc in the book it was just a metaphor for looking more closely at your finances, and identifying if you’re spending on habitual things that you don’t really value. A 2020 equivalent would probably be realizing you never actually use your Hulu subsrciption and cancelling it. A good exercise in minding your spending, but NOT a solution to any serious financial problem.

          1. anonymous 5*

            Also, the book focused heavily on what that $1000 would have become with 40 years’ worth of compound interest from stocks growing at pre-2000, let alone pre-2008, rates.

            1. fposte*

              That’s distorted by the ’80s boom, though; post-2000 rates have been been overall pretty decent when you look at the history of the S&P500.

              1. anonymous 5*

                Fair. But IIRC the book came out early enough in the 90s that the examples based on market returns really hit the sweet spot–a long period since the most recent major correction, plenty of high returns in the meantime, and no tech bubble yet. So even the relatively shorter-term view (“let’s look at how that $1000 would have grown over the past decade”) was about as good as it could ever be expected to be.

                And, quite apart from the exact returns, there’s a reason why ads for investment products include the disclaimer about past performance and future returns. The book went way too far into the realm of equating the $4 coffee with $100s-$1000s as though it was guaranteed, and more insidiously as though it was really that simple. Sure, the math is…

                1. fposte*

                  I’m not sure which book is actually being referred to here–is it David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire? That’s 2005 if so. But yeah, such calculations aren’t always reliable and tend to assume a particular investment and economic behavior on the part of the user.

                2. anonymous 5*

                  I believe it was the series of “Smart [identifier] Finish Rich,” which came out earlier than Automatic Millionaire.

                3. fposte*

                  @anonymous 5–yeah, it looks like the first of those was 1999. But I didn’t realize that there was a patient zero for the latte trope–that’s really interesting.

          2. fposte*

            Yes, I think the advice to look overall at volitional spending, especially if you’re trying to get out of credit card debt or saving up for something specific, is decent advice. It’s the fixation on coffee drinks (and especially lattes, for some reason) that’s weird.

            1. Allison*

              They use “coffee” to grab people’s attention, because it’s such a common thing. Nowadays they use “avocado toast” because it was on everyone’s radar as the hip new food everyone’s (supposedly) eating.

              If you ever read The Financial Diet, so many pieces can be boiled down to “I looked at all the little things I was spending money on, decided I didn’t really need some of them, and some of them were things I wasn’t even using, which was crazy! So I gave up these ten these five things we all use, and I don’t miss them at all! Well, maybe sometimes, but I’m putting an extra hundred dollars towards my debt each month and that’s so much better!”

              (and I do like TFD, but it can get a little repetitive sometimes)

              1. Avasarala*

                Oh many I had to give up TFD for the same reason. Half of it is Inequality 101 (I’m well versed in how the economy disparately impacts women and minorities thanks) and the other half is “Cut down on expenses.”

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          The amount you can save by cutting out coffee is also based on the idea that you invest every penny of that into index funds – which would eventually killed a lot, sure, but maybe you don’t have 20 years to wait to reap the rewards. Unless you’re highly paid enough that you really could be on the brink of an early retirement, spending your working life agonizing over small luxuries will just burn you out. It’s definitely good to be mindful of how much all that adds up to, and the opportunity cost of not investing it, but if you’re underpaid you’re not exactly in a position to be prioritizing investment over every day needs anyway.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It is absolutely that. If you move the goalposts to talk about personal choices, you can ignore societal pressures and systemic issues. It’s the same as the people claiming that minimum wage shouldn’t go up because those workers should “just” go get different jobs if they want to earn more money. That doesn’t eliminate the existence of a broad swathe of jobs that no longer pay enough to live on!

        1. smoke tree*

          On an individual level, I think it can also be a failure of empathy–for those who have always been financially secure, it seems to be difficult to understand that sometimes the extra money just isn’t there. In their minds, there’s always some minor luxury that can be traded in for more money if needed.

          1. Oranges*

            Because if there’s not a “thing/minor luxury” then it means that their own financial security isn’t actually… secure. And that they’re financially successful based upon the universe’s whims and not their own work/hustle/etc.

            We get heavily the message money = personal worth so there’s ego involved.

            1. Not a cat*

              I used to get this lecture all the time from my parents. However, the reason they were financially stable is my grandparents bought them a house. Apparently, they mentioned doing the same for me and my father told them I didn’t deserve it (single, no kids, wasting money).

      3. Alton*

        I think some people have a hard time comprehending that while cutting back on small incidental expenses can be a tactic for saving a little more or having more disposable income, it often doesn’t make a big difference if you’re struggling to afford big things like a car or apartment, or having a child. The amount I would save in one month by not buying tea and snacks wouldn’t even come close to the covering the deficit I’d need to make up in order to be able to comfortably afford a place of my own, for example.

        1. Oranges*

          And why don’t people ever take into account the psychological impact?

          It would be insane to tell me to live in a tiny apartment with barely enough heating/cooling to keep me alive and eat the same cost-effective nutritionally healthy meal. I mean that’s the lowest bar for having my survival needs met.

          We don’t make people adhere to that for living expenses. Why do we do it for the small things that make our lives better?

    2. Doug Judy*

      Right. Even if OP buys a $4 coffee 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, that is only $1,040. Hardly enough to make much of a difference. And even if her boss’s argument was in any way valid, if she’s being paid $5k below her value, her boss still needs to up her salary by$4k.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “So, Boss, you are saying that the best you can do is offer me $20 per week more? I just want to be sure I am understanding this. After all my work in A, B and C. The extra time I put in on X and Y. The cost savings I uncovered on D and E. And you think all that is worth just $20 a week?”

  9. A Simple Narwhal*

    Oof yea what Alison said x1000. Try telling your electrician that they could be happy to take less for rewiring your house if only they spent less money in their personal life. Or literally anyone you pay for a service.

    I’m so glad this is an after-the-fact question and you’ve moved on!

    (Also you’d have to be spending ~$20/day for it to add up to the ~$5000 a year, so your former boss’s bad argument doesn’t even hold up in that regard.)

    1. Professional Confusion*

      Yeah that’s what I was stuck on – if she spends $20/week on coffee, that’s roughly $1,000 per year. So the manager thinks a $1,000 “raise” is “more than satisfying”? It’s so strange and such a red flag of terrible management that I’m glad OP is jumping ship.

    2. EPLawyer*

      “Try telling your electrician that they could be happy to take less for rewiring your house if only they spent less money in their personal life.”

      I love this one as a lawyer. I get a lot of requests to work pro bono. Because all lawyers are rich, ya know. Yeah, because 100% of our cases are not pro bono. It amazes me that people who would never go to the grocery store and say “I’m really hungry and need to eat to so let me have some bread and peanut butter for free” have no problem expecting attorneys to work for free.

      1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        I have an interior design degree, but work in the construction field and not as a designer. The other day someone asked me to drop by to help their neighbor pick out new tile for their bathroom. They wanted me to go out of my way at my expense to give free advise to someone I didn’t even know. I just said, “yeah, I don’t want to do that.” They’re lucky I wasn’t in a bad mood or I might have given them an earful. My degree is not a hobby and I don’t want to use my free time to benefit your friend’s neighbor’s uncle’s whoever.

        1. designbot*

          I do work in design, and we get asked this stuff allllll the time. Well could you just take a look at this thing another designer did and let me know what you think? Can you just shoot me over a few ideas for X? Oh this is just such a little thing, there’s no *way* it could cost *this* much! This is highway robbery! We happily share our hourly rates with clients and upon request can provide full backup for, this costs this much because the project is this long and requires this many people at this burn rate… at that point, strangely, few people ask for reduced service. If they do, we write it into the contract and the moment they ask for an extra meeting, an extra revision, etc. we’re on the phone talking about how this is the level of service they specifically asked for and we’ll need to get an add service going if they would prefer the level of service originally quoted.

          1. bleh*

            And these are the very same people who judge you for picking a “creative” field because it is frivolous and doesn’t bring in the same amount of money as a STEM job. Idiots.

      2. JKP*

        I never realized how true this was until I dated a lawyer. He does business law, and everyone wants him to work for free now in exchange for equity or stock in their company. Of course if the company can’t afford to actually pay the lawyer real money, it’s not likely to stay afloat long enough for the stock to be worth anything.

      3. Delta Delta*

        I’m also a lawyer and get lots of pro bono requests. Some people I can help in an hour or so and it goes well. Some people get really obnoxious and don’t seem to understand why it is I should be compensated for what I do. I don’t engage with the latter.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Yeah, one piece of advice is really generous. It’s not like you’re now on (pro bono) retainer for them.

      4. Not Australian*

        Similarly, authors are always being asked for free copies of their books because obviously they’re all J K Rowling.

      5. Julia*

        I work with languages, and there are entire communities like AskALawyer, but called “Free Translation, or people who expect you to interpret for free, or “want to be friends” but then just expect free language lessons.

    3. Traveling Teacher*

      No kidding. Upon being asked to sing at a three star restaurant with “a free dinner” as compensation, a professional opera singer told me the following response she had prepared (because this happens a lot, apparently!) :

      “Sure, I would be more than happy to sing for a meal! So then, can you send your three-star chef over to my house to cook a meal for me and all my friends? Of course, I’ll sing him a song after, as payment.”

  10. AnonANon*

    Soooo about $4/day guessing you get at least 5 weeks of vacation and company holidays is only $940/year in coffee. Tell her she needs to make up the difference then….$4,060. Wooo!
    Glad you are moving on.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This. I mean, I know that the amount of spending doesn’t matter, if someone wants to buy a $1M+ house and a $100K+ car, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to get paid the fair market rate for whatever they do. But what struck me is how trivial the expense is that the boss chose to fixate on! It doesn’t even justify her (specious) argument!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I appreciate that I’m not the only one who did the math and came to the “What about the rest of that 5k tho.” response. I always do the math, show me the numbers because I’ll turn around and show them to you if you don’t.

  11. Mama llama*

    I’d love to see the look on her face when you told her you’d found a job so well paid that you could finally afford your morning coffee again

  12. Antilles*

    (according to Glassdoor, I was making about $5,000 less than industry standard)
    I routinely buy coffee at the coffee shop across the street from work. I go before work hours and order in advance, so that the trip is quick. While the coffee is on the pricey end (think $4 for a coffee),

    You might notice that these numbers are *dramatically* different – the amount of money you’re spending on coffee is small beans compared with how much he’s underpaying you.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I did the math quickly and if you spent $4 on coffee 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, that’s $1000. So yeah, that’s like the “millennials are spending too much on avocado toast so they can’t afford to buy a house” argument.

      1. The b**** in the corner of the poster*

        The avocado toast thing always makes me laugh because when I was in the peace corps, I lived off avocado toast because I was poor and it was the cheapest thing.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I started chatting with the vendor at a busy California farmer’s market one day, about the differences working an east coast farmstand vs this, and totally by reflex started tidying up things that fell. I came up from the grass with two avocados & a lemon so started juggling them….and when I went to buy a handful of avocados, he gave them to me for attracting attention to his booth. At that point kiwis were 10 for a dollar, and I think avocados were three for a buck. Good and cheap. And never so tasty as when it’s fresh off the tree that day!

        1. MOAS*

          That’s funny, here (in NYC anyway) they’re one of the more expensive things on a menu. I’m sure doing groceries and making it yourself is cheaper but bob loblaw

          1. The b**** in the corner of the poster*

            Since returning to the US, I have not touched an avocado. In East Africa, they are the size of my face, cost 10 cents a piece, and are the smoothest, creamiest most amazing thing ever.

            1. Quill*

              Bananas were so, so much better in Guatemala than any I’ve had in the USA.

              When my study abroad course ended we’d bought enough chocolate dipped bananas off the lady who sold them on her porch that she’d purchased a new freezer. She literally could not keep up with 25 college students who were constantly getting their butts kicked at soccer by her thirteen year old son and his friends.

                1. Quill*

                  The thing my region does really well, fruitwise, is blackberries and rasberries. (And gooseberries if you can even find the things.)

            2. Eponymous*

              My host family grew them, so for me it was all avocados, all the time. It took me a few years once I got back to want to eat them again, and then the price tag kept me away for a bit longer!

        2. tinybutfierce*

          This isn’t related to anything at all, but I just had to tell you that your username is magnificent.

          1. The b**** in the corner of the poster*

            I can’t by threading but I think this was directed at me? If it was, then thanks! :) Someone posted in a different post today about “villain in your own story” and now i’ve been singing CrazyEx Gf all day :)

      2. Sharikacat*

        While that $1000 can make a difference when it comes to surprise expenses, if you have to live your day-to-day counting every penny, then you have a much larger problem that $1000 won’t solve. And for people who are underpaid or otherwise having to tighten the budget to get by, that small indulgence is what helps us feel some sense of normalcy. My “personal expenses” budget amounts to the large bag of dog food I need about once a month, so if I get a few hours of overtime and can afford going out with friends for sushi or treat my dog to one of the large chew sticks, I don’t feel so bad about things. It’s the little things that allow us to otherwise put up with less-than-ideal situations, so don’t take that away from yourself.

    2. Environmental Compliance*


      Let’s imagine you get one coffee per day, every single available workday of the year. 260 working days times $4 coffee –> $1040. That’s still a fifth of the salary differential. 2 days per week? $416.

      Totally regardless of how inappropriate it is to comment on spending habits versus fair salary. Your boss is a turd bucket.

  13. ThatGirl*

    Geez. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with Alison, your spending habits are none of her business and have no relevance on whether you deserve a raise.

    Years ago, I’d been a contractor (through an agency) for several years without an increase. I started to think about how I had a long commute and gas prices were going up and my other bills were increasing and didn’t I deserve a raise? Thankfully I talked through it with a few smart folks who pointed out that yes, I deserved a raise, but that I should leave my own personal budget out of it.

    (Also, side note, 3% has been fairly typical for raises over the course of my 15 years of work experience, though if you’re underpaid for your field that’s a different concern.)

    1. Mimosa Jones*

      Yes, the first time I had an opportunity to ask for a raise, my logic was going to be that I wanted to buy a house. Fortunately (?) I got laid-off before I could have that meeting.

      1. NACSACJACK*

        We wre doing layoffs and I actually asked my manager and someone else, cant remember who, in a private meeting if I was going to get laid off, because I was about to put an offer on a house. Little did I know, that one can get out of buying a house by giving up your earnest money.

  14. SomebodyElse*

    Well at least we’re keeping with the theme “Bad Idea Monday” …

    Yes OP, it is inappropriate for your boss to mention your coffee purchases (or any purchase using personal money).

    I have only commented once on an employee’s purchase and it was in a larger discussion.

    It boiled down to he was telling me about a big purchase (think luxury car big) not long after his wife had passed away… the only thing I said was “You’re an adult, but my only advice that you are free to ignore, is take some time to make sure all the dust has settled before making any big changes financially. ” Then I dropped it and never said another word.

    1. Laura H.*

      That comment isn’t AS egregious, especially if you had that sort of relationship with your employee. Yes, it is still kinda sticking ones nose where it doesn’t belong but it’s more general, can be delivered genially, and it’s something that I’d say to someone/ anyone were the relationship present, and not singularly specific to that person.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t have said anything but he was telling me about some of the stuff going on after she had passed, such as life insurance and sorting out details… not related to anything that had to do with work or his compensation or anything remotely boss/employee.

        He also told me when he was ready to buy his new wife a ring… so personal conversations were the norm. I have another employee who recently lost a spouse and I have not had similar conversations, because that same casual type conversation doesn’t occur with that employee. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think that counts more as a time you decided to speak to them like a friend or acquaintance than an employee, because they raised something in their personal life. And you did give very good advice, it can be very hard to make decisions while grieving, so I often tell people to look at which decisions are time-sensitive (probate, etc), and put off everything that can be put off. People who are grieving usually don’t have as much room to think about or cope with things as they usually do.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Agree. I tell people (based on personal experience) not to make any big decisions in the first couple of months after a major surgery. It seems about equivalent.

  15. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    $4 a day is a fifty cent per hour raise. That’s far below the boss’ 3% threshold do what’s her point?

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      That the OP couldn’t do math and would equate these two numbers.

      Either that or the boss doesn’t care that the OP can do basic math.

  16. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If you’re wondering where your boss came up with this coffee nonsense, my guess is here:

    Funny how you never hear a financially struggling person make this same argument?

    The fact is that health care, education, living expenses, and housing expenses slowly increase over time while wages have stagnated and/or have been slow to grow since the Great Recession. What does that mean? More and more non-wealthy Americans are feeling the pinch through no fault of their own.

    But pointing to irresponsible spending has been a sadly effective method to distracting from the real problems I mentioned above along with not paying people fairly. Don’t fall for it, OP! It’s a bunch of crap.

    1. Antilles*

      To me, the really interesting thing is that when you hear arguments like these, it’s always always as a speculative *theoretical* suggestion – IF you saved $10 a week on coffee and invested it, then 20 years from now, you’d be a millionaire!…and it’s never as an actual let’s look at John Doe’s financials here and how he became a millionaire just by skipping coffee.
      Which begs the obvious follow-up question: If it’s really such a perfect to get wealthy, how come there aren’t hordes of ‘no-coffee millionaires’ running around as proof-of-concept?

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        And if you look at millionaires and billionaires, they certainly do not cut back on luxuries such as Starbucks coffee or expensive cars or mansions.

        They are still rich. Obviously a daily $4 latte isn’t hurting them at all.

        1. fposte*

          Some of them do, actually. Warren Buffett is especially notorious for that. There’s also some confirmation bias there, since the millionaire next door phenomenon, where they’re not consuming conspicuously, isn’t that uncommon either.

        2. RC Rascal*

          Another thing to considers is that a lot of wealthy people have their assets locked up in capital equipment and don’t have a lot of actual disposable income to spend. This is part of the phenomena outlined in the Millionaire Next Door.

          For example, I have several family members who are farmers. Farming is a very asset intensive business these days. A new tractor starts at $250k. They make a lot of money but a lot goes out with operating expenses and they don’t necessarily have a lot to spend, but they have lots of wealth in equipment and land.

          No $4 lattes there, but again, there are no Starbucks in farm country.

          1. fposte*

            Even when it’s not locked up in the land, it’s earmarked for retirement, not for Teslas. I suspect many older academics in my area have over $1 million because the combination of LCOL and good tax-deferred saving space (plus some decent stock market years) makes it possible to sock a decent amount away, but that doesn’t mean they’re splashing out on anything in the meantime.

          2. Anon for this comment*

            This is very true, yet irrelevant to some extent. As an example, this is technically a millionaire household due to a combination of blowing one exceptionally large and well-timed stock option grant on a house, which has since appreciated to the point that it’s worth a million currency units. Obviously, we can’t access that without selling the house, which is both awkward and uncomfortable. However, we didn’t get that way by being frugal with our coffee expenditures – that was orthogonal to our daily earnings and expenses. In the same way, Warren Buffett isn’t a billionaire because he skips the Starbucks run, or eats his toast with jam instead of avocado, or whatever nonsense is currently being used against people that dare to purchase small luxuries. He’s a billionaire because he’s got 60 years of accumulated corporate investment behind him.

        3. 1234*

          I’d argue that some do. More millionaires than billionaires as a billion is so, so much more than a million. A family member of mine who is certainly a millionaire a couple times over does live the semi frugal lifestyle. Coffee and meals are mostly at home, not a clothes shopper (IE wears a free t shirt from 20 years ago repeatedly), drives a mid range brand car from 2005 etc. I think once you’re a billionaire you have enough money to basically do whatever, forever.

      2. Alton*

        Also, the rare cases I’ve heard of people doing things like retiring super young because they were thrifty involve a great deal of sacrifice to make that work–very little entertainment, never eating out, never traveling, etc. Personally, while I think preparing for retirement is important, I also want to enjoy my life and make the most of opportunities I may not have in the future.

        1. Antilles*

          True, and that’s why those rare cases aren’t cited as part of ‘irresponsible spending’ myth, because that’s not really what they’re spouting – nobody is trying to promote a philosophy titled “How To Be a Millionaire by eating ramen, driving a rusted-out 1978 Pinto, and never leaving your house except for work”.

      3. Old Biddy*

        I like to run these calculations on my own finances. Part of the problem is that (a) even if you do this math in your head, you forget that that a) that coffee/gym membership/cable bill was a lot less 20 years ago, so the total amount is a lot less and that really affects the compounded interest and (b) we budget our small luxuries based on what we can afford at the time.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Funny how you never hear a financially struggling person make this same argument?

      I have a well-paying job now, but I didn’t always, and I made that argument on pretty much a daily basis. I have been in situations were a $4/day habit on any non-essential item would have been the difference between paying rent or not. I remember once hearing a guy say it was impossible not to spend $5/day, and I wondered where he even spent all that money. It was a mind-blowing amount to me. Even now, if I spend $30 during a night out, I stand back and marvel at my ability to do that and still buy groceries. Sometimes I think people who don’t believe $4-5/day makes a difference are people who have never wondered whether they would be able to pay their electric bill.

      1. 1234*

        Right…. $5 a day for 20 days in a month is $100…when I was making nothing and living on my own that would have been riches to me. A full trip to target for house supplies and food and soap and etc. It doesn’t apply a ton in this case, but if you think $1,000 a year makes “no difference” you’ve obviously never struggled to buy groceries, pay a $20 medical copay, or have enough gas to get to work.

      2. Antilles*

        Yes, coffee money adds up over time and it can certainly be make-or-break if you’re tight on money.
        …But that’s not the argument being made here. Instead, the argument that Snarkus (and myself) think is ridiculous is the absurd bad-math fantasy of “save $4 a day by making coffee at home, and bam, you’d be a millionaire in 30 years! No wonder you’re broke, you’re spending a million bucks on coffee! If only you spent less on coffee, you’d be wealthy!”.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Thank you.

          My point was that a struggling poor person knows very well that not buying coffee every week isn’t going to make him a millionaire in a couple of decades. Nor does not buying coffee make up for a warranted pay increase.

          Warren Buffett might keep his extra expenses low, but that’s not how he made his wealth and that’s certainly not how he retains his wealth.

  17. NGT*

    One cup of expensive coffee per day would probably not make much difference anyway. That’s what-about $6 per day? So, $180 per month. That’s just really not that much in the grand scheme of things-and it’s certainly not enough to make up for $5000 of being shortchanged.

    It’s not her boss’s business what her personal finances look like, but they have no bearing on whether someone is happy with their salary or not.

    1. Required name*

      OP said $4 per day, so $20 a week and $80 a month. The manager really thinks that less than $100 a month is going to make a difference in OP’s life?

  18. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Wow. If my boss told me I shouldn’t be buying my morning £2.25 Tall Skinny Latte from Starbucks you can bet your life I’d be waltzing in with a massive £5 cream-and-sprinkles-and-extra-everything Venti Frappucrappucino AND a cinnamon roll the next day Just To Prove A Point.

    Well done for getting away, OP! Congratulations on the new job!

  19. Meepmeep*

    “Well, Boss, if you sell that Ferrari and buy a cheaper car, you’ll be able to afford my raise no problem.”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have literally had to stop myself from saying something along these lines to bosses. “If you didn’t give away so much business you could afford that tiny-ass raise you promised me.”

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I had to stop myself from blurting out something very similar recently.

      “I don’t know if we’ll be able to have bonuses.”
      “Well, if we hadn’t bought a completely useless $150k piece of crap equipment that we didn’t need and everyone but you agreed we didn’t need, and now use as a giant paperweight, we probably could.”

    3. SweetestCin*

      The optics of purchasing a brand new Cadillac Escalade, loaded, and leasing a brand new whatever it was SUV for his newly minted 16 year old, all whilst taking across the board 10% salary cuts…

      It wasn’t a higher percentage because any higher would have dropped me below the “exempt” dollar figure where they’d have to pay me OT for anything over 40 hours.

      I do not miss that place. Karma got him, never fear.

      I believe I’d find the most expensive, largest, frilliest coffee I could find, myself!

  20. Stella70*

    At my last job, my company was bought out when the owner retired. The new owner promised that our annual bonuses would remain in place. (Mine was $4,000 the prior year, which sounds healthy, but I was terribly underpaid for my role in this area – even after factoring in the bonus.) Fast forward to year-end, and my co-workers received their bonuses – I did not. I asked to speak to the new owner – my one-and-only conversation about salary that I had with him – and his response was, “How much will $400 really do for your budget?”. I said my annual bonus was $4,000, not $400, and regardless, my budget wasn’t at issue here, it was my compensation. He told me I was a “crack addict” and that he wouldn’t continue to discuss something as irrelevant as “dollars and cents”. Footnotes: He was a millionaire, but dressed like a toddler with a Garanimals addiction (irrelevant and petty, but true) and my co-workers bonuses were all in the $25,000-$30,000 annual range. All men.

      1. Stella70*

        I was gone within eight weeks. After the compensation question, he treated me terribly and I was fairly certain that if i didn’t leave, I would be let go. One of only two times in my whole career that I didn’t give notice. He was irate! I said, “Well, you must realize that we crack addicts aren’t always the most professional of employees”. So satisfying…..

  21. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    but I don’t think that warrants being subjected to rude comments about my personal spending habits.

    Sidenote: I am a 30-something-year-old woman who does not buy designer clothes (most of my clothing comes from the thrift store), I rarely buy shoes, jewelry, etc., I do not get my nails done, do not carry a designer purse, and spend a minimal amount on makeup each year. I do not go on extravagant out of the country trips, live in a small rental property with my husband, and currently do not own a car.


  22. Oxford Comma*

    This is exactly the kind of garbage logic that people will apply to those on SNAP or assistance (if you can afford to buy anything more than the cheapest food, you shouldn’t be on SNAP). I’m only shocked that your then-boss didn’t play the avocado toast card with you.

    OP: so so glad you’re out of there. What you earn is yours to spend. How you do that is your business. The approval of your employer does not enter the equation.

    1. Yikes*

      I was thinking about this! If this is how she treats remuneration for work the OP did for her personally, imagine what she says about the actual social safety net!

  23. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    Wow, some managers are completely oblivious. When my coworker and I asked for raises at our last place of employment (which are directly tied to our production so no gamble on the company’s side) we were told we should work more hours on top of the 50-70 we were already doing. I declined to take a raise because my boss basically threatened it would be a pay cut if I couldn’t produce the numbers he thought justified it. We got a base salary plus once yearly production bonus that was usually 10% of our pay. If I didn’t make my numbers I got no bonus at all and would lose $2-3k even with a raise. Nice, huh? I didn’t realize how messed up it was until the end of my first year when I learned I didn’t qualify for a bonus and essentially took a pay cut to move halfway across the country and work more hours.

  24. Krabby*

    I like to think of it this way: your manager would laugh in your face if you told her you needed a raise because you’re poor. Why does she get to justify not giving you a raise because you appear wealthy?

    Re-framing this type of behavior to see what it would look like coming from the opposite direction and what the expected response would be, can be really helpful in unmasking bullsh*t.

  25. ellex42*

    It’s one thing for me to silently judge my coworkers who complain about how they have no money for x, y, or z, yet buy coffee, lunch, and vending machine snacks (there are several people whose total, as I figure it, comes to nearly $20 a day), or spend their money in various other pursuits that I, personally, think are wasteful and profligate.

    But I’m not their boss, I have no influence over their salaries or raises, and I don’t say anything to anyone about it (other than the occasional “FYI you can get those same snacks at the dollar store for a quarter of the vending machine price”).

    A boss has no business judging an employee’s personal spending habits, much less using that to justify not giving a raise.

        1. Bree*

          “…and I don’t say anything to anyone about it (other than the occasional “FYI you can get those same snacks at the dollar store for a quarter of the vending machine price”).”

      1. KHB*

        Seriously. I eat more than my share of overpriced vending machine potato chips – because this way, I can limit myself to one single-serving bag at a time, whereas I know that if I bought the giant economy-sized bag at the grocery store, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from eating the whole dang thing in one sitting and giving myself indigestion (and probably spending more overall anyway). People have reasons for what they do, even if they don’t always make sense to you, and they don’t need your approval.

        1. Zap R.*

          And sometimes people who don’t have a whole lot of money absolutely *need* something like a Twix to look forward to in order to get through the day. I used to literally count nickels and dimes to buy a chocolate bar or a can of pop. When all you can afford is rice and Kraft Dinner and instant oatmeal, the chance to eat something that actually has flavour means a lot.

      2. OysterFellow*

        To clarify: you get to silently judge all you want, there’s no thought police, but even the occasional comment is unwarranted.

      3. 1234*

        I mean I would appreciate someone telling me if a cheaper place had my preferred snack….but I am a tight wad soooo

        1. OysterFellow*

          Yeah but tightwads (and every person on earth) already know the vending machine is not the most economical place to buy snacks LOL

    1. hbc*

      To be fair, I think bosses are entitled to the same amount of silent judging that anyone else is. If you whine about your finances and then tell about how the new TV you bought was too big for all of the walls in your living room, I’m judging. But I’m giving you a fair salary based on performance and position, for you to save or spend how you see fit.

      1. Blueberry*

        I dunno. I think silent judging in general doesn’t usually take many factors into account, and a boss silently judging — one, the boss is judging someone with less money than they have, two, how can they possibly keep those judgements from spilling over into their judgements of the employee’s work?

        Besides, everyone has different definitions for frivolity. I own 750 or so books. I know because I have a Librarything Account to keep track of them. Last year when everyone got excited about Marie Kondo and how many books individuals are ‘allowed’ to own, I found that more than one person I knew thought 750 books were too many for one person. What if one of those people were my boss? (Fortunately, my boss is also a bibliophile.)

    2. Leisel*

      I do enjoy going out for lunch pretty much every day and recently I sat down did the calculations for how much I was spending. In the end, I decided it was still worth it to eat out.

      The main factors are: I work in an office with no windows and don’t get out much. We have a kitchenette, but no break room, so I have to eat at my desk or in the conference room. I like being able to break up my day, get out and see the sunshine, run an errand or two while I’m out, etc. I choose quick grab and go restaurants or food trucks where my total meal is less than $8. If it’s more than that, I only order meals that can be split and saved for dinner or lunch the next day. I prefer to eat a larger meal at lunch, then at home later I usually make something small. Sometimes my dinner is just vegetables or a smoothie. I end up spending less at the grocery store and have less food waste at home because I eat out for lunch. Plus, I like the variety of going different places.

      To someone else it may seem like I spend frivolously by eating out everyday. For me, it’s keeping me sane by getting me out of the office. I’m pretty much breaking even by being careful about my spending. I sure hope no one is keeping some sort of weird track of what they think I’m spending… 0_0

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Yeah. In one job, I used to occasionally go to Chinatown for a quick lunch, and part of the advantage was that it meant I wasn’t eating at my desk. The economics on that included having a monthly Metrocard, so I was only paying for the meal. (I am fairly sure the servers there assumed I worked in the neighborhood, because who takes the IRT to get lunch at the sort of inexpensive restaurant where they’ll seat you with random strangers, often enough to be asked whether they want their usual?)

        If the subway didn’t come quickly, I went back upstairs, bought a sandwich or something, and ate at my desk–disappointing, but again, all it cost was the wasted time, because of that unlimited-ride card.)

    3. Bagpuss*

      This. And even if you *were* their boss, those things shouldn’t factor into the decisions you make about whether they should have a pay rise or a bonus, those decision should be based on their performance in their job, market rates for their role etc.

      We used to have a similar issue with a (thankfully now former) partner at my firm.

      They were hopeless with their personal finances and used to argue that we needed to increase our drawings (or not cut them) because they ” couldn’t manage” on the amount we were taking.

      We several times had to walk them through the part where drawings are us as partners withdrawing our profits from the business, and as such are directly linked to how profitable the business is. If we have higher expenses and/or lower income as a business, that is reflected in our profit margin, we can’t just decide to take bigger drawings just because we’d like to.

      It was really hard sometimes not to comment on their spending habits, particularly when they shared so much information about their personal finances, (“I can’t afford to service my credit cards debts, I need more money from the business – oh, by the way, I’ve just decided to move house to a bigger, more expensive house with a bigger, more expensive mortgage, and I’m taking the family to the USA for a 2 week holiday” -), but it wasn’t any of it relevant to the *business* decisions we needed to make to ensure that we kept the business running smoothly, or to the amounts we could legitimately take as profits.

    4. ellex42*

      I’m amused by the people who missed that I am “silently” judging. My “FYI, you can get that cheaper somewhere else” is usually prompted by someone wanting to know where I got my goodies since I’m never near the vending machine.

      To those who have justifications for their spending: there are plenty of indulgences I spend money on, too, for various reasons. But I’m not complaining to my coworkers about not having money for the “need to’s” while spending on the “want to’s”, and if you aren’t complaining, I likely don’t even notice what you spend your money on.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I remember the time I was on a road trip and stopped at a convenience store to get a soda. It cost like $2.00. The clerk told me I could get a 2 liter bottle for $.99 and when I thanked him and said, I’ll just take the $2 bottle because what am I gonna do? swig out of of a 2 liter bottle as I drive down the highway?, he proceeded to lecture me on how I was throwing my money away.

        There are days when I do not have the time to bring my own lunch or stop at the dollar store and will buy an overpriced snack or sandwich because otherwise I don’t eat for 8-9 hours. I will still complain about the price tag on an $10 cheese sandwich even if I have to buy one so as not to go hungry.

        1. Blue*

          The thing about this stuff is that…sometimes you pay for things with money, sometimes you pay with time and energy and inconvenience. When you don’t have enough of either, how those equations balance looks really different from person to person, and sometimes the math doesn’t look like it makes sense from the outside, but we’re all doing that math all the time. You can’t do other people’s math for them, because you can never know all the variables.

      2. Julia*

        I think people rarely consider all the factors. I had co-workers walk in with a Starbucks cup (which, in Switzerland was like 10$) and judge me for using fancy tea leaves for my tea, which are actually really reasonably priced considering even 10$ worth got me through a whole month.
        Also, someone told me I was “fancy” for buying 30$ bras – my size doesn’t exist at H&M and I wear my bras for years, but if you’re a 36F you need some support. 30 bucks is well worth it to not deal with shoulder, neck, and back pain.

        1. Traveling Teacher*

          Wait, but $30 is really, really cheap? I can’t find anything that fits me, has adequate support, and will last longer than a few wears for less than 40-50 euros, if that!

  26. Quill*

    OP, if she caught you ordering extra guacamole, or avocado toast, or getting take-out – she’d still pin this pay discrepancy on you. Because she doesn’t give a flip about your coffee, she just wants to justify (to herself or you) why you’re underpaid.

    Get out and don’t use her as a reference if you can avoid it.

    1. Sara without an H*

      What Quill said. This is a common tactic of people who’ve been caught doing something devious: “Well, if you didn’t buy coffee/drive a car/have children, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

      It shifts the focus off the fact that she was paying you $5K under the local market rate…and you caught her.

      Congratulations on the new job! Celebrate with the super grande coffee beverage of your choice…with sprinkles!

  27. CatCat*

    When she goes to fill your role, I wonder what she’ll say to a candidate who counteroffers any job offer?

    “If you cut back on eating food, you’ll find the salary we offer is very competitive.”

    “I see that you’re living in a building. Let me just say that you’d be very pleased with this salary offering if you downsized your living situation and moved into a van down by the river.”

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Can we borrow the boss’s camper van? Because that’d be even cheaper, I wouldn’t have to buy the van.

      1. Quill*

        But you’d still have to cover your camping equipment, and turn up for meetings after showering in a national park outbuilding.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Plus you get to stay on state park campgrounds for free!

        (we’re referencing Camping Boss, right?)

    2. Queer Earthling*

      You’ll have plenty of time to live in a van down by the river, when you’re….living in a VAN down by the RIVER.

  28. Dragoning*

    One day, I would really love to tell a business owner/CEO/higher up/etc. that if only they didn’t buy coffee they could afford to give me a raise.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I love this comment. I want to marry it. I want to buy and house and grow old together with it.

  29. Diahann Carroll*

    You could be dripping with designer clothing and have an out-of-control makeup addiction, and your spending habits would still be none of your boss’s business.

    Thank you for saying this, Alison. This thought process is pervasive in corporate America. I am the type who stays laced in designer clothes (that I get on consignment) and spend an inordinate amount of money on skin care and makeup products, and I’ve had many people either insinuate or flat out state in the past that I should basically live like a pauper and then it wouldn’t matter that my employers were paying me well below my pay grade and market rate. I always pushed back on that stupid idea and have left quite a few positions/companies because of it. Now, I’m finally being paid what I’m worth (and, in fact, I’m actually overpaid based on my current market rate), but if I gain more skills and responsibilities with this company and my market rate increases while my salary stagnates, I’ll be leaving this place too with no shame.

    1. Zap R.*

      I wonder how often men hear this stuff. It always seems to be “girly” things like lattes, makeup, clothing, and manicures that are up for scrutiny and never, say, barbecues/big-screen TVs/authentic NHL jerseys/luxury shaving products.

      1. smoke tree*

        Yeah, I think this focus on manicures and other “frivolous” feminine-coded things is the contemporary version of “Well, you don’t have a family to support like Bob and Ted do.”

      2. the_scientist*

        Right, like golf is exceptionally frivolous, but it’s getting criticized a LOT less than feminine-coded interests.

  30. AnotherAlison*

    Glad the OP has a new job. The boss is out of line. What a weird focus.

    That said, I think there was some for improvement on the OP’s side in the raise request discussion. It sounds like she told the boss she was unhappy with the amount of money she was making. It’s not clear if she used the glassdoor salaries as evidence, but that’s not particularly reliable and it doesn’t have anything to do with the OP. (My salary is 10s of thousands higher than what glassdoor says). If she is not doing work that is measurably more senior from 7 years ago, due to lack of opportunities for promotion (not her fault), then there isn’t much basis for a big raise. You do have to leave to get the money.

    At my job, you are usually going to get 0-8% per year, with most around the 3-4%. You might get 8% in a promotion year or “market adjustment” year, but that’s unusual. I can see where the boss might have been peeved that she wasn’t happy with consistent 3% raises, esp. if the conversation wasn’t about OP’s added value in the past 7 years.

    1. Arya7*

      OP here- thanks for the feedback! I did not site Glassdoor as the sole reason for the raise. I sited great performance reviews, consistently taking on more responsibilities every year, meeting new challenges and goals and overall producing excellent work as reasons that a raise seemed appropriate. This was also an ongoing conversation – each year at my performance review, I asked what I could do to improve, what I could do to get promoted, what opportunities I could take on to further grow within the company. While I was grateful for the continually raises, it was frustrating to be given vague feedback about how I could potentially get promoted.

  31. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    If you stopped living in a house instead of a tent, you’d save TENS OF THOUSANDS a year!!!!!! (Sarcasm do not become transient please!)

    She’s absurd and gaslighting you.

    I could live on half my salary. Many do. I sure the hell don’t want to and wouldn’t opt for it. This woman is an awful human. She could def shave 5k off her account for you but she’s not.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Heck, my husband and I live off of one of our salaries. That doesn’t mean one of us has to work for free.

      Boss is indeed gaslighting & bullying.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I guess she took a vow for everyone else to be living in poverty and she’s just really invested in her cause…

        Typical Oil Baron mentality *twirls mustache*

  32. hbc*

    I’ve got all kinds of sarcastic retorts* and logical replies and math lessons brewing (ha), but the “other questionable behavior” makes me think she’d be immune to all that. Like if you said you’re happier with coffee, she’d be putting a used Keurig in the breakroom and getting mad at you for not using it.

    *Okay, fine, just one: “So if I stop buying coffee, the market rate for this position decreases? I just don’t get economics.”

  33. LegallyBrunette*

    Outside of some kind of tax issue (like not paying your taxes) that your employer might end up being brought into, your boss doesn’t get any say over your personal spending habits, full stop.

  34. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m envisioning a stadium full of people chanting:

    “NOT your BIZ-ness!” [CLAP-clap CLAP-clap-clap]

    over and over and over…

  35. OysterFellow*

    Your boss’s attitude is pervasive in the US, and it’s going to ruin us. No amount of not buying coffee and avocado toast makes up for the fact that wages aren’t growing and income disparity is rising.

    I’m glad you’re leaving.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Not buying “luxury” items and downsizing on bills is like a crash diet, unrealistic and unhealthy. It’s only good for [relatively] short periods of time until you can INCREASE YOUR WAGES by getting a different better paying job.

      It’s not sustainable to live on meager wages and just pinch those pennies.

      1. Zap R.*

        Yes! As soon as you tell yourself “I’m never going to spend money on luxuries,” you’re setting yourself up for failure (and an eventual splurge.) The crash diet metaphor is perfect.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          People forget this advice from advisors is for a couple reasons:

          1. So you can pay down debts fast
          2. So you can afford LUXURY ITEMS at some point in your life. The process is “Build an EMERGENCY FUND and then live within your means.”

          I make my coffee at home most days because I use the money for…take out because I’m a savage and creature of convenience. L_O_L.

          1. Anon for this today*

            I got myself into a whole lot of debt some years ago and I took steps to get out of it. One of those steps was Consumer Credit Counseling. I had to come up with a budget and the counselor went over it with me. I had totally cut out cable, streaming, any kind of entertainment, any kind of restaurant meals/takeout. The counselor made me budget a small amount for those some of these expenses, even though it was very scaled back from what I had been spending on them.

            He said that if you go 100% austerity, you will most likely reach a breaking point and splurge and spend far more on this type of expense and that it was better to allot a small amount toward those kinds of comforts.

      2. Meepmeep*

        It’s not even a crash diet and it won’t make a whit of difference. If you’re making $20k a year, no cutting back on “luxuries” will make you not poor. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t spend at Starbucks.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      s/”No the problem isn’t that we aren’t paying you a living wage, with decent benefits and treating you like a valuable asset to the company. The problem is you drink coffee.”/s

  36. Roy G. Biv*

    OP – your boss is a jerk. And now she’s losing a good employee. Someone upthread mentioned bullying behavior. That sounds about right.

    Once upon a time, in the late 80’s, I had a boss tell me, in the most condescending way possible, that my generation (Gen X) were all entitled, and my asking for a dollar an hour raise was evidence of that. He then proceeded to belittle me for 15 minutes, then offered, as if it were a grand gesture, a 25 cent/hour raise. Then he told me he also was strapped for cash, what with the payments on his brand new sports car.

    I left that meeting determined to do three things: find a new job, learn how to negotiate better on the front end, and to never treat another coworker in such a manner. We didn’t call it bullying back then, but again, that seems about right.

    1. irene adler.*

      A co-worker ask for a raise. Boss actually told her that if she made more money, then the things she purchased would become more expensive for her.


      So, no raise.

      Yes, she eventually left.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Aaah, the benevolent ruler. Calmly keeping the feudal hordes under control with mystery and vagueness. “You don’t understand how the economy works. You have the money you need. If I “gave” you more (because you aren’t earning it, I’m bestowing it upon you) you would be worse off. Take my largesse and be grateful!

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        The only way I can imagine thinking that makes sense is if Boss is one of those people who misunderstands how tax brackets work and thinks that a raise bumping you up to the next bracket means your whole income will be charged at that higher percentage.

        But most likely Boss just thinks her employee is really dumb and that she’s fooling her.

    2. Jennifer*

      I’m sorry that happened to you.

      This comment also made me chuckle a bit because it just goes to show that the young, cool generation at the moment always gets crapped on. It even happened to the boomers. Nothing really changes.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, the Boomers were pretty much the Millennials of their day in terms of opinion from older generations, despite the very different economy.

  37. Kaaaaaren*

    What a despicable comment from your soon-t0-be former boss, OP! Alison is completely right: she was trying transform her obligation to duly compensate you for your work into your obligation to spend less so you’d be happier being paid poorly. I’m glad you’re about to leave this boss and company behind.

  38. Happy Pineapple*

    Does your boss also happen to write those articles that say things like, “Millennials killing department stores/casual restaurants/not buying houses because of their avocado toast spending habits!” ? Because $20 a week on coffee obviously would make up the $5000 gap in being underpaid /sarcasm/.

    I used to hear this nonsense from family members when I was seriously underpaid in my last role. If my BOSS had said it to me I think I would have flipped a table.

  39. nm*

    How rude!
    The whole “save money by skipping lattes” thing as I understand it was only meant to be a metaphor, not a method by which to make business decisions.

  40. AnonNurse*

    I have a strong feeling my face would give away every feeling I had in the moment something like that was said. That’s completely inappropriate and honestly, pretty slimy. My response would have been along the lines of Alison’s, probably something like “my personal spending isn’t at issue and it never should be. The industry standard is $xxxx, and I believe the work I am doing and my accomplishments at “example, example” warrant an increase in my salary”.

    And I might have even been tempted to bring HR into it if my boss continued to comment on my personal coffee habit and my spending while justifying that as a reason not to give me a raise. Not sure I would 100% go to HR but I might at least be very tempted.

    I once had a co-worker who would comment on mine and another co-workers regular Starbucks habit and what a waste of money it was. This same co-worker also drank about 4 bottles of Coke a day but I never commented on that. I just rolled my eyes and went on. That is until one day when she mentioned the woman she pays to clean her house weekly. I just looked her in the face and said “I’m sorry, did you just say you spend your personal money on someone to clean your house instead of doing it yourself? Do you realize what a waste of money that is? So basically you spend your money on thinks you deem important to you and we spend our money on things we deem important to us. I think we can both agree that you’re never going to comment on our Starbucks habit again.” She opened her mouth, closed it, and walked away. Never said a word about our coffee again. And just to be clear, I don’t give 2 flips if people pay someone to clean their house, I think that’s awesome if you want to do that. I just had to point out that she was judging her co-workers for “wasting money” in her words while spending her money on what other people would consider a waste.

  41. Bruno Barbosa*

    I never really comment here, but I had to note that Alison’s response to me seems to be dripping with juicy outrage. Loved it.

  42. Andy*

    Whilst pregs w my first child I was working at a non-profit and I told my director that I would not be returning after maternity leave. She asked me, very seriously, how on earth I thought I could afford that. It was my first IRL encounter w a concern troll.
    Truth be told, with what she paid, I couldn’t afford to come back. What I REALLY couldn’t afford was the negative reference that undoubtedly comes after laughing in your former grad-boss’s face.

  43. Ginger*

    So the less than roughly $1k you might spend in coffee per year should make up for the salary difference??

    Yeah, no.

    It’s weird, it’s none of her business. It’s insulting really.

    Not important but curious – did she pay you back when she asked you to pick up coffee for her?

  44. Jennifer*

    This is a Fox News talking point. Millennial are broke because they buy too much Starbucks, eat avocado toast, don’t pack their lunches, should take the bus, blah, blah, blah. Saving $4 isn’t going to make a significant change to your budget and as Alison said, what you spend your money on isn’t anyone’s business. You asked for a raise because you feel you deserve it. If your boss doesn’t feel your work warrants it, that’s what she should have focused on. It seems she didn’t want to address why she can’t give you a raise and wanted to put the blame on you.

    1. Observer*

      Not a Fox talking point. I hear it all over the place. Sometimes on the same outlets that point out the fallacy on a different show….

  45. Was I ready for a career leap?*

    This trope has always been a pet peeve of mine, frankly. Sure, no one “needs” a $4 coffee (or a $6 coffee, for that matter) — but expensive coffee is not the reason wages don’t stretch far enough, or student loan debt is so substantial, or child care so burdensome, etc. Allison is completely right that it has nothing to do with market value in the first place, so the inquiry should end there, but for what it’s worth, I also think the “irresponsible spending” argument breaks down on its own merits too.

  46. Rebecca*

    I worked for a manager like this. If she had a pool of money for raises, she’d give raises to people who had kids, whose spouses were unemployed or under employed, who were having mortgage or other bill issues, etc. and not necessarily to people who worked hard or were good workers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s no longer a manager here, and that we lost a lot of good workers to other companies during her tenure.

    Glad the OP got another job! And no doubt her clueless former boss will keep doing what she’s doing, and wondering why people keep getting hired and moving on.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      More reason to have high boundaries between bosses and personal lives. Like…she knew who had an unemployed or under employed spouse?! WUT.

      I don’t even know what my employees spouses do…

      Only once did someone even mention their spouses income in passing because they needed me to fill out paperwork for their mortgage lender. And all they said something about how their spouse is the breadwinner. Now I’m crying inside because evil people would use that as a reason to stop giving him raises when he’s one of the best leads we’ve had…so duh, we pay him what he’s worth [the top of that position’s bracket].

    2. Delta Delta*

      I had a similar boss once, too. He hired people he personally knew because they “needed a job” (despite they were not qualified for the jobs given). He distributed income-generating work disproportionately to people who he knew had student loans to pay and held back on distributing that work to people who were in what he perceived to be different financial situations. Everyone was able to see what was going on, and people were most unhappy about it.

    3. Sara without an H*

      And I’ll be that, when her own managers called her on it, she defended her actions as being those of a caring, compassionate, person…

      1. Rebecca*

        Bingo! We’re a family! Family takes care of family! OMG all of this and more. I once put together a case for a raise, based on performance, and was told by her that I made enough, and there were other people who made less than me who needed to be brought up to speed. I wish I was kidding. It didn’t matter they weren’t high performers, or even good performers, but they needed more money “more” than I needed it. So much UGH in all of this!!

      2. James*

        One of many reasons I hate the whole “culture of caring” nonsense I keep hearing about. Fitbits and Mindfulness Moments and other such nonsense. Don’t get me wrong: If you want to do it, that’s fantastic; my wife has lost a lot of weight by getting a Fitbit and tracking her steps. But companies doing this stuff always rubs me the wrong way. I always wonder what their angle is, because you know any corporation of reasonable size is going to have one.

  47. Anonymouse*

    There’s been a lot of blog posts on Ellevest talking about how sexist and regressive this pervasive view is. You do not owe your boss any justifications on your spending habits. Your pay should be commensurate with your work and the market standard, nothing else. I’d definitely come across a few bosses like this earlier in my career and realized soon that they’re just cheap and exploitative.

    1. Anonymouse*

      Ellevest also did the math on how stupid your boss’s line of thinking is. A coffee a day or an avo toast a week is not going to set you on your way to home-ownership or financial success. People like your boss is incredibly financially misinformed and removed from financial realities regarding a generation of workers saddled with student loans and economic events beyond our control.

  48. The New Spider Boss*

    My boss told me I should “ride my bike” to the train station to save on commuting costs rather than give me a raise. A) I don’t have a bike and b) I don’t live in an area where biking is safe to do… I felt so disrespected.

  49. bluephone*

    Your boss is an idiot AND a [redacted], you are truly well shot of her. Congrats and good luck on your new position! And enjoy that coffee :-D :-D :-D

  50. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    How you spend your salary is none of your awful boss’s business. Get out, and if you give notice at what happens to be the least convenient time, well, that would just be too bad for

  51. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I’d love to see one of these managers hire a contractor to remodel their kitchen (because we all know those types are remodeling their kitchens to the latest home-design standards as we speak), and, when given an estimate, respond with “Well actually, I think I should pay you five thousand less than you quoted. If you review your spending habits and cut your spending, maybe get a truck that uses less gas, get less takeout, cook your own food and pack your lunches instead… you’d be perfectly fine with the lower amount I’m going to pay you.” Would love to see how that would go over. But they’ll never say it, because they know better when their own property and their own spending are involved. Ugh it makes me so mad. It’s a business, not a charity. OP worked there because she brought value to the company (as her boss is about to find out now that OP is gone), not because a hiring manager took pity on her and put her on a payroll so she could afford clothes and a roof over her head, that’s not how any of this works!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They wouldn’t have to break it down like that though, in business people dicker all the time for better prices. So these people would ask for a discount from their contractors and depending on the scale of their project, they may actually get it!

    2. RVA Cat*

      I wonder if Coffee Boss might tell another employee “well if only you didn’t spend so much on insulin….”

    3. NotMyRealName*

      My husband repairs appliances and if I had a dime for every person who said “I wish I made $X/per hour” based on his labor charges, I’d be debt free. Never underestimate the gall of entitled people.

  52. theelephantintheroom*

    I’m glad Allison managed to find a way to put what I was thinking into words, because my brain went from “articulate response” to “unintelligible internal screaming” VERY quickly.

  53. KoiFeeder*

    Why go for just makeup and nails? I could spend $200 a week on wooden wiggle lizards and it still would not be justifiable if my boss told me to stop buying them and maybe I’d be happy with my salary.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I have 17 races on my calendar this year. If I wasn’t an ambassador for a local running company I’d easily be spending $600 just on race fees alone this year. Not to mention replacing worn out gear and the monthly fee for the gym where I go to cross train.

      If my boss told me to stop running as a way to justify paying me less I’d blow a gasket.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      After a quick check out of curiosity, you can get 10 wooden wiggle lizards for about a dollar each from the michael’s website if you use the promo code for bulk buys. That’s a lot of lizards.

      Unrelated, but I now have 10 wooden wiggle lizards in transit.

      1. Quill*

        Oh no.

        There’s a coupon?

        I already have too much yarn… though I desperately need more black embroidery floss…

        1. KoiFeeder*

          BULK40W! It only triggers on purchases that include 6+ of the same item, I think. So you should get six of the embroidery floss and then one skein of yarn for being responsible. (I’m mostly joking)

          1. Quill*

            Yes but if I cram more yarn in I have to figure out where to store it.

            on the other hand… I am intending to make some amigurimi…

              1. AKchic*

                My cats are quite happy with my yarn purchases, as their hobby is LAYING on my yarn purchases.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        :: off to google for wiggle lizards ::
        Yes. Those do look like fun.
        Do I get adult points for resisting?

  54. Arctic*

    On my last day, I would be so tempted to gift the boss a $5 gift card to Starbucks with a note saying “I can afford this now.”

    1. Quill*

      +1, though I’d be tempted to make it the exact list price of the drink so she’d have to pay the 15 cents in tax to use it.

  55. LGC*

    Like, I’m petty as all hell, but I would get a spread of avocado toast, designer cupcakes, and fancy coffee sent to your boss on your last day. With a note saying that it’s from her favorite millennial.

    (Seriously, though. Your boss is a walking thinkpiece about millennials and their irresponsible spending habits. And also, even if she WAS right about the fancy coffee every weekday…that’s a little over $1000 post tax! You’re still short at least $3500 pre-tax! Not only is your boss a jerk, her math is bad!)

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Did Bass Boss actually say anything about millennials? I didn’t see that

      1. LGC*

        She didn’t! But…it does sound like the stereotypical editorial about how young people can’t buy houses because they’re too busy buying avocado toast. And I think the boss deserves to be mocked for saying that.

        (And yeah, we don’t know how old the boss is and it doesn’t matter because this is banana crackers at any age.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A new euphemism for the glass in glass bowl? …. because “I’m all about the bass.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’d send enough cupcakes for the entire team…minus the boss. Because you know, “I’m saving money, just like you taught me. That’s 3.50!”

      1. LGC*

        See, I’m on the fence. Pointedly excluding her would be great, but I’m personally more for subtle digs. (I’m extremely passive aggressive if you push me.)

  56. Andy*

    I had a director at my last non-profit who, when I told her I wouldn’t be coming back after maternity leave, asked me ‘how on earth I could afford that’
    With what she paid me I literally couldn’t afford childcare so…..
    I have no idea where these intrusive personal and obvs judgy comments and questions come from but it is BANG OUT OF ORDER.

  57. Fikly*

    Holy gaslighting, Batman.

    Dear boss: Perhaps you would be happier if I cut back on my work to match the salary you are paying me?

  58. Small Biz Escapee*

    Was this a really small company? I just escaped a 15 month stint at a mom-and-pop after spending most of my career at bigger companies and found similarly jarring, unprofessional behavior there. Am wondering if it’s something that happens when there’s no HR to train people on how not to act?

  59. TurtleIScream*

    I was a volunteer in a non-profit, and I loved the work. The opportunity came up for me to be hired full-time, and I was able to negotiate my salary. My husband made more than enough to support our family, we were significant financial contributors to this non-profit, and I still researched market rates and refused to undercut the value of the offered position. It was absolutely no one else’s business whether or not I needed the money more than the organisation did.

    Your boss was so very out of line. I don’t care if you use your salary to buy out a whole showing at a cinema every day to enjoy a movie in peace. If you’re working for a company, they need to pay you appropriate wages, regardless of how you spend it.

  60. Close Bracket*

    Would there be differences in this answer if there were an element of COL? COL is partly determined by personal finances–living in a luxury, gated community with an HOA vs living in a less developed area outside city limits, for example. I ask this bc I was given a song and dance about COL when I got a lower salary after moving from a HCOL area to a LCOL area, while my colleague who moved from the same area got a raise (a huge raise). I intend to ask about the differences and was going to bring up the COL argument I got, but I wonder if that ventures too far into personal finance.

    1. fposte*

      The OP seems pretty thorough; I doubt that she’d have overlooked a significant COL difference between her location and the places paying the rate she requested. But even if she did, it’s still wildly inappropriate for the boss to talk about her coffee habits; he can note that the rate she’s requesting isn’t commensurate with local rates for the position because of the lower COL.

  61. Katefish*

    Dave Barry’s book on money, which I highly recommend, has a chapter in which the financial advice is to go to work, save money by not getting coffee on the way in, and get fired for sleeping at your desk. This boss seems to miss the point of that brilliant satire.

  62. Lauren*

    In that line of reasoning, the company could give up having an office – go remote and give everyone a raise. Let’s not talking about either my expenses or the companies, because it isn’t relevant to the conversation at hand – i’m not being paid market rate.

  63. CommanderBanana*

    Your boss is being an ass. Her asking you to get her coffee is so over-the-top passive aggressive, I can’t. I hope you get out of there soon.

  64. Mari*

    honestly, the gall of suggesting that saving a whopping $20 a week would suddenly transform your salary into the equivalent of $5,000 more.

    Everyone has their indulgences. I buy designer stuff …second hand ;) and it’s my own business of how I want to clothe myself.

  65. Coverage Associate*

    I agree with the consensus. One more thing on the economics: I have crunched the numbers many times, and depending on your at-home coffee set-up and your hourly wage, taking 3 minutes to pick up coffee at Starbucks can be the efficient opportunity cost choice because setting up and cleaning a coffee maker and mug can take more time = money than you’re spending by outsourcing the work to Starbucks.

  66. jihustow*

    Reminds me of a former boss who mentioned I shouldn’t complain about a pay cut (during a recession) because my husband was drawing military retirement pay. Like what does that have to do with what my company is paying me?

  67. Richard Hershberger*

    “The salary you should get paid — and the salary you should feel entitled to ask for — is based on the market value of your work in your field and in your geographic area. It has nothing to do with your spending or what it takes to support your lifestyle.”

    This was a big topic in the early days of professional baseball. Many ballplayers came from a working class background. They made far more playing ball than they would working in a factory. The owners were quick to point this out, when the subject of salary arose. But not all players were working class. There were college boys and sons of businessmen. These players had prospects outside of baseball. I have seen arguments made that those players should therefore be paid more. One writer pulled the “law of supply and demand” argument, with all the smarmy condescension we still get today from people who do that without understanding it.

    So did it turn out? The players organized a union, which set up its own league. It was touch and go for a while, but the traditional owners won that fight. They soon reduced wages to below the level where college graduates would be tempted. The question was reopened eventually, bringing on the free agent era, but that was decades later.

  68. christine c*

    In my first professional job, I gave my boss a full eight months notice that I planned to leave the following September to go to grad school. When annual reviews happened that March and everyone got their piddling 2% cost of living increase, she denied mine because I was “just leaving anyway”. I pointed out that this was really unfair, as I certainly hadn’t been obligated to give her so much notice of my planned departure, and I said in passing that every dollar counted even more now, as I was trying to save for grad school. Her incredibly inappropriate response was that if I wanted to save for grad school I should move back in with my parents!

    1. Leela*

      Did you report this to anyone higher up? Honestly they might have backed her anyway because they might have agreed with her reasoning, but they’re certainly sending a signal to every other employee that being nice and giving notice as soon as you know you’ll be leaving is not something they should do because they’ll be punished for it, so they’re really shooting themselves in the foot with this one

  69. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Hi OP, congratulations on your new job.

    You’ve been at this job for 7 years (?) and if your boss’s odd and inappropriate behaviour is considered acceptable by the company then I’m guessing your workplace is a little dysfunctional. To say the least.

    The fact that you were second guessing yourself about whether or not she was crossing a line, suggests that this place may have affected your sense of what’s normal and what’s messed up, in a workplace environment.

    I hope that your new place is entirely without dysfunction and you only have to work with competent, boundary respecting colleagues.

  70. James*

    This thread has made me want coffee. I do not need anything else feeding this addiction!!

    The 3% annual raise thing is pretty typical, in my experience. The goal is to match inflation, so that you’re not losing in your lifestyle but you’re not gaining any real wealth either. If the company doesn’t keep up with inflation you soon find that you can’t keep up with payments, because you’re actually losing money each year. Employees will put up with that only so long, then look for greener pastures. On the company’s side, the company can say that they’ve given you a raise, because technically they did. Yeah, I’m a cynic, but in this case it was very explicitly explained to me: unless you do absolutely astounding work, expect to break even when all is said and done.

    As for the coffee comment, yeah, the boss is an ass. Not sure what the norms are in your field, but in mine (environmental remediation) you DO NOT mess with coffee. Coffee is life. Coffee is sacred. And frankly, if the company is paying you so little that skipping coffee makes a significant difference in your finances, they’re paying you too little period. Your boss’s mentality would leave you without any buffer should something go wrong. And things ALWAYS go wrong.

  71. Sockit2me*

    The ultimate point is right: Boss is wrong to make this comment. But I think the message is totally off-base. Most people (the ones I know, anyway) do not derive their (dis)satisfaction with their salary primarily based on how they are paid vs. their peers. This is a factor, but not the biggest one. The biggest one is: can I buy the things I have to and want to buy. So, Boss is wrong from a very practical perspective: if LW has to stop drinking coffee because of her salary, that is very likely to REDUCE her job satisfaction, not improve it.

    Imagine this: “If you just moved from your one bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood to an SRO in a terrible neighborhood, you’d feel way more satisfied with your salary.” What? That’s truly an insane thing to say, right? THAT is the main reason Boss is wrong. All this fairness stuff is secondary at best.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      You have a point. I work so that I can afford to treat myself to a nice coffee every once in a while.

  72. Aggretsuko*

    I have seen the occasional link/video over the years about how skipping buying coffee really doesn’t save you all that much money.

  73. Tomalak*

    There are a range of lame Self Help books all about how by saving and investing one coffee’s spend a day anyone can be a millionaire or some such thing. Even the authors don’t usually literally mean never spend $3 a day on anything – they more mean that $20 a week wisely invested really can accumulate. But of course people who have simply skimmed the synopsis get to feel smug if they see anyone who does buy a coffee a day. Sigh.

    1. James*

      The idea behind it is good–you should spend your money consciously and know where it goes. A surprising number of people have no idea what they spend their money on.

      That said, if your budget includes a line item “$20/week for coffee”, that counts as conscious and knowing use of money. If you’re making your payments on time, have savings accumulated, and are living within or a bit below your means, small luxuries and planned-out large luxuries are 100% irrelevant.

  74. Leela*

    OP congrats on getting a new job!

    I think by now it’s probably obvious you’d have been fine to push back but I’d also be tempted to report this to someone, grandboss or HR if you had the option. I’d be pretty upset to know a manager on staff was talking like this to one of our employees and I’d definitely wonder if she was factoring things in for other people she had/hadn’t given raises to.

    Were there good employees she was going to give raises to but then didn’t because she saw a nice handbag and thought that they didn’t deserve it anymore?? Even if that person was gifted it? Are there people who got raises just because they appeared to be thrifty to her, and did that factor in more than their work did? Did we lose good people that we expected to be able to retain because she’s talking to them like this?

  75. Hiya*

    This reminds me about the times when men were paid more because “they supported families” pay should be based on work. Period. Not what you do in your personal life.

  76. Jennifer A.*

    I am dealing with something similar and don’t know what to do. I asked my boss for a raise since it I was supposed to receive it initially a year ago. It was moved back due to budgeting several times. Long story short, my boss told me that I should be grateful for the amount of money that I make because I:
    1. Get to attend a conference this year for work (not that I care or asked for)
    2. Get a bonus “unlike most companies” s
    3. I make the most money on the floor
    4. And I make more money than him

    I’ve done my research and I am making a little bit less than what my industry does in my area. However, there are ZERO places hiring for what I do right now. How do you deal with asking for a promotion when your manager makes you feel like shit for what you make??

    1. Krabby*

      “I’m not here to discuss other people’s compensation. I’d like to stay focused on my role in relation to the job market.” Say it calmly and pleasantly and redirect back to the conversation.

      That said, it sounds like everyone in your department is underpaid, so I have a feeling you are fighting a losing battle.

  77. GreenDoor*

    I just take issue with the fact that the only way to get a raise is to get a promotion. Not everyone wants to work a higher level, or move from support staff to a managerial role. Not everyone can handle the additional workload or time demand of a promotion. This policy means that you either keep the same position for your whole career and never make much more than your starting salary….or take a promotion that you’re not qualified/enthusiastic/ready for just to get the raise, and are then are less successful in the role. Idiotic! Coffee is not the problem here…

    1. James*

      The company I work for has a range for each level of employee. I’m just shy of mid-range for my level–which makes sense, as I as just promoted. If I want to make more than the cap for this level, I need to get promoted.

      I get it. I also get why a company would say “If you want a significant raise you need to get a promotion.” The issue is, outside of exceptional employees and obvious outliers, if you remain at the same level you’re going to be making the same amount of money for the company. It makes sense to have a cap on salary reflecting that cap on income. An employee is, after all, an investment on the part of the company, and the company expects a return on that investment.

      Does that mean you keep the same position and never make much more than your starting salary? In practical terms, usually not. Usually the lack of increased income starts to chafe and the employee either works towards a promotion or leaves the company. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–some industries (fast food, for example) are built on short-term employees that everyone knows are short-term employees.

      Obviously there are limits here–paying someone the same now as they were paid in 1983 would be unreasonable, to say the least! But again, outside situations that are obviously going to be exceptional, this policy makes sense.

  78. Nee Attitude*

    OP’s former boss: “ You’d be content with how much money you make if you never had to spend any of it.”

    There’s virtue in not letting trolls seep into your private life, even if you report to them.

  79. Just a Dreamer*

    If OP didn’t spend $4 per day on coffee they would save $20/wk or $1,040/year (which is a high estimate as it assumes no PTO or holidays). To use that as justification for paying someone $5K under market is AS-I-NINE with an extra S.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Even if the coffee were 5x as expensive, it’s still wrong to use that spending to justify paying someone $5k under market.

  80. Hazwa*

    As my family has said in reference to a manager who made a snide comment about money practices when an employee asked to have her vacation time paid out “She could be spending all her money on blow and VLTs and it would still be none of her business”

  81. Retail not Retail*

    One time my coworker got food on site and another asked her what it cost and then said that’s what she pays for like 3 lunches. Okay then.

    Also does anyone ever get a feeling your employer bets on outside financial support? Not a second job, but an assumption that you’re hiring retirees or people under 26 (well since obamacare). Not as extreme as walmart’s reliance on govt programs, but that sense.

  82. Amethystmoon*

    Everyone has something they buy that someone else trying to be more frugal wouldn’t buy. Even if you drink the free coffee at work, maybe you buy some groceries organic, or treat yourself to a dark chocolate bar once in a while. It shouldn’t be a reason to deny someone a raise.

  83. Database Developer Dude*

    In the Army Reserve, I’m a Chief Warrant Officer. Anyone telling me I spend to much money on coffee is going to get resoundly laughed out of existence.

  84. Sarah*

    Wow. I would have immediately gone to HR if that comment showed up on my review. That has literally nothing to do with job performance and/or the question of whether or not to give someone a raise. So glad you ran away- this is NOT professional behavior.

  85. Kat in VA*

    It’s probably already been said – +500 comments and counting – but $4/day equates to roughly $1200 annually. If OP was underpaid by $5000 a year, it wouldn’t balance out. They’d still be underpaid by $3800 a year. Was the boss as bad at math as she was at everything else?

  86. Anon Accountant*

    Glad you’ve moved on and have a great new job offer!!

    My old boss did something similar with almost the same comments about how I didn’t need a raise if I could buy a new purse, lunch bag, etc. I left in April 2018 for a 40% pay increase and actual benefits.

    Again soooo happy you’ve moved on! Enjoy the new job and hope it goes great for you.

  87. Anon Here*

    Victim-blaming. That’s what this is. “I’m being under-paid.” -> “That’s your problem because you drink too much coffee.”

    And the victimizer is the one doing the blaming. “Victimize” is a strong word for being slightly underpaid, but that’s basically what’s going on here.

  88. tricolero*

    I once had a boss in a similar situation tell me I didn’t need a pay rise because ‘look at that fancy car you’re driving around in’. That ‘fancy’ car was a 2 year old Jetta that I had bought with my father’s life insurance payout following his death from cancer maybe a year prior.

    My boss knew all of that. And I left shortly after.

  89. Jessica Ganschen*

    Even with a $4 coffee every workday, fifty weeks out of the year, that’s only a thousand dollars extra, which is what, part of your rent? Maybe one whole payment and part of another? A nice new TV? And you’d *still* be underpaid by $4k even if you counted the saved money as a pay rise somehow.

  90. fhqwhgads*

    I don’t know if I’d actually say it outloud but my immediate thought was…$4 five days a week, for lets say 48 weeks a year assume 2 weeks of vacation and maybe 10 paid holidays, is only about a thousand bucks worth of coffee. So even if this had any bearing on anything to do with work – which is most certainly does not – the beef would still be about $4,000. So no, not buying those coffees would not make the salary feel adequate. Try again, weird justification boss person.

  91. CWWest*

    Coffee or not, it’s none of her business. It’s your lifestyle; your employer needs to focus on your work life only. Focusing on your personal life for salary reasons is not okay.

    I had a similar situation happen to me a little over a few years back, except it wasn’t related to coffee. It was living with my aunt. I live in a high cost of living area, and my former employer had the gall to pay me only $15/hr for a job where the market rate wask $47K a year, and the company’s revenue had more than tripled in a few short years. Everyone else was making at least $50K a year at my level at that company.

    So why did he pay me so low? Because he thought I could live rent free with my aunt for the rest of my life and use me as cheap labor because I didn’t have to pay rent and I should be happy since I didn’t have to pay rent, I should be comfortable with that. And yes, I was in my late 20s at the time, so living at home rent free wasn’t so cute anymore. I made no mention of this to my employer, but I wasn’t thrilled. Let’s just say 5 short months later, my job ended on a (very) bad note.

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