Tar Baby - a financial black hole

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of a tar baby, then let me tell you about southern folklore where a fox made a baby of tar to snare his rival the rabbit. When the rabbit engages the "baby" in conversation and it doesn't respond, the rabbit pokes and pushes the object and becomes ensnared in the tar. It's a sticky mess that consumes the rabbit, and there is no hope of getting unstuck.

Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary defines a baby made of tar as "something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself" and that's about as good an explanation as we need. You get the idea, once you're stuck, you're stuck.

Do you have someone in your life that is high maintenance, puts you in the financial "hurt locker," or otherwise drains you financially? If so, then you have yourself a human tar baby, and you're not alone.

There are many like you across the country, and you're all in trouble. If you don't put distance between yourself and the tar baby, you're going to be in big long-term trouble. Let's look at some examples based on my personal knowledge:

  • A friend that borrows money and never pays it back. You know these people from school - they were always "borrowing" a piece of paper or some other item that they should have had all along. They're just like a street beggar - give them something and they'll identify you as a resource for future begging.

  • A spouse that enters the marriage with clothes, car and a television, and not much else. You're the one providing the rest of the resources, and that includes the house and all the money necessary to run a household. They're a type of leech or parasite.

  • A "significant other" with a drug or gambling problem. You're feeding their addiction with hard earned cash, or they find money or other resources (of yours) to resell to support their irresponsible behavior.

  • A less than ambitious adult child who depends on you for rent, food and so forth. They usually have a sunny disposition because they don't have the worries and burden of gainful employment.
When faced with something similar, the best money saving idea is to alter your behavior to make it clear that their game of irresponsibility isn't going to fly anymore. You need to:
  • Cut them off so they stop feeding on you.
  • Stop enabling them to be irresponsible.
  • Break off the relationship if necessary.
  • Let them crash and burn by themselves.
Short of that, you'll have a relationship based primarily on them targeting your resources. They'll be a monkey on your back for as long as they think they can stay balanced there.

If you continue to support the tar baby, you're only providing them with a crutch. Take away that enabling crutch and beat them over the head with it.

Once you do that, they won't come back for more. It's difficult to do, but something that will benefit you and the dependent that you are enabling.

Remember, the first thing you're taught when it comes to saving a drowning person is not to let them get a hold of you. They'll climb all over you to keep themselves from drowning, and chances are that both of you will drown.

I've been down that financial road once, and I'm not doing that ever again. It wasn't pleasant, and it was all avoidable. If you're in this situation, then put this money saving idea to work for you, and take action to set yourself free.

Here is a key to decision-making in this area. Imagine with all your heart that what the irresponsible person in your life is doing, saying or imposing on you, is something that you are doing, saying or imposing on them. In other words, put yourself in their shoes and imagine that it's you and not them engaged in the activity.

Then, think about what "you" have done and see how you feel about yourself. If you feel fine, then what they're doing isn't in conflict with your values.

If you feel awful about it, then there is a tremendous distance between your values and their values. If you say "I would never ever do anything like that", then it's time to turn and walk away.

Again, I've been there, done that, and I ain't ever doing it again. People only take advantage of you to the extent that you allow it. Wake up and realize that you own part of the blame, and stop allowing them to abuse you.

I feel so strongly about this topic that I wrote an additional page about tar babies wherein I provide several examples of some I have known.

Just for fun, here is a visual of what a tar baby can be in your life. Watch the first few minutes of this classic W.C. Fields clip, you'll get the idea of what a tar baby is all about.

Done with Tar Baby, take me back to Money Saving Ideas

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.