Have you ever looked at another person’s life and wished that their clothes, their cars, and their vacations could be yours? It’s not uncommon, and I’ll admit that I’ve fallen prey to money envy.
When my husband and I first got married, we had great jobs and a couple thousand bucks from wedding presents, but we didn’t spend much money. Seeing our friends blow cash on romantic trips and new cars was somewhat depressing, and even though I knew we were saving for a new house, I still had major jealousy issues when they showed up with new cars and I was still driving my beat-up Jeep Wrangler.
Beating the Budget Blues
Even if you know you’re making good financial decisions, it can still make you wince to watch others effortlessly afford a home remodeling or a vacation to Hawaii. It can seem like all your hard work, budgeting, and scraping together is useless. But it’s important to remember that appearances are not always what they seem. By reigning in your perceptions, you can help banish thoughts of money envy so you’re happier with your own budget, and are less likely to splurge on things you can’t afford.
1. Get the Facts
The average American household’s debt rests just under $16,000, which is proof that some of your friends’ spending probably isn’t free and clear. When you feel “less-than” because you can’t afford the latest must-have purse, take comfort in the fact that you spend within your means. Plenty of expenditures on the latest technology, trips, cars, and other stuff is put on credit, which means thousands in interest and debt.
While it may be taboo to ask your friends about their finances, rest assured that by keeping a tight leash on your expenses, you’re minimizing the amount of debt you will need to pay off later. Sure, you drive a beater car now, but by pinching your pennies (and more), you could score a nicer ride with minimal debt in the future. When in doubt, remember that appearances are deceiving: A seemingly well-to-do neighbor might actually be drowning in debt, and that’s nothing to be jealous of.
2. Choose Your Friends
Social situations often highlight what you can’t afford. If your best friends are willing to blow a couple hundred dollars on a pair of shoes, you might be more likely to follow suit – or feel bad about not being able to. That’s why you should choose your friends and your activities wisely.
Don’t cut off super-spenders from your life completely, just be choosy with the time you spend together. If window shopping with a high roller makes you feel jealous, stick to money-free activities, like a day at the beach. Then, save spending activities for friends who have similar budgets and financial strategies.
3. Ask Questions
You can’t ask your friend what she spent on her cruise outright. That would be rude and could strain your relationship. But you might say, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go! How long did it take you to save up for it?” And she might say, “Oh, I just used our credit cards,” or “We just put away $50 a month until we had it saved!”
Only be envious of smart strategies and frugality, not getting deeper into debt. That way, you’ll be inspired to be budget-conscious instead of being jealous or splurging on a trip.
4. Back Off
If spending time with a certain friend or neighbor makes you feel depressed about your financial situation, it might be a good time to take a break from him or her. Hanging out with someone who constantly spends and flaunts wealth can lead you to spend more than you can afford or feel bad about yourself, neither of which will help you reach your long-term financial goals. There’s no shame in taking some time to retool your expectations and feel better about your financial planning without the constant pressure to spend more.
5. Look at the End Game
Remember why you’re not spending money in the first place. Whether it’s to save for retirement, get your budget under control, or pay off debt, it’s better than hemorrhaging money just to keep up with the Joneses. Print a picture of your financial goals and place it somewhere you’ll see often. That way, when you’re feeling jealous of a neighbor’s new ride, you have an instant reminder of why you’re a smart saver and not a silly spender.
At times, it has been hard for me to save money when all my single and just-married friends are out blowing cash and having fun. But when my husband and I were able to build and move into our own house by the time I turned 23, a couple of years of penny-pinching was totally worth it. Now I’m building equity while some of my friends are scrambling to pay off mountainous debt. And yes, I still drive that old Jeep Wrangler.
Have you ever had issues with money jealousy? What did you do to get over it?