My friend Kelly has a hard time spending money on herself, even though she is financially secure. When she and her husband came to visit, her husband encouraged her to buy things while us girls were out shopping. Kelly needs that nudge to treat herself. She made purchases here and there throughout the day, and I loved watching the excitement on her face when she was handed bags laden with goods.
I only bought one small thing that day, but I didn’t have any jealousy over Kelly’s pile of purchases. I wasn’t tempted to judge her for how she spent her money. Instead, I was happy for her. In a way, I lived vicariously through her as she picked up items I also loved.
Before you think I’m super virtuous, let me tell you — it hasn’t always been that way. I struggled with judging others on their spending behavior for a long time. It started in college, when one friend always seemed to use her parent’s credit card on clothes and purses whenever I visited her. I’d listen to her talk about how she didn’t have much money and then watch her spend her parent’s money.
My temptation to judge continued to grow as I got older, mainly because my group of peers was in a similar stage of life as me — fairly new out of college with loans to pay, newly married, renting to save up for a new house or purchasing first homes. I was shocked to hear about luxury honeymoons, new cars, designer shoes, etc. How can they afford this? I’d wonder. How is that a wise decision?
The worst was when friends would grumble about their money situation and then turn around and buy something. I didn’t understand how or why people would pay for gym memberships or anniversary getaways when they claimed to be going broke. I also didn’t understand how people could complain about not having money to travel, but they had enough money to eat out frequently and go on monthly shopping sprees. You DO have the money, I’d think. You’re just not spending it properly.
When I think about it, I’m sure I’ve given other people reasons to be tempted to judge how my husband and I spend our money. I travel fairly frequently. I tend to purchase items when I’m out shopping with friends. We’ve purchased a few new furniture pieces over the past two years. To others, I might look like quite the spendthrift.
But here’s what people might not know: I buy things when I’m out with friends because I rarely shop alone. I will go months without stepping in a Target, because Target is amazing and it’s a dangerous place for me. I return items all the time. I go to the hair salon twice a year at most. I sell things on Craigslist to help pay for new furniture. My parents helped us with the down payment on our home, and they pay for the bulk of our family vacations. We don’t do big gifts or hotel stays for birthdays or anniversaries. Other than our mortgage, we have no debt hanging over our heads.
Once I started to think of why people shouldn’t judge me, it hit me that there are a lot of reasons why I should quit judging others. (Other than the obvious — judging others is wrong in the first place.) I don’t want to assume I know everything about everyone else’s financial situations. I don’t want to be tempted to question my friends’ wisdom. I don’t want to be tempted to view them with disrespect. I don’t want to let feelings of jealousy rise up when I see friends spend money on things I wish I had.
Maybe their parents or a relative gave them a monetary gift, and that’s how they could afford to buy that nice home. Maybe they have been saving up money to go on that trip. Maybe they’re using their birthday money to buy that expensive pair of jeans. Maybe they got a big promotion. Maybe they don’t spend their money on home décor (which I do) and instead spend it on getting highlights (which I don’t).
Or maybe they really are making poor money decisions. It’s still not my place to judge them — but, depending on our level of friendship, I can offer my advice. I can share how my husband and I have a discussion each year about how we plan to spend our tax return. (Last year we went on a three-day trip. This year we’re getting a new vacuum and fridge!) I can recommend financial aid classes, or offer to be an accountability partner. I can suggest my favorite way to guard spending: putting a pre-determined amount of cash in an envelope and limiting my spending to the amount of cash I have with me.
I realized something that day with Kelly. I shouldn’t need to know a person’s reason for spending money on things they enjoy. The only financial situation I should reflect upon on is my own. It’s much more fun to celebrate purchases with a friend instead of worrying, can they really afford that?
For more suggestions, check out 7 Tips for Talking Money with Friends.
Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.