Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why we need to stop judging other people on how they spend their money

One of the problems with money is how much people judge each other on how they choose to spend it. Obviously there are other problems with money. Such as, for many people, not having enough of it. Or, in the case of Scrooge McDuck, the ever-present risk of giving himself concussion after diving into a pit of coins. While those topics would be interesting issues to cover (especially poor McDuck's injuries), though, it's the issue of judgy-ness that I wish to address today. Maybe this isn't relevant to you as you never judge people on how they spend their money. In which case, you deserve a medal. Or perhaps, no-one ever judges you either. If that's the case, all your friends and family deserve medals. But, if you're like many people I know who either get judged or are judged, here are my top tips on why you should never judge other people on how they spend .

As I touched on here, it's far too easy to judge other people by how they spend their money. Everyone has different priorities. Just because you choose to spend thousands on a diamond-encrusted chastity belt, doesn't mean that your friend who spent the same amount on a learning the ancient arts of Gorilla massage is in the wrong. It's just different.

Moreover, when you spend money, you've been through the process of rationalising it to yourself. Through this process you've convinced yourself of one of four things:

1. You WANT it! You've decided that whatever you're buying or spending money on is something you really want and will bring you joy. Or, at the very least, that little buzz you get from spending money on something nice.

2. You NEED it! It's something you need to pay for or buy, like tax and bills and food. After all, no-one wants to live in a house with no water or electricity while waiting for the tax-man to come knocking, with nothing but the sound of your rumbling stomach for company.

3. You *cough* NEED it *cough* kinda ... This is the category of stuff that you actually want, but have managed to convince yourself that you need it. Most of what I buy probably fits here. I *cough* need *cough* a new Tablet. Or some new jeans. Or a TV that connects to the internet.

4. You can afford it. Technically. Even if it comes at the expense of something else, or has been put on your credit card with no plan of how to pay it back. At least, by whatever means, you can walk out of the shop with your purchase having paid in some shape or form.

When other people watch you spend that money, though, they haven't been through that process. The judgement comes when people watch others spend and think one of four things instead:

1. Do I want it? No. What a waste of money! You should be spending your money on the same things as me.

2. Do I need it? Yes, but I can't see you paying for your power or groceries, so don't think about that at all. All I can see is your brand-new TV or the photos of your holiday on Facebook. When you should have been spending your money on the same things as me.

3. Do I *cough* need it *cough*? No. What a waste of money! And, you are deluded for thinking that this thing is any more than a want. You should spend your money on the same things as me.

4. Can I afford it? No. I take you spending money on something I'd consider a nice-to-have evidence that you have money to burn. And I'm conveniently forgetting that I probably could have afforded that dinner out if I hadn't spent so much on new clothes, because to me, clothes were a *cough* need *cough*.

This judgement gets even worse when two people are on different sides of what I think of as the experiences vs objects divide. Some people value experiences more highly than material things. My husband and I firmly fit in that camp: we love travel, but don't yet own a house. If I had a dollar for every time someone had mentioned that we would own a house by now if we hadn't traveled, we'd have a nice little deposit. But, we haven't regretted it for an instant. We also don't have as much stuff as many other people, especially gadgets. My mobile has been made fun of on two separate occasions in the past week due to its age, and my husband's is so dated it's practically only one step removed from a papyrus scroll. Our couches are threadbare and were owned by my Mum for over a decade before they came to us, and our car is too small. We don't care though. We're going on another holiday instead of replacing those things. Experiences are what make us happy.

Of course, plenty of other people are the opposite. They own their homes and have smartphones and nice furniture. They own cars that you can fit a double pram in without having to take off the wheels first, and have nicer clothes. But perhaps they haven't traveled, or don't go on family holidays. And that's fine, different strokes for different folks and all that. It's just important to be aware of the experiences vs objects divide when hitching up your brand-new judgy-pants about someone else's day pass to an amusement park or some other experience. Or, not judging someone on their lack of paid activities for their children, when their children have better clothes and more toys.

Lastly, it's worth remembering that many people don't have these choices. They can't afford experiences or objects after basic needs are met.  Some people live in a house with no water or electricity and go hungry. It's also a shame that the people most harshly judged by society for spending, are those with the least to spend. It seems so mean-spirited that if someone has little money, many people genuinely believe that they are never entitled to buy something simply because they want it.  And anyway, if someone is in financial strife as a direct result of their spending, they need better tools to manage their money, not judgement. Or better education to allow them to get better value for their money.

We all need to stop judging each other on how we spend. At the end of the day, it's none of our business. Although, we can continue to judge Scrooge McDuck. After all, with all of his money, surely he could buy a swimming pool that's less of a health and safety risk? 

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