“Well, that’s not stealth wealth.” “Do you know how many years you’re delaying retirement with that kind of spending?” “Could my neighbor keep up with the Joneses any harder?” “I have these friends who would have a lot more money if they just wouldn’t make such bad choices with their money.”
It’s easy to spout hard-and-fast rules. It’s simple to lob criticisms. It’s much more difficult to understand the nuances of each person’s situation. But we’re not here to take the easy road, are we?
Maybe we are. Lately, I’ve noticed more judgement in the money community. And we’re judging everyone: Internet strangers, celebrities, neighbors, family, and friends. Poor people. Rich people. Maybe not as many middle class people if you believe anonymous bloggers on Twitter.
But we’re judging a whole lot of people for a whole lot of spending.
And the bottom line is it’s not our place.
No One Owes You an Apology for Spending Money
I straight up lied when I first drafted my prenatal spending post because I was horrified that I had purchased maternity clothes. I wasn’t concerned about the environmental impact. I wasn’t even upset that every dress was decked out in either horizontal stripes (très chic when you already look like you swallowed a beach ball) or some kind of garish wallpaper from straight from the 10 Ugly Wallpapers You Wish You Could Unsee list (most of the offerings were a cross between #2 and #5).
I was embarrassed that I, a blogger who has espoused the benefits of frugality, spent money at a time when I actually needed to buy something.
Of course, someone commented. It’s so surprising. It’s so very unlike me. It’s not frugal.
Look, it’s not like I went out and ate too much Chipotle one night and then decided to overhaul my entire wardrobe to make up for a day of burrito bowl discomfort.
I was growing a human. For forty weeks. Wedged under my ribs. With one foot on my bladder. It is one of the most magical and violent transformations the human body undergoes.
And it’s not like I didn’t try all the damn frugal tricks first. But I kept snapping the rubberbands that I wove through the buttonholes on my regular pants. And when your pants aren’t buttoned, your zipper doesn’t stay zipped.
Don’t believe me? Try it next time you go to work. Go ahead. Pop that top button. Bonus points if your job requires you to bend down or crawl around on the floor. Ah. Now my spending makes sense.
I thought that would be the last time I felt pressured to apologize, pressured to not spend my money because someone else said they wouldn’t in that same situation. I thought I had finally realized that it isn’t up to anyone else how I choose to spend my money. I thought I had learned my lesson.
Then, I found myself apologizing on Twitter for buying and wearing makeup. Yes, it would be cheaper to give it up entirely. Yes, it would be a timesaver. But here’s the thing, I’m not going to. I like my tinted moisturizer and my mascara. I worked really hard to find cruelty-free products that fit nicely in my budget.
And I can’t stress this enough. It’s not anyone’s damn business whether I spend $8 or $80 or even $800 on makeup each year as long as I can afford it and it fits with my values.
Are You Really Helping?
It’s true that there are instances where mindless spending can come back to haunt you. Each time I look at my closet, it’s like I’m visited by three spirits of days gone by: The Ghost of Clearance Racks, Sample Sales, and Paychecks Past. Those demons are mine and mine alone to face. It’s my work to sort out. No one else’s. If I owe anyone an apology, it’s myself.
Telling me that I now have to work an extra 6.7 months based on your early retirement spreadsheet is a waste of time. Mine and yours. Seriously. Don’t run the numbers for me. Save your 240 characters. I can’t undo my past spending habits, and guilt isn’t going to fix anything.
Related Post: Guilt is Not the Antidote to Consumerism
If you really want to help someone, great. But ask yourself this first. Do they want your help? Do they need your help? Did they ask? Or are you simply looking for an opportunity to share your own money moves with a larger audience?
When we make people feel bad about their spending, especially if it is spending they can afford, we erase what progress the personal finance community has made. Inroads into consumer culture are hard-fought and hard-won. No one likes to feel judged, belittled, or less than. I can’t think of a faster way to shutdown a conversation or discredit yourself.
Repeat after me, friends. No one owes you an apology for spending their money. You don’t owe anyone an apology for spending your money. If you have the money and it aligns with your priorities and values, spend away.
So Tell Me…Have you ever felt pressured into not buying something?