“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?
Britt | Tiny Ambitions
I think you know the answer is yes! Some of it I do to myself (because of the shopping ban), but some of it is from what I worry the perception will be from people in the online space. Even if it’s something I genuinely need, I often second guess myself. I agree with you though – as long as I can afford it and it aligns with what is important to me, it really isn’t anybody’s business. (That doesn’t make for quite as interesting Twitter talk though lol).
I am not a blogger and I don’t share my finances so I have far less pressure to conform. I read but don’t post on most FIRE or simplicity blogs as hubby and I make different choices than most and I don’t want to defend or debate our choices. We are FI and RE and have been for years and have sufficient assets for our lives unless something huge happens to our economy and then we might all be toast anyway. ?.
So my big financial “no-no” is that we eat out one meal a day pretty most days. I know…horrible huh? Neither of us likes to cook and we like eating out. We eat breakfast at home always but either have lunch or dinner out, depending on our schedules. I am petite and a small eater so I generally bring home enough leftovers to cover another meal or even two. We are both healthy and fit and choose meals where we can control our nutritional intake. We are NOT eating fast food or junk food. Does this lifestyle cost more money? Yes, but probably less than you’d think. We spend less at the grocery store and the bottom line is that we can afford our choices and most importantly, it’s how we want to live.
Buy your make-up, maternity clothes and any other damn thing that makes YOU happy. This lifestyle is all about identifying what is and what is not worth the money to each of us and by definition, that is a personal choice.
No one sane is going to begrudge you maternity clothes. If you decide that you need a brand new Lexus to transport the baby in, however, there may be som rised eyebrows. But you do you.
I have a bad habit of judging other people’s spending choices. I don’t say anything out loud, but I’m thinking it. I often have to mentally slap myself to stop myself. However, where I absolutely explode is when someone with questionable spending habits starts on a ‘woe’s me’ rant. That’s when I lose it and say out loud what I’m thinking.
Spend your own money on whatever you like – whether you have the funds to do so or you’re running up your credit card. But DO NOT bitch to me afterwards about how you have no money and how it’s everyone else’s fault that you’re broke!
I couldn’t agree more Penny! I feel like the FIRE world has gone a little bonkers and now people who are great with their money feel as if they have to apologize or somehow validate that when they do spend money on something. I hate that. If your financial house in not in order and you go about spending willy-nilly, then you are not doing yourself a favor. But if those money ducks are all in a row and you will get some value out of a purchase, then why the hell not buy it. Sometimes it feels like we have gone too far in the direction of frugality that people think any purchase is bad.
[wipes away a tear] You’re ready. That RuPaul gif was a thing of beauty.
This was a good reminder for me on the opposite side of things. I have a few friends I judge relentlessly for their dumb expenditures… and that’s not cool. I need to recognize that their money is theirs, and my opinion of how they use it really isn’t important. I think it springs from jealousy: one of my friends works in tech, and if I made as much annually as he did, I would be mortgage free by now. So it frustrates me to see him “waste” his money on toys I would never dream of purchasing. But his priorities are not my priorities. And that’s ok.
This is why I stopped posting spending reports. I couldn’t deal with the people telling me that I was spending too much money and my blog isn’t even that popular! I got so tired of people (namely my parents) telling us that our wedding reception was a waste of money. The other day, my aunt was saying that she doesn’t see the point of them when all they do is cause the couple to start their marriage in debt from their wedding. I wish I’d said that I agree starting your marriage with debt is bad, but not everyone does and we certainly didn’t or we wouldn’t have done it.
The Luxe Strategist
Strangely enough, no one has really said anything about my spending. But if I posted a spending report, then I’m sure they’d have a conniption.
My best theory on that is that you always break down the why and how of most purchases you make, which makes it harder to second guess strangers’ decisions!
That’s why I loved your spending reports. Instead of frugal version of “thinpo” posts, you were the only female blogger I could find making 6 figures and crushing saving and investing while spending consciously on your priorities.
Yes I partook of a year clothing ban and would recommend it to everyone. Not for the money saved from never buying anything again that could count as vanity spending, but for a mental reset. The best thing for me was learning to spend money on clothes for the lifestyle I actually live not aspire to, and buying clothes for an intentional purpose, made with natural fibers, that made me feel excited to get dressed, and not just buying because I found it on the clearance rack when I was bored or shopping for something else.
This notion in the personal finance that once you are “content with enough” you should no longer want pretty shoes, mascara or an SPF primer boggles my mind. No one should feel awkward for not using hand me down nursing bras or maternity pants sag your crotch to your knees, ESPECIALLY after meeting all your financial goals first!
Thanks LX! <3 I did a survey a while back and the consensus seemed to be that women appreciated the reports and men hated them go figure! I’ve also started trying to only buy natural fabric clothing and plenty from small makers too. It’s been an interesting experiment! I too used to just buy clothes because they fit. I’m so much better at returning things now when they don’t work out. I’ve shifted weight so much in the last several years (gained 20% of the starting weight, lost half of it and then gained 20% back from that new weight) that having clothes that correctly fit me makes me feel so much better about my body, which is incredibly important. I love SPF moisturizer in the summer, but I buy a drugstore one because it’s the first one I tried that my face didn’t hate so it works.
The hubs and I just bought a beautiful winter white leather sectional sofa with a so dark grey that it looks black ottoman. New. Brand new. We’re 58 and 60 and it’s the first time that we’ve bought something that wasn’t on clearance or a garage sale/hand-me-down and was exactly what we wanted. Did I mention that we’re 58 and 60? I double dog dare someone to try and shame us for spending that money! Frugal is good, frugal is wise but not to the point that you’re sitting on your piles of money like a dragon sitting on his hoard and incinerating anyone who so much as touches it, lol! We are loving our sectional and ottoman! It brings us great pleasure and satisfaction every day….much more pleasure and satisfaction than that money was giving us as it sat in the bank while we sat on uncomfortable furniture that we had come to actively despise. Do I still consider us to be frugal? Hell yes! We drive a 13 year old car and a 18 year old truck. We diy. I buy clothes at the thrift stores and rarely anything new. I cut my own hair and my husband’s. We rarely eat out and cook from scratch. I make my own laundry detergent and line dry clothes and towels. We put money away every single paycheck. We’re frugal….not as frugal as some but more frugal that others. It’s good to have money socked away for retirement and emergencies. But here’s the thing….we’re not promised tomorrow. Tomorrow may not come. And if it doesn’t, what good will all that money do is then? Be frugal….definitely. But don’t be so frugal that you won’t spend some money to make your today worth living in.
Can I secretly ask you what brand of tinted moisturizer you use so that no one judges me? I’ve been searching for a good one for months… Thanks 🙂
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Physician’s Formula – but it’s the Organic Wear that is NOT in the pink tube. I’ll see if I can grab a link!
FIRE in the hole
Such a great post! I consider myself a ‘frugal hedonist’ – I save on things that aren’t important to me (I couldn’t possibly care about designer clothes so my stuff is from thrift shops or the clearance rack at Marshall’s) but splurge on things that ARE important to me. It balances out in a way that works for us, our budget, and our retirement goals.
I often marvel at the things that others spend their money on (like pedicures or having my car ‘detailed’) that I’m too cheap to do. But those are things THEY care about, so who am I to judge?
My mother is the most frugal person I know – homemade laundry soap, all her plants started from seed under grow lights, runs her appliances on off hours to save, etc. But she donates a lot to female candidates running for office around the country. Because that is important to HER.
Everyone is different, and that’s a good thing!
I challenge anyone to find someone who is frugal about absolutely everything in their life. I doubt that person exists, or if they do, they may become that person who is featured on the news because they lived in a one-room apartment, with everything (furniture, clothes, etc.) being decades old – but it turns out they died with five million dollars. I don’t want to be that person, do you?
OMG…I live in a one-bedroom apartment with decades-old furniture. This could be me someday (although I’m a long way from having $5 million).
Mrs. Picky Pincher
I want to print out this blog and post it on my wall, car, and forehead. Thanks for being a voice of compassion and level-headedness, Penny. 🙂 It’s tough when you share your money choices so publicly. Fortunately, it’s OUR names on the bank account and not everyone else. 😉
Mrs. Picky Pincher
Oh, and I spent $600 on an automatic litterbox robot. I was too embarrassed about it to say anything for fear of being frugal witch-hunted. Consider myself cleansed!
P.S. The time and gross stink it saves me is worth the money. And it was paid with my side hustle moolah anyway.
Lily | The Frugal Gene
Can this be applied to no one can tell you how to spend money if you’re not spending?
Because every time I tell someone we live on less than $27k a year (including the mortgage) as a family of 3, they look like I came out of the woods with a beard. Worst, they get defensive because apparently spending too little is offensive to some. Oy…the internet.
I wouldn’t judge Soap or anyone else ever if she could afford her lifestyle. That’s not my problem and I kind of…don’t care about anyone else. Why do people get so tripped up.
(I bought a pair of Pradas but I’m a little afraid of publishing a post on that which is an odd feeling…)
I am ashamed at times to admit how much I spend on eating out, because I could retire much earlier if I didn’t. But I love going to restaurants, and not having to deal with the stress of cooking makes my work life much more bearable.
My primary reason for eating out is to reduce stress. It is very useful. Hungry Leigh is very unhappy and not worth saving a few dollars to be hungry.
Sane here. Eating out is usually in my top five spending categories each month. But I do love it.
I’ve totally had the guilt about certain things I consume or buy. (There is no guilt or judgment out there that’s powerful enough to make me change my mind if I really want something, I’m just circumspect about writing about it.) Because I was originally inspired more by minimalism bloggers, my guilt generally comes from a place where my practices are arguably not minimalist or ethical enough, or eco-friendly enough, rather than from the frugality/money side. (Though there are certain things I don’t discuss because it’d sound like such an absurd expense, namely my restaurant and total food spending. I can admit that a bare-minimum for me food spend, when I have infinite time to cook and only eat out about once or twice a week to socialize with friends at some of Manhattan’s cheapest sit-down restaurants is probably about ~$550 to $600/month. That’s grocery shopping and eating for one person only. My actual number is higher. Yay NYC!)
… That people are made to feel guilty about buying maternity clothes is… a bit sad to me, and shocking, though I definitely know it exists and am probably familiar with some of the blogs that may at least strongly imply, if not outright say, that.
it’s good to have nice things. i have an armani suit from about 12 years ago. it looks great and i didn’t go out and get 20 of them. we spend a couple of hundred a week on wine and that’s why i’m still working. it’s my trade off.
Cooper The Millennial
Solid article Penny. I feel like I’ve been seeing this a lot lately. One reason I have enjoyed your blog so much was the guest post on ESI money about your goals to earn 6 figures.
First, we shouldn’t judge or bully someone for how they spend their money. It doesn’t help anyone and: “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still”.
We can’t effectively help anyone if we are sitting in our alabaster tower pontificating. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
We have to have solid relationships built on trust, love, and sympathy/empathy in order to truly help family or friends.
Second, purchases are value driven. If you value (and get value out of) make-up or maternity clothes enough to spend whatever amount you spend on those items then GO AHEAD! There is certainly a smart way to do it, but even then it isn’t our place to judge.
Thanks for the great content, as always!
Erin | Reaching for FI
On months where my savings rate is less than what I want it to be or less than I feel like it “should” be given that I’m in this community, I make all sorts of apologies or excuses for it. And it sucks. I need this post tattooed on my forehead and I’ll keep it in mind as I write up my post for my spendy June.
“Don’t run the numbers for me” !!!! Yes! I’ll spend on what I value and maybe it is possible that I don’t value getting to ER as fast as humanly possible. I so rarely ask for folks’ opinions, because they are not living my life. Money is a tool and I don’t need folks who can’t see the thing that needs to be built telling me how to utilize it.
That right there is wisdom, pal. We can’t always see what the other person is building, can we?
I guess I’ve been lucky to be a single mother of 4. People saw me for YEARS being hand-to-mouth yet still able to scrape together enough money to raise those boys and pay off my mortgage.
Now, when I spend 40K on landscaping my new backyard, people congratulate me on ‘how far I’ve come’ and ‘you deserve it.’ I buy a puppy for 2K and everyone loves it (and her!)
I’ve got the best of both worlds – the younger women at work who are getting mortgages now are asking me how to save money on groceries and other spending. It’s like I’m being celebrated for being ultra-frugal AND for being a little bit spendy.
Life’s funny like that. 🙂
SC | MissFunctional Money
I was cackling at this one. I’ve never been with child but BOY OH BOY do you make the process sound so fun 😉
This was such an honest post. It’s so easy to get caught up in the PF community that our own values and priorities can become clouded with others’. I don’t know if it’s intellect or emotional maturity or logic that gets lost, but at a certain point, we just need to know who we are. Stick to that. Nobody knows your needs like you, so nobody else should make the decisions, simple as that.
Thanks for the reminder of what’s really important: the personal part of personal finance.
Being with child is wonderful. BUT IT’S A DOOZY too 😉