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How DARE they spend so much?

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People love to point fingers and act indignant about how much people spend on other things….until it comes to themselves.

  • “I can’t BELIEVE she spends THAT much on shoes.”
  • “$3,000 for an apartment! RIDICULOUS!”
  • “$28,000 for a wedding? I had 500 people over and we only spend $350” (by the way, every single post on wedding costs on the Internet has annoying commenters like this)

I cover this extensively in a past post, “Attention annoying hypocrites: Stop being judgmental about your friends’ money habits,” which almost led me to violence after writing it.

I prefer to talk about conscious spending, where you spend extravagantly on the things you love, as long as you cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.

So I found an article by Virginia Postrel from today’s Wall Street Journal particularly interesting. It turns out that broadly saying, “Spend on what you love!” is ok…until people actually describe how much they’re spending. Then things turn ugly.

Michael Pollan, the best-selling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and a leading advocate of buying locally grown food, recently upset many of his fans by daring to put numbers on his oft-repeated prescription to “pay more, eat less.” Eight dollars for a dozen eggs? $3.90 for a pound of peaches?

Those figures were way too specific and way, way too high to go unnoticed…

Mr. Pollan’s critics sound a lot like Jackie Mason back in the 1990s, mocking Starbucks for “charging you three dollars for 50 cents worth of coffee.” Taste is subjective. So is economic value. The right price is the one you’re willing to pay…

Other buyers may not care, but I consider cheap peaches a waste of money. I don’t blame San Francisco foodies like Mr. Pollan for paying $3.90 a pound. They can always cut back on the cappuccinos.

Right on. Please, if you find yourself judging others for their spending, know two things:

  1. You are probably right that they are spending foolishly — not because you’re smart, but because, statistically, almost everyone is terrible at managing their money. It’s like me shouting out into a crowd, “YOU ARE ALL CARBON LIFE FORMS!!!” and then being pleased with myself when proven right.
  2. Please shut the hell up. You’re not the paragon of spending virtue, and if you gave me 10 minutes on the phone with you, I could identify 20% of your money being “wasted” on “ridiculous” things. Focus on your own spending, automation, and goals, and look in the mirror instead of your friends’ closets.

Related: See more rants about dumb people

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67 Comments on "How DARE they spend so much?"

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Barry
6 years 16 hours ago

Thank you for this, was just ruminating over my wife’s expenditures. Sometimes this stuff drives me crazy. I will shut the hell up now.

Alex Dumitru
5 years 11 months ago

I don’t think this is the case

Baker
6 years 14 hours ago

Haha, for some reason I imagine what facial expressions you must be making when you are writing this! o /o Love it.

Alex Dumitru
5 years 11 months ago

I hope it’s not the one in the header 🙂

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode
6 years 13 hours ago

Amen!! Love that you actually say this, even if it may piss people off.

Alex Dumitru
5 years 11 months ago

Well it shouldn’t, because they piss us off when they keep telling us what shouldn’t we buy, because it’s expensive.

Anon
Anon
6 years 13 hours ago
I don’t give a sh*t what someone wastes their money on, as long as it doesn’t somehow fall back on me. With that being said, most middle class people’s wasteful habits almost ALWAYS affect those around them, even in subtle ways. For example, most of my friends make much less than I do, but spend like it’s going out of style. I feel obligated to pick up the check when we go out because they are perpetually “broke”. I also have plenty of relatives who love to go out drinking 5 nights a week, but then get angry at me… Read more »
Anon
Anon
6 years 13 hours ago
Uhh, I’m very comfortable saying No. I’m also very comfortable saying WHY I’m saying No. However, some of the subtle suggestions make me want to sever relationships I have had for years because I don’t respect someone who relies on others for support – plain and simple. I am annoyed because I prioritize my spending in a responsible manner and I consider it disgraceful to feel entitled to anyone else’s money (including the government’s). I expect the same in return, but most people in our generation seem to be selfish, greedy, LAZY and entitled. Let’s take the whole retirement issue,… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years 13 hours ago

Oh, and I feel no remorse about judging people who spend ridiculously on bullshit but don’t have any savings put aside for themselves and their children.

If I see a rich person popping 100k on a wedding, GREAT for them. When I see some douchebag making 60k a year spending 60k on a car, but buying a house with no money down and then foreclosing on it, YES I am going to get pissed and judge the shit out of them.

Anon
Anon
6 years 12 hours ago
Come on Ramit, I never pegged you as the kind of person to blame “society” for this type of behavior, especially when you are perpetuating it! With that being said, there is no shame in judging others. If we didn’t use our own experiences to form judgements, we’d never learn not to play with fire. I think your blog is one of the best ones out there, because you encourage people to get off their lazy ass and actually EARN more money instead of whining. The rest of the blogs are all about how to split 2-ply toilet paper into… Read more »
Sarah
Sarah
6 years 12 hours ago

Clearly, people who get all judgy about spending $3k on an apartment have never lived in San Francisco!

Regardless, you have a great point, Ramit. Spending money on things important to me and slashing things that aren’t was one of my major takeaways from I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I now buy organic meat, cancelled my expensive cable that I never use, bought a nice car, and switched to generic brands on medicines and many other things. I am now a lot happier and I don’t even miss the stuff I stopped spending on. Thanks, Ramit!

Anon
Anon
6 years 12 hours ago

Yes, I agree that there are deep rooted reasons why people do what they do, and I feel compassion and empathy toward people who have fallen on hard times (even through fault of their own). Believe it or not, I am both female, and liberal (well, maybe not fiscally liberal ;-)).

You are in a unique position to influence young people positively, and part of that includes encouraging people to take individual responsibility for their actions and their habits instead of blaming society.

This went way off topic from your original post, so I’ll step off my soap box here.

M. Turquoise
M. Turquoise
6 years 12 hours ago

You’re right on the money. How much money, I won’t say, though.

Erica Douglass
6 years 10 hours ago
My favorite example of this is the people who rail on billionaires who donate to charity…who they believe are donating to the “wrong” charity. Here’s a classic example via the WSJ: http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2010/07/21/will-buffett-gates-pledge-really-help-the-poor/ More recently, I read online where someone criticized Mark Zuckerberg for donating to the Newark schools, saying that his money would have gone a lot farther if it was sent to third world countries. My thoughts on this? How about YOU make a billion dollars, get all the flack that comes with making it, have people talk sh*t about your company every day, and then you decide how… Read more »
Stanley Lee
6 years 9 hours ago

Timely article reminding the readers about this fact: it takes minimal effort to perform better than average b/c most of them spent minimal effort (i.e. don’t do s*** in terms of consciously spend their money, or maintain the exercising habit). Many of those who complain about other people’s spendings are hypocrites, from my personal experience.

Snowballer
Snowballer
6 years 8 hours ago
Inspired by Ramit’s remarks, here’s what I’ve done in the past several years. 1) I play to my strength. I’m very good at making a spending plan. I started with a much more formal budget, but as I’ve improved a spending plan has come to suffice because I’ve learned how to plan less for greater effect and skip the small details. 2) I figure how how much do I personally want to spend on X and stick to that religiously, and I make sure my total spending plan for a given period is significantly less than anticipated income. I buy… Read more »
Roshawn Watson
6 years 8 hours ago

Interesting post. We live in an extremely judgmental society, and I am aware of no data suggesting this will decrease. Indeed, it appears to have increased because we are constantly bombarded with even more information and commentaries through multiple media platforms. While it certainly would be ideal if we could be more reserved (or at least constructive) with our criticism, it seems unlikely.

Essentially, I agree with your point but see no practical solution.

Steve Reilly
Steve Reilly
6 years 8 hours ago

At the end of the day, what you spend is much less important than how much you save…in your savings account.

HollyS
HollyS
6 years 7 hours ago
People just find it ridiculous that there are people who save their money and put it all into one area they REALLY care instead of spending on what society thinks they should spend their money on. Example: I got a lot of flak for not immediately spending hundreds of dollars filling my new apartment with couches, tables and chairs. Why? I didn’t care about furniture; other people thought I should care about furniture. I wanted to spend my money on anime crap instead. I ended up spending a ridiculous amount, because I budgeted for what I wanted instead of what… Read more »
HollyS
HollyS
6 years 7 hours ago
I’ve also noticed there’s a huge issue of scale that people just can’t seem to grasp. Even if you know someone is a high income earner, you’ll see people saying things like “he spent $500 on a pair of shoes? Why, you’d have to be an idiot! I get mine at Payless for $15!” etc., not realizing that there are some very poor people in the world who must find $15 on such poor quality shoes equally ludicrous, as well as $30 on a dinner out, $50 on a video game, or any of the other expenditures that are considered… Read more »
Frank Taeger
Frank Taeger
6 years 7 hours ago
I spend ridiculous amounts of money on the finest green tea from Japan. My tea is grown in half shade through the TANA method, which costs me money. Then the leaf is handpicked and ordered by hand. No machines, since they already change the process. Then they are handrolled and vacuumed. Then the tea package is filled with nitrogen to avoid any excessive oxidation. There is the possibility to actually spend 47 Dollars on 30g of this tea. There is the possibility to spend about 1000$ a kilogram of this tea. I do not give a damn. I would rather… Read more »
Evan
Evan
6 years 4 hours ago

I’ll second Ramit’s curiosity (not that he needs to be seconded on his own site). My wife’s mom (she’s japanese) has sent us some matcha a couple times that probably costs about $30/30g, and no, it’s not insane. It’s delicious. Have you counted how many cups you get out of 30g? I haven’t, but it must be at least 10. $47/10 = $4.70, not ridiculous at all considering a meh latte is $4.00 and a beer is $6 at a bar.
So, um, where do you get it?

ZFarls
6 years 3 hours ago

Reminds me of my favorite quotes, “A Cynic is someone who knows the cost of everything and values nothing”

I get starbucks one day a week for 2.50, often with gift cards. People can continue to drink their crap coffee and talk, but I will smile that day and think of this post. I have maxed roths the last 2 years and contribute 10% at age 24, ill be okay if I dont listen to them.

Frank Taeger
Frank Taeger
5 years 11 months ago
Since Ramit asked, I shall reveal my source 😉 This tea comes directly from the plantation in Japan, shipping is free from 38$ value : http://www.hibiki-an.com In Germany, the Starbucks culture is not that well established. There is a crowd that frequently visits starbucks, but paying 4,50€ for coffee is still laughed at by the majority. (As far as I know from my market research, there is only one Starbucks in Rhine-Ruhr Metropol Region, that is really running well. The others are running okay, but not that great for a business.) So, paying 4,70$ for a cup of delicious for… Read more »
Frank Taeger
Frank Taeger
5 years 11 months ago

Ah, Ramit, I forgot :

On Twitter you asked about studies on the calorie intake issue. James Krieger outlined it pretty well, dont know how many @ responses you get a day, for some people it gets tedious following.

So, here a link with tons of research on food reporting :
http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=379

Simply said : If a study used food reporting, it is wrong, inconclusive and useless. Unfortunately so 😉

LBS
5 years 11 months ago

I ended up spending a ridiculous amount, because I budgeted for what I wanted instead of what other people thought I should buy (and I ended up slowing picking up garage sale furniture for a fraction of retail prices).

Billy Fulcher
Billy Fulcher
5 years 11 months ago

You need to watch you language dude….

[Edit from Ramit] I deleted the comment you’re referring to

dustin @ LeanLawStudent.com
5 years 11 months ago

Ramit, this post had me laughing. I have a friend, every time I buy something, he always asks me how much I paid for it. Then I know he is going to tell me about the time he purchased one for $2 billion dollars less.

Sometimes I also find myself criticizing the financial choices of others so thanks for putting me in my place with this post.

Brian Walker
5 years 11 months ago
Ramit, usually I like your stuff, but you’re missing the entire point Michael Pollan was making about paying $3.90 for peaches. He’s paying $3.90 for locally produced peaches, grown by organic farmers in small batches. The reason for this is not because he thinks the peaches taste better, but rather because they are not covered in pesticides, they are not being driven across the continent, they are not genetically modified, in essence, because there are no hidden costs. 50 cents for a can of peaches seems a lot more reasonable, until you factor in all the damage to our environment… Read more »
Lan
Lan
5 years 11 months ago

I think the point of the post is that people pay for what they value, and some people value different things. Ramit captured that point. I think your comment is actually in agreement with Ramit’s post, even if it may not be immediately obvious to you.

Shreya
Shreya
5 years 11 months ago

I’m guessing the people complaining about spending $28,000 on their weddings aren’t Indian. I live in Texas and have heard of people spending $100,000+ on an Indian wedding.

Justin
Justin
5 years 11 months ago
I’m all about spending money on things you love… BUT what if those things dont get used? For example I know a woman who spends thousands of dollars on clothes every year. This might be ok, except she doesnt pay off her credit cards AND most of the clothes sit in the garage or random closets and never get worn. EVER. I guess this is a different topic because its more like hoarding then concious spending, but I just wanted to bring up that it doesn’t just end with spending the money upfront. If you’re gonna buy something- even something… Read more »
HollyS
HollyS
5 years 11 months ago

I love these people. At some point they end up having to sell some of it off, and I get to buy their awesome clothes for a mere fraction of the price. But yeah, it’s not really “conscious spending”..

Andy
Andy
5 years 11 months ago
I tend to judge people’s spending mostly when I don’t see any value in the extra money they’re spending. My sister buys organic food from farmer’s markets. Organic fruit and vegetables, grass-fed beef,etc., and pays a premium for them. I buy the mass produced stuff from the grocery store for less money, and pay significantly less. But she gets better quality, more nutritious food with no additives or hormones that’s grown/raised by local farmers with a better environmental impact than corporate farms, so she gets to feel good about it. That’s added value. It’s added value that I can personally… Read more »
E.M.
E.M.
5 years 11 months ago

I felt this way until I bought a pair of expensive ($175) jeans, and wore them twice a week for three years. They lasted longer and were better made and fit better than my Old Navy jeans, which lasted only a few months at best, were ill fitting, and ended up being really uncomfortable towards the end. For me it’s a better value to buy clothing that holds up to washings and fits better because it means I can wear the item longer.

Mashawnda
5 years 11 months ago

Did you say—Please shut the hell up???? Too funny!!! I never say anything about what people do with their money, sleep with, live, or do with their careers. Its their life.

Jim E.
Jim E.
5 years 11 months ago

Having read this site for a long time and remembering all those posts I have to ask, what precipitated this? Did you have some meeting where someone walked in with a cup of starbucks and someone else made a comment and you flipped the table monopoly style?
Enjoyed the link, glad someone manned up and actually stuck dollars to their spending preferences.

Amy
Amy
5 years 11 months ago
Ramit, I DO agree with what you have to say here. Spend on what you care about, cut mercilessly everywhere else. That said, I really wish you would stop quoting the $28k Wedding figure. $28k is a mean, not a median, and is skewed upwards tremendously by the extravagantly expensive outliers (one $1 million wedding will skew the figures much more than one $100 wedding). The median (the more accurate figure) is closer to $15k… a significant difference. When you (and other publications) quote the $28k figure, you’re giving people the wrong impression about what most weddings “really” cost, and… Read more »
Amy
Amy
5 years 11 months ago
Just to further expand on that point: Some people care about lavish weddings – in which case, great! Save up for one and splurge… it does only happen once (in theory), so enjoy it! Some people don’t care about lavish weddings. HOWEVER, most people who are planning a wedding feel enormous amounts of pressure to spend more than they’re comfortable with. The wedding industry has pushed their prices up using that very idea: convincing people that something is “necessary” or “essential” or “not a REAL wedding without it” or that their “family and friends will feel let down without it”… Read more »
Gal @ Equally Happy
5 years 11 months ago
But nitpicking others is sooooo much fun! On a slightly more serious note, keep in mind that some criticism is valid. For example, I have a friend who’s a real estate investor and if he tells me I’m spending too much on an investment property, I’m going to listen. The difference is that he’s giving financial advice as opposed to critiquing my taste and preferences. He’s never going to tell me “your choice of colors for the living room is stupid!” but he will tell me “you can get that color for less money if you want.” As another example,… Read more »
Matic
Matic
5 years 11 months ago

This is exactly why I would never buy a brand new car 🙂

Dr. Murray Trillionaire
5 years 11 months ago

Ramit, I may be a carbon life form, but at least I don’t go around flaunting my nucleic acids like you do.

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog
5 years 11 months ago

love it – use money to live the life you want, responsibly. what’s the point sacrificing so much to gather it in the first place? no one has taken it with them to heaven before….

Cindy
Cindy
5 years 11 months ago

“… no one has taken it with them to heaven before…. ”

I love this phrase – spot on!

Jules
5 years 11 months ago

So true…my boyfriend is always railing about how stupid it is to spend tons of money on designer bags, trendy shoes, flashy cars, etc. “Things that are pointless”, in his words. And then I point out that I have lots of things that are pointless, and then he shuts up.

jay
jay
5 years 11 months ago
I don’t judge the things people spend money on. Things that are worthless to me might bring great joy to someone else. (And personally, I’d pay potentially limitless amounts for a meal, if I could find someone to go with me. Yes, it’s ludicrous. In my defense, I haven’t yet spent over a thousand on a meal.) What I tend to judge is people spending money they can’t afford to spend. If you’re having trouble making ends meet, then $5 coffee is pretty ridiculous. If you can’t feed your family, spending money on booze and cigs is unforgivable. But if… Read more »
Mike
Mike
5 years 11 months ago

Hmm, the government spends too much.

Adam Martin
5 years 11 months ago

Point #2 is spot on and I couldn’t agree more.

Nathan Rice
5 years 11 months ago
I appreciate the call for consistency. It’s very true that most people who criticize the spending habits of others could be called out for their own spending. Most. My wife and I have worked very hard to cut out wasteful spending from our budget. We’ve paid off thousands in debt. The reason we did this was because we wanted to live under our means now, so we could live within our means later (emergencies, retirement, etc.). We have friends and family that are having a terrible time getting along financially. They have mountains of debt, and won’t change a thing… Read more »
Anne
Anne
5 years 11 months ago

Good job on catching people on their judgment. Everyone spends too much on something, so judging others seems very hypocritical. I would rather just get out of debt myself and not judge.

Chriss
Chriss
5 years 11 months ago

Very funny post. I admit I am occasionally guilty of this myself. I see the value in just shutting the hell up as I often wish others would do that when sharing their opinions of what I spend my money on. Good call.

Jaime
Jaime
5 years 11 months ago

Honestly who cares what anyone else spends, its their business, their life, if someone has worked hard for their money, then who cares what they spend, if they’re in debt, if they’re debt-free, etc… People might think they’re in debt when the person isn’t in debt at all.

Glenn S. Ferguson @ Bahamas Luxury Real Estate

Really like the two points you made at the end. As money is just a tool to enjoy life and you are limited in your spending by your ability to earn it…

Jenn
5 years 11 months ago
My dad would sum this up as: Cash is king. The car industry is another great example of pressuring people. People love to tell me I should buy a new car. I drive a Mercedes. Sure, it is 20 years old, but it runs better than most newer cars, is cheap to insure and maintain, and I have literally every oil change, repair bill, and insurance claim ever filed for it. I drive *maybe* once a week. The car still goes 120 🙂 And yet people cannot get over the fact that gasp! my car is old. So yes, I… Read more »
Greg
Greg
5 years 11 months ago
Ramit, I’d be curious to hear your comments on the Univ. of Chicago professor who blogged about his income and what he spends, in the context of tax cuts that are due to expire for the top 2% earners, and the ensuing firestorm that it caused online. Many thought leaders blogged about it, and there were a few civil comments, but a whole lot of ridiculousness and pain for him for being honest about his feelings otherwise. I know you don’t delve into politics on this blog, but I’m sure there’s a nice angle to discuss the issues of fear… Read more »
Kevin
Kevin
5 years 11 months ago

Wow.

I’m surprised there’s so much discussion on this.

It seems pretty obvious to me. People “judge” others’ spending because they’re seeking validation for their own choices. By identifying someone else’s choices as “bad,” they’re seeking agreement from their peer group, which indirectly reinforces their own choices. It’s a symptom of their insecurity in their own choices. And I’m not just talking about money – it pertains to all aspects of peoples’ lives.

Mike
Mike
5 years 11 months ago

I don’t judge people for their spending habits. However, I do like laughing at people who spend foolishly and then suffer the aftermath of their decisions. I don’t really care if they learn anything from their experience. I just find it entertaining to read about it. But then again, I’m kinda evil.

Hugin
5 years 11 months ago

I feel too that people generally are judging others to justify their own bad habits. I have noticed that the more certain people talk about other people’s spending habits, the more problems they have their finances and their own spending habits.

Carla
Carla
5 years 11 months ago
So, I admit I fall into the judgment trap… and I try to do it privately… But what I have a really hard time dealing with is people who ask me for financial advice over and over, whom I’ve given my time and help to freely in the interest of helping them, who repeatedly and deliberately make bad decisions and want me to forgive them for it. (“I had a bad week at work so I spent my emergency fund on stuff I didn’t need.” “I had a fight with my parents so I took the girls out to dinner… Read more »
Renate
Renate
5 years 11 months ago
I definitely judge–but I’m trying to mend my ways because I know it is pointless. I did work for a very wealthy person several years ago and I found it fascinating how much time the other employees spent kvetching about our boss’ spending habits. For whatever reason, my judgmental meter wasn’t running at that job; I honestly thought–why care? It’s their money to do what they want with. So I aspire to that–it is other people’s money and other people’s choices. As long as I ain’t payin their bills, what right do I have to judge? I will admit though,… Read more »
Andrew @ Money Crashers
5 years 11 months ago

I couldn’t agree more Ramit…I think people use criticism of others as a way to feel better about their own financial situation. Really, all that should be important is that we know we are in control of our own financial situations and are comfortable with we’re at and that we’re doing all we can to be financially sound. What other people do should be irrelevant unless you’re trying to help others, not make them feel bad.

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