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Attention annoying hypocrites: Stop being judgmental about your friends’ money habits

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When was the last time you judged your friends for their poor spending choices?

I do it. You do it. We all do it, saying “YOUR spending is bad, but mine is good.” And chances are, we’re usually right — since most people are terrible with their spending, they probably can’t afford those shoes, trips, or restaurants they’re always buying.

Yet each time we judge others’ spending, we’re less likely to actually look at our own spending and do something about it. And just as your friends probably overspend on “ridiculous” things, so do you.

Today, I’ll illustrate several examples of how hypocritical we are in judging others’ spending. So come along — but hold on, because we’re going to be looking in the mirror for much of the ride.

* * *

“I can’t believe she spent THAT MUCH on her wedding…”

One of the most popular posts I’ve ever written was called “The $28,000 Question: Why We’re All Hypocrites About Weddings,” where I pointed out how everyone is delusional about their weddings. People say things like, “Oh, I don’t want a big wedding…I just want it to be small and simple, with a few friends and family.” This lasts about 15 seconds until they start looking at wedding options and decide they want a a fancy wedding hall, nice china, huge flowers, and the best food and music, bringing the average cost of around $30,000 per wedding.

Which is fine! Unlike other boring personal-finance pundits, who delusionally lecture you to have a small wedding (when you won’t), I’m a big fan of spending extravagantly on the things you love, if you cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t. (Hint: If you’re 20 years old, you need to be saving $333/month for your wedding. 25 years old? $1,167/month.)

And yet, there are always people who will judge you for your spending choices.

Introducing the most annoying people on the planet

On the wedding post, there was a group of commenters that were some of the most annoying people I’ve ever heard from:

“$28,000 for a wedding is absurd. Most weddings end in divorce, why start your marriage financially cramped by a wedding? Yes, I realize you can plan to save that $28,000 in advance. However, wouldn’t it be more sensible to use that money for a down payment on a home (instant equity!). Or, to buy outright a late model used car? Just a few thoughts.”

“28k for a wedding is utterly ridiculous The key is to NOT invite everyone you know. I spent about $2500 TOTAL on my wedding 4 years ago. Yes, you read that right…What a complete waste of money to spend 28k on one day! What about saving that money for the rest of your life?”

“Wow, I don’t know where morons that spend $28K on weddings buy the stuff to do it, but I’ve got some left over paper plates I can sell you for $100 each.”

You can find these annoying people criticizing others’ spending on virtually every post on weddings.

Each of these people made it their mission to point out how “ridiculous” it is to spend $28,000, or $10,000, or even $2,000 for a wedding. ‘It’s outrageous! I did it for $100! Stop wasting your money,’ they angrily write.

But there’s just one thing…

They’re all hypocrites.

What would they say if I examined their spending? In fact, here’s a new rule:

Give me your budget and 10 minutes on the phone and I could identify 20% of your money being “wasted” on something useless and unnecessary.

Now, an exploration on how hypocritical we all are about money.

* * *

We’re hypocrites for judging our friends’ spending

When you judge others for their spending, you automatically assign YOUR values to them without even recognizing it. You think spending money on clothes, or first-class airfare, or expensive jewelry is wasteful? What about your own spending?

Here’s one of my favorite examples because it’s so nutty:

“That is just stupid. Unless the clothes are broken, there is no need to return it. If it is the wrong size, it can be exchanged for the right size.

PS: I hate the mentality of people buying clothes for “fashion” or whatever. You are buying $100 for something that costs $10 dollars to manufacture in China!

And about fashion trends – it is wasteful and stupid. If last season/year’s clothes are not broken, there is no need to buy new ones. Jeezz. As for “brand name” clothes – wake the fuck up.”

Yes, I’m sure your computers and new XBOX and 30″ LED TV are so important, too.

You think it’s ridiculous to buy $100 clothes? Let’s go beyond the knee-jerk reaction to understand what’s actually going on here.

  • What if your friend who buys expensive clothes makes twice as much as you (say, $120,000)? Is it “wasteful and stupid” then?
  • What if your friends don’t eat out as often as you, but they love buying a new shirt every month because it makes them feel good?
  • What if you live in the midwest, but your friend lives in Manhattan? How does that change things?
  • What if you’re 25 and your friend is 29? How does that change things?

Judging others’ spending is emotional, not rational

Think back to the last time you judged someone else for spending. Maybe you heard how much your friend pays for his apartment, or overheard your co-worker talking about yet another weekend vacation.

When we judge others’ spending, we do it emotionally, not rationally. Let’s say you hear that your friend is going on a trip to Vegas and staying in the Bellagio for $800/night. Do you consciously evaluate his income, age, spending patterns, priorities, and debt levels? Of course not. We simply say, “Wow, I couldn’t imagine spending $800/night on a hotel room. Therefore, his spending is RIDICULOUS!”

When it comes to judging spending, we consistently demonize others’ spending while rationalizing our own.

Ironically, if you went back in time and asked yourself of 5 years ago if he could imagine spending what you spend on food/clothes/travel today, the younger you would scoff and think your modern-day spending would be “ridiculous,” too. What do you think you’ll be doing 5 years from now?

But if someone dared point out your own spending on something — say, a new Macbook because your old one was “slow” — you’d have a multitude of reasons to justify it. “My old one was slow…and this one is important for my productivity…and I need it to run the new software I want, and….”

This pattern repeats itself in virtually every article on others spending money online:

In a terrific New York Times article on redecorating on a budget, a newlywed couple budgets $2,000 to renovate their apartment.

 

Donna Alberico for The New York Times
They end up spending $5,175 — a modest increase for their joint income — and the commenters go bonkers:

“$2000 is more than I’ve had to spend on decorating my entire house for the past four years. Decorating on a budget? How about $500 or less…”

“I made handsome, one-of-a-kind pillows, by taking embroidered dresses my brother purchased in the Middle East, that our mother never wore, and made covers for pillows I had tired of. (I didn’t even have to buy blank stuffers). ANY fabric store has even high-end design-house remnants that would be suitable and CHEAP.”

“How many newlyweds can afford to spend this kind of money on revamping their apartment?…I would rather put that money in a savings account for a house, or put it away for a nice vacation.”

Notice the presumptuous commenters condemning the couple for spending on their home decorations, and suggesting that their way — making pillows by hand or putting the money away for a vacation — is “better.”

Again, give me these comments’ budgets and 10 minutes on the phone, and I could identify hundreds of dollars per month that they’re “wasting” — according to my tastes. Yet few people — even those who lob financial judgments at others — would ever subject themselves to scrutiny of the same kind.

What is going on here? Are these people simply angry or jealous at hearing about other people spending on items they consider luxuries? Or is there something more going on?

In few other areas of our lives are we so adamant about us being “right” and others being “wrong,” particularly since most of us are terrible at managing our own money. When you dig deeper, you’ll discover the fascinating psychology of self-serving biases and other psychological mechanisms we use to judge others — but protect ourselves.

The psychology of judging others

The first phenomenon in judging others is called a “self-serving bias,” which we use to protect ourselves from judgment:

A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control…For example, a student who gets a good grade on an exam might say, “I got an A because I am intelligent and I studied hard!” whereas a student who does poorly on an exam might say, “The teacher gave me an F because he does not like me!”

If your friend buys a $500 coat, you might say, “That’s nuts…Jack is really bad at managing his money. He can’t even control his spending!” But when I asked you about the $500 coat in your jacket, you might say, “Oh, that’s because I had to go to a wedding last month.”

Second, we employ the Fundamental Attribution Error to judge others:

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error…describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.

In other words, “She bought those Jimmy Choos because she’s financially irresponsible” instead of “She bought those Jimmy Choos because she recently earned more money or negotiated her salary.” When judging others, we believe people make decisions because of WHO they are, rather than the SITUATION they’re in.

Third, we use the powerful strategy of downward social comparison:

Downward social comparison is a defensive tendency to evaluate oneself with a comparison group whose troubles are more serious than one’s own. This tends to occur when threatened people look to others who are less fortunate than themselves…For example, a breast cancer patient may have had a lumpectomy, but sees herself as better off than another patient who lost her breast

Wondering where you’ve seen this? Turn on any talk show or radio show. Try to monitor your emotions during the episode. You might notice your internal voice saying something like, “Oh yeah, I have $5,000 in credit card debt…but at least I don’t have $45,000 debt like that guy. This actually feels good — one of the chief reasons that talk shows and Money Diaries do so well. Yet the feeling of satisfaction is short-lived.

Fourth, we have the Shrug Effect:

We see a famous CEO and point how “he took 5 companies public and got a Harvard MBA.” We see a successful children’s book author and point out how she already knew 4 publishers, so her book got published immediately. We point to Donald Trump and talk about how he had billions, so of course he could buy half of Manhattan, and we note that we’re already older than Michael Dell was when he was running Dell out of his dorm room.

And then we shrug. “What can we do?” “She has a Harvard MBA.” “They made it big, but they’re different than me.”

You see someone spending a lot of money on something that you consider “crazy.” Instead of trying to figure it out, we often shrug and say, “Well, they have [SOME ADVANTAGE YOU DON’T HAVE] and that’s how they do it. There’s no way I could ever do that.” Since this is psychologically painful and difficult, we demonize their behavior. Easier than understanding it.

A prime example: Demonizing a CEO for her spending experiment

Let’s examine a recent example of this.

Alexa Von Tobel, the CEO of a personal-finance site called Learnvest, wrote an article called, “How I Went 24 Hours Without Spending Any Money…In New York City.” (Interestingly, the article is now gone, and so is the Google cache. You’ll see why in a second. Fortunately, I grabbed a screenshot before it was taken down. )

Now, it may not have been the most tactful article, especially in this economic climate. In fact, the tone was somewhat condescending. But I intentionally chose this extreme example to make a point.

The problem is that Americans hate people who write about how they spend money on anything that’s not directly focused on the bare necessities of living.

The one wedding day of your life? You’re spending too much. Taking a luxurious vacation that you saved up for? You could feed 2,000 foreign children. Buying a couch for your living room? You should invest that in your Roth IRA.

How do you think people responded to Alexa’s article? Did they make thoughtful comments on the economy or different ways to earn money? Of course not. Commenters from around the web were absolutely livid.

On Reddit:

“She spends more money in one day than I do most weeks. Why does she feel walking twenty minutes to work, cooking dinner, and packing a lunch are unsustainable? This broad obviously lives in a completely different class than I do.”

“The part that pissed me off was that she seems completely auaware that some people have no money to spend. I was hoping that she would decide to volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate her extra cash to a charity. In terms of her spending habits…retarded. It’s like she’s never heard of a budget, a kitchen, or a grocery store. What is not sustainable is spending $100 a day on nothing.”

“Who the hell spends $30 on pasta and a salad?”

“What the fuck?!? $80 in one day? That’s food for me, my wife, and my dogs for two weeks.”

Even on the normally reasoned discussion board, Metafilter, the top comment says this: “Please tell me this is joke. If it isn’t, I want to murder this writer in the face.”

(The Metafilter comment that made me laugh out loud: “This person would not have lasted long on the Oregon Trail.”)

What is going on here?

Instead of condemning her, the commenters should have asked another question

Condemning someone for their spending is easy. But it’s not productive.

We’ve already covered the protective mechanisms we use when judging others’ spending: “Their” spending is always out of line (“She can’t control her spending”), while our spending is always easily explainable (“Oh, that ring was for a special occasion…besides, I work hard, so I deserve to reward myself”).

But there’s more.

You may not like to hear this, but I’m going to say it any way. Instead of automatically condemning the author for her spending habits, the angry commenters above should have tried to figure out how she affords such a lofty lifestyle in the first place.

“But Ramit,” you might say, “she went to Harvard. She’s clearly a wasteful trust-fund baby who’s living off mommy and daddy’s money.” Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? But if that’s your first thought, you’re guilty of the Shrug Effect.

A better way to approach the question would be to acknowledge that she probably has a few advantages you don’t, but focus on the things she DOES control — which you can learn from. For example, you could stipulate that yes, she likely has some advantages in life (maybe wealthy parents, some inheritance money, whatever)…but focus on the things you can control. She started her own company. She made friends with XYZ. She got internships at XYZ, which led her to XYZ2.

If you want to live her lifestyle, it pays to ask: How could she be earning SO MUCH that she could afford to take cabs every day? What is she doing that I don’t know about? Who can I talk to to learn more? How can I earn more money?

To many people, this is too much work. It’s easier to throw your hands up, accuse her of being a rich trust-fund kid, and then feel better about yourself since you don’t waste money on cabs every day. Witness virtually every comment accusing the writer of being wasteful and spending outlandish amounts of money on food and other supposedly wasteful items.

It’s much harder to actually consider the details of the situation. For example, one Reddit commenter notes that, “Often very highly paid workers have very little free time so it makes sense to spend some money to buy back some time, such as getting in a cab to get somewhere quicker.” Instead of criticizing her spending, wouldn’t it be more productive to ask, “Damn, this woman obviously makes a lot more money than I do. How did she do it and what can I apply to my situation?”

We’re more than happy to criticize others’ spending. Yet few people ever try to ask themselves what they can learn from someone whose spending outpaces their own — and even fewer open up their own finances to such scrutiny.

A huge caveat: Most people are terrible with their money

There is one upside to judging others’ spending: Since most people are absolutely terrible at managing their own money, when you judge them, you’re probably right.

An excerpt from my personal finance book:

So yes, judging others is surprisingly accurate and you’re probably right in criticizing your friends’ spending. But at the end of the day, you’re probably debating minutiae and wasting your time.

Examples: Annoying critics

Since I’ve written hundred of articles about personal finance, I see a lot of kooky people criticizing others’ spending, including mine.

Yet it’s gone from being annoying to fascinating: You can get true insights into people’s belief systems about money by watching what they say.

  1. When I launched my Earn1k course to help people earn more money, I got many comments about how crazy others would be to spend money on my course — and how dare I charge for an online course.
  2. A while back, Henry Blodget wrote a a semi-satirical article on the Huffington Post called “Easiest Job on Planet: Bank CEO. And in a separate thread, internet commenters took the bait, writing that being a bank CEO is all about luck and secret connections. This is classic Shrug Effect from armchair businesspeople who have never run a company. Even more interestingly, the comments reveal several limiting beliefs about money, such as “money=evil” and “anyone who has money must have done something bad to get it.”
  3. Another personal finance blogger, FMF, wrote a guest post about making 6 figures in 7 years. The result? People hated him. Themes include jealousy, “not everyone can do it,” excuses like “I’m too old,” and “Yeah, but $100k means you hate your job.” Funny, few people say, “Wow, this guy did a lot of hard work to earn six figures and now he’s writing a free blog post to share how he did it. What can I take away from this to improve my life?” Easier to criticize others’ spending — or earning — rather than do something different in our own lives.
  4. Erica Douglass, who sold her company for over $1 million at age 26, writes about outsourcing part of her life. The commenters go nuts, accusing her of being irresponsible with her money, racist, and virtually every other financial criciticism you can imagine.

What can you learn from judging other people’s spending?

First, when you judge other people for poor spending, you’re probably right, since most people are horrible at managing your money. This judgment is profoundly rewarding — and also wasteful — since we employ psychological techniques to distort our judgments in favor of our own spending. Think back to the last time you gossiped about a friend’s new pair of shoes or iPhone: It felt good for a few minutes. But it didn’t produce any positive behavioral change for you to change your spending.

Second, it’s easy to judge others, but hard to honestly evaluate our own spending. When we judge others, we assign “dispositional” reasons like, “He is just really bad at managing his money.” But when it comes to ourselves, we use “situational” explanations like, “It’s my birthday…I deserve it!”

Third, you WILL go up the hedonic treadmill and increase your spending as you earn more money — it’s only natural. When we judge someone else, we rarely take their income, savings, and other largely invisible factors into account.

Fourth, in America, we have a special hatred of people who earn significant amounts of money — especially when they fall from grace. If someone earns $250,000/year and spends $10,000/year on clothes, is it really “ridiculous”? In the above examples, you saw numerous examples of people earning six figures, spending on things that were very much in their reach — but people criticize without context.

Fifth, judging others is toxic. It’s not enough for us to make money — as a University of Texas researcher writes Psychology Today, “What makes me happy is that I make more money than you. It isn’t enough just to make a lot of money, you need to make more than the people to whom you compare yourself.”

But judging others goes even deeper. Have you ever noticed that co-worker who always complains about his boss, job, salary, etc? Think back to the last time you sat next to him — did you start complaining, too? Soon afterward, you feel worse about yourself. This negative emotion is the same thing that happens when you listen to a radio host skilled at evoking your emotions. You get outraged, you get angry….and the short-term emotion retards long-term behavioral change — it literally robs you of energy.

Judging others’ spending is a natural phenomenon. It’s also destructive and wastes time focusing on others, when you could focus on yourself.

About to judge someone’s spending? First, use this 5-step process

Whenever you find yourself about to judge someone else’s spending, ask these simple 5 questions first.

  1. How much do they earn?
  2. How much do they save, on a percentage and absolute basis?
  3. What do they consciously spend on and what do they NOT care about spending on?
  4. How long will they be keeping this purchase? (For example, are they buying a car to keep it for 10+ years? Or are they buying shoes to keep for one season?)
  5. MOST IMPORTANT: Are my own finances automated and optimized? If not, automate your personal finances and implement the STFUDF Technique — against yourself.

Since few people will do this, my hope is that you’ll distract yourself enough to stop the insidious process of judging someone else before looking at yourself.

Personally, I’ve been trying to get better at this recently. To do so, I have to remind myself that personal finance is personal. You don’t know your friends’ financial situations — although they are likely not very good. But each time we judge someone else, we make it less likely of taking action on our own finances.

* * *
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76 Comments on "Attention annoying hypocrites: Stop being judgmental about your friends’ money habits"

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AronSora
6 years 3 months ago

Do you have a service where you analyse budgets? I’m a college student and I really need to save.

Zain
Zain
6 years 3 months ago

Yes, it’s called mint.com 🙂

goodwince
goodwince
6 years 3 months ago

I second Zane. Mint.com is amazing.

Jim
6 years 3 months ago

Thanks Ramit, I know people use it to fuel their gossip, but I didn’t think about the extended effects of what that has on their self-righteousness.

Danielle
6 years 3 months ago
Great post! I loved it! I’ll admit that I’m totally guilty of gossiping about (and judging) other people’s spending habits. I’m definitely going to try to do it less! But I also do get judged unfairly. I’m an American teaching English in a small town in Brazil. I work a couple of hours a week at an English school, but the bulk of my income comes from private classes that I give out of my home. It requires a lot more initiative, dedication, creativity, and investment to teach the private classes (I’m my own boss), but I make way more… Read more »
Tueshaes
Tueshaes
1 year 14 days ago

Wow, I cannot believe we go through the same Shit!!! Like seriously.. But you’re in Brazil I’m in Beijing lol!

rob
rob
6 years 3 months ago

Looks like someone is justifying their spending….

Brady
Brady
6 years 3 months ago

I suppose this concept can be applied to other aspects of life…

However, after finding your blog last week, I’m too critical of my own spending to really consider anyone elses. =|

I’m a business major studying abroad, making no money, but it cost me my savings. After finding your blog last week, I talked to my History major friend to find out about his spending, only to find out he has $10,000 saved, and operates on less than $400 per month…

So, whatever someone might say about your methods, mine obviously aren’t working. Where do I sign up?

Craig
6 years 3 months ago

Yup, I’ve been on both sides of that fence. I definitely have friends where I look at some of their spending and go “what is wrong with them?!?”, then go and spend on something that isn’t a total necessity. Psychology is a tough thing to overcome, huh?

Thanks for pointing out the reminder that we need to really look at a whole picture of someone else’s financial situation (which we may never get to see) as well as take a step back and see if we aren’t throwing stones in glass houses.

Geoff
Geoff
6 years 3 months ago
This post seems to be confusing what are known in sales as the “too expensive” and “can’t afford it” objections. Not that I’m condoning being judgmental about someone else’s expenses, but spending $800 a night on a hotel room is not the same as spending $1500 on a flat screen LED television. Just because someone can afford an $800 room, doesn’t mean that it isn’t too expensive. Again, I’m not saying that it is too expensive, I’m not passing judgment either way, but given that you can get a room at the Luxor for $80 a night, which will be… Read more »
Bryan
Bryan
6 years 3 months ago
I think you just hit the exact point of this article… “but given that you can get a room at the Luxor for $80 a night, which will be equally functional as a place to sleep” It’s not about functionality for someone spending $800 as the Bellagio (which, to be fair, I’ve done before…though I think my suite was only $400/night). It’s about luxury and relaxation and the experience. But you’re placing your values (a hotel room being about functionality as a place to sleep) over the values of the person spending that money (in my case it was a… Read more »
Tony
6 years 3 months ago
@Geoff, To quote you, “…I’m not passing judgment either way, but given that you can get a room at the Luxor for $80 a night, which will be equally functional as a place to sleep…”. I do believe that you are in fact judging, when you are making this observation. Remember that the fact that someone may decide they want to pay $800 for a room at a swanky hotel, is not because they want a “functional place to sleep”. There is obviously a much higher value that it holds to them, which totally warrants the $800 price tag. I… Read more »
Stacy McKenna Seip
Stacy McKenna Seip
6 years 3 months ago

Sometimes people spend money for the psychological rush of being able to say “I spent $X on this luxury item/experience” – they spend the money for the joy of being able to remember/recount spending exorbitantly. My BF wrote about the phenomenon recently and asked his friends if anyone knew of or had suggestions for a word describing this phenomenon – the best one offered was “schtuppengeld”

Erica Douglass
6 years 3 months ago
Okay, but have you *stayed* at the Luxor? The beds are terrible. Since you’re focusing on Vegas, let me give you an example. I decided once to stay in a Vegas hotel that was less than $40/night. But I spent over 90 minutes waiting in the long line to check in. When I finally got up to the check-in counter, I asked the person there why they didn’t hire more people, and she said “Management won’t let us.” So, because the rates were so cheap, they attracted a ton of people, but those people valued saving a few bucks over… Read more »
AD
AD
6 years 3 months ago
I know I judge just like everyone else, but I think the first step is to at least keep the comments to yourself so you don’t look stupid later. 🙂 When someone talks, for example, about how they don’t travel because they know they aren’t “rich enough,” yet they own a brand new sports car, it makes me laugh. Not because I think buying a new car is stupid, though. It’s not for me, but I don’t care what someone does with their money…we each make our own choices. The point is that they *could* afford travel, if they wanted… Read more »
Stacy McKenna Seip
Stacy McKenna Seip
6 years 3 months ago

Exactly. I tend to mock people’s spending choices only when they spend lots of time complaining about being too poor for X and then spending wildly on Y, while simultaneously professing that X is more important to them than Y.

Tyler WebCPA
6 years 3 months ago
It is human nature for people to think that others who are more successful than themselves, at least in certain areas of live, must have made some sort of Faustian bargain to achieve that success. You somewhat address it, but one that I find interesting is that people who claim to be uninterested in success or money (and therefore don’t have either) are so obsessed with the success or money of others, and usually in a negative way. Dude, it’s cool if you’re not motivated by money, but some are and there is nothing evil about that. You’re way may… Read more »
Lissie
Lissie
6 years 3 months ago

I’m reading through the post thinking to myself, “Okay, so what should I do? How do I put this lens on myself and actually see clearly?” and there in the last of post is a 5-step plan. Thanks, Ramit!

Amy
Amy
6 years 3 months ago

Why isn’t my comment showing up? Is there some issue with the system?

Ryan Flynn
6 years 3 months ago
Ramit, Thank you for all of the time and thought you put into this wonderful post. It is very challenging, and I unfortunately see myself in so many of your points. It is also interesting how we tend to judge people on areas that are relative strengths for us, while minimizing our own weak spots (i.e. personal finances vs. personal fitness/weight loss). I’m finding that a good dose of humility makes for a great starting point when it comes to personal finances, or any of these personal areas, that your opinion is only as valuable as your example, and that… Read more »
Dale
Dale
6 years 3 months ago
I think one factor that spurs people to make judgmental statements is the belief that it’s noble to be poor and evil to make money. For example, at tax time, it was popular in my circle of friends to brag about *how little* money they made and to congratulate each other for getting by on so little. I have a business, and it’s doing pretty well. I’m determined to bring it to over six figures within a year. I have two other self-employed friends, and we’re our only cheerleaders, because no one else in our circle seems to believe that… Read more »
Amy
Amy
6 years 3 months ago
Not sure why, but the system does not appear to be accepting my comment! Hoping it works this time. Ramit — you missed the point, I think, about the wedding post. Most people weren’t writing in comments to exclaim about how wasteful a 28k wedding was simply to feel superior. You forgot to examine the context of your own post. Not only did you claim that almost no one has the discipline to have a simple wedding, but you insinuated that simpler weddings are “less perfect”. “But guess what? When it’s your wedding, you’re going to want everything to be… Read more »
Amy
Amy
6 years 3 months ago

Ok I’ve tried to submit a lengthy comment several times now, and it won’t show up. My short comment, however, showed up right away. What gives?

Amy
Amy
6 years 3 months ago

Thanks Ramit 🙂 Hopefully when my comment does appear, you and your readers will forgive the multiple posts!

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Moneymonk
6 years 3 months ago

Long post but well worth the read.

I max out my retirement, have a healhty savings account, have the right insurance in place and my mortgage is about 15% of my income. I eat out daily and shop at Nordstrom.

I heard all kinds of crazy comments. How can I go on vacation when I have a house to take of? How can I AFFORD to eat lunch out everyday? Little do they know, I have more saved than they make in 2 years.

Increase your income or shut up

I hate winers~

Ilana
Ilana
6 years 3 months ago

Hi Ramit,

Thanks for this post! I spent a lot of time justifying my cable bill to my parents and judging how much they spend on travel, until I realized that everyone makes their own choices on spending priorities. Now I do my best not to judge, as long as the person has the money! (earn, save, automate and optimize)

ilana

Ely
Ely
6 years 3 months ago

great post! I laughed, remembering a post on GRS about high-end handbag rental. OMG the lengths people would go to defending their xboxes while insulting people who value handbags! and vice versa! it was beyond ridiculous!

you da man Ramit. 🙂

Linette Banks
Linette Banks
6 years 3 months ago

I think you make some really good points here. It really is a matter of priorities and context.

Nicole
Nicole
6 years 3 months ago

This is mostly off-topic, but we actually did spend less than $5000 on our wedding; and then we bought our first house later that week. I wanted to put my two cents in so people know it is possible.

Eric S. Mueller
6 years 3 months ago
My wife and I did a wedding for less than $4000 total, including my family flying up from Texas.It is possible. But that’s not the point of this comment. I mentioned this post to my wife, and she claims I’m one of the worst offenders. Not sure I agree with her, but we do know several people who constantly seem to be on vacation, have larger houses than us, nicer cars, and eat out all the time. I don’t think I judge or condemn them. I’m happy for them. I just keep wondering how they do it. Do they really… Read more »
Joshua Dunaway
Joshua Dunaway
6 years 3 months ago

Hey Ramit,

Just wanted to stop by and say I really enjoyed the newsletter you sent out. More please!

April
6 years 3 months ago
@Ely–Exactly! That was actually *my* GRS post! 😉 What’s funny is that the topic of the article was whether it was worth it to rent a high-end handbag from these new rental services versus saving up and buying one, and many people slammed women who would pay $300+ for a bag, and then in the next sentence defended their toys, cars, sports equipment, etc.! Wants are wants. @Eric–You never know. Maybe they have money in the family, maybe they do make that much more than you, maybe they are putting it all on a credit card, maybe their savings goals… Read more »
Cesar
Cesar
6 years 3 months ago

Great post!!

Ken Siew
6 years 3 months ago

A very awesome and detailed article! I’m definitely guilty of this myself, judging others based on how much they spend without looking at the context. I’d been trying to beat that thinking lately, and this article just did the job of organizing my thoughts and any underlying fallacies. Love Ramit’s stuff!

Pietro
Pietro
6 years 3 months ago

“Condemning someone for their spending is easy. But it’s not productive.”

…writing a 10-page post about how it is not productive is definitely not productive. It just sounds like people judge YOUR spending habits and you feel the need to rant.

A 5-step process for judging someone’s spending??

London student
London student
6 years 3 months ago
This article does raise some interesting issues. I have to say though that I know I’m not wasteful and have practised good personal finance since I was 16. I try not to judge others who spend extravagantly but rather ensure that I’m not encouraged to do so in their presence. What usually causes me to judge is that people say to me, ‘Ah can you help me with my money. I’m broke.’ I give some basic advice to ease them into the transition of good money management but when they don’t see instant results (like £300 waiting in their savings… Read more »
Kerry
6 years 3 months ago

Followed a friend’s link to this website for the first time and I love this post. I can see myself on both sides of this equation, and I think you’ve provided some great tools for critically examining my initial instinct to judge my high-earning friends! I also am in the midst of planning a wedding and I thank you for calling out the hypocrites – their ugliness in the face of something sweet is just astounding to me.

I will definitely be back to your site!

Amy
Amy
6 years 3 months ago

Hey Ramit, any luck with the missing comment(s)? Still not seeing it show up.

AdamD
AdamD
6 years 3 months ago

But does this mean that when you have a friend who is spending on their particular luxury and living beyond their means, we should still keep our mouth shut, or are we allowed to judge them for being reckless with their money? 😛

ravi
ravi
6 years 3 months ago

people criticize us for buying higher priced organic and/or vegan food and supplements. the way i look at it, i don’t mind spending more if it’s going to keep me in good health. i know ppl that spend a lot on booze or cable tv. those things don’t improve your mental or physical states so don’t see what the fuss is about. oh well that’s america, it’s deeply ingrained to buy stuff you don’t need and that you’ll get tired of after the newer thing comes along

Stacy
6 years 3 months ago

I guess the old is saying “to each is own” is the best term for other people’s spending. Its funny because as I’m reading this post, I seen myself doing the same critical judgement of another person’s wallet. I learned that I can’t live beyond my means and my finances are according to me.

Jason
Jason
6 years 3 months ago

Excellent article. It sums up pretty well why I’ve given up on the “hair shirt frugalista” blogs. Life is about what’s valuable to you, and that’s all relative.

david
david
6 years 3 months ago
I can’t help but think the author feels secretly guilty about his own spending and addiction to luxury, devoting so much energy to defending the expenditures of the rich. This “everything’s relative” concept is the root of the whole problem. We need to look at the larger picture, see that we’re victims of consumerism and reevaluate our conception of “value” and “work.” I just found a 7 ct. sapphire plus 2 ct. diamond ring on Amazon.com (of all places) for about 50,000. Think about that and then read this article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15842524/ns/world_news/ and ask if the people in Africa risking their… Read more »
James
6 years 3 months ago

9/10 times in life we should keep our mouths shut and simply move on. here in lies the 1/10 when we speak our mind.

now this can have a positive or negative effect. positively you friend can trust you, take your advice and learn something. negatively your friend can totally put up a guard and it might actually have a very very negative effect on the relationship.

Jonelle
Jonelle
6 years 3 months ago
Wonderful article, Ramit. Thank you! However, the one issue that I believe is missing is the situational context of DEBT. “London Student” discusses this briefly in his/her post, and I want to give it a second thought. “London” and I are not talking about “good” debt (i.e. student loans) or even credit card debt; we are talking about personal loans made with families and friends. When someone asks you for a loan, is it acceptable to judge their finances? If they were to go to a bank, the loan officers would require full disclosure. In this case, are we as… Read more »
margaret payton
margaret payton
6 years 3 months ago

a little irrelevant comment: I’m really surprised to see that people of my age aren’t mentioned here too often as “examples”. seems like 23-year-old women aren’t the destination group. happy to hear that – it means I still have time to make my finances work and start my own business.

Carey_PA
6 years 3 months ago

Wow. That’s the first thought that comes to mind. What an awesome post.

And I have to admit I’m guilty as sin of judging other peoples’ spending, well mostly my significant other and step-kids, but you know I really do need to look at my OWN spending first.

Eye-opening post. Thanks!

Carey

Olivia
Olivia
6 years 3 months ago
We’re on the other side of things. We have sought counsel from different “experts” on how to manage our finances better, and with minor modifications, have been told we’re doing the best we can with what we have. What is irritating is the criticism we get for not having something. As if we’re somehow holding back and are overly miserly. It starts out with comments like, “There’s this great show on cable you should watch… “followed by, “oh you don’t have cable? such and such is having a really great deal right now”, what’s your cell phone number?, you could… Read more »
Nick
Nick
6 years 3 months ago

I honestly want to say thank you for this article. Definitely, an eye opening article. I’ve definitely done my share of judging of others spending habits without really taking the time to really analyze my own financial situation.

I really appreciate you taking the time and energy to write this article. I can honestly say I learned a lot and have something to build on in my own personal life. Thanks Ramit.

Dave C.
Dave C.
6 years 3 months ago
The only time I think I criticize the spending habits of others is when they complain about never having any money at the end of the month. I worked in the convention services industry for about five years and worked with union labor and these are the people that could use a personal finance class or two. Quite a few of them would get paid on Friday afternoon and they would be broke on Monday morning and complaining about it. But, they always had enough money to buy a couple of cases of beer or a carton or two of… Read more »
Estelle
Estelle
6 years 3 months ago
I personally believe that independent of judgement bias or not, the truth is that most of us can not get down to spend on each and everything. Ok, I admit it, like everyone else I often tend to ask myself:How did he managed to afford that?” But given the same choice, I most probably would not go to do so myself and thats why: I have noticed that people are usually obssessed about one of those things: Food – eg:I mean the pleasure of eating gourmet food, often, both in and out of the kitchen Entertainment and luxuries- eg:books, festivals… Read more »
Tessa
Tessa
6 years 3 months ago
Great article. I’m totally guilty of this, to a certain extent. I think that people should be allowed to spend their money on whatever they want. We all have different priorites and that’s okay. The times that I usually judge other people’s spending habits is when they spend on “luxury” items (new vehicles, vacations, booze/smokes, toys, clothes etc) and then complain that they can’t afford to put groceries on the table, or buy their kid new shoes. That’s when I start to evaluate/judge how they could set a better budget and actually be able to pay down debt as well… Read more »
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[…] Stop Being Judgmental About Your Friends’ Spending Habits.  Easier said than done, but some great advice for all of us [I Will Teach You To Be Rich] […]

Judy
Judy
6 years 3 months ago

Am I forgiven a little for resenting my coworker, who’s on food stamps and subsidized housing & child care (which I always paid full freight for), spending money every week at the tanning salon, nail salon, hair salon, etc? It seems like I’m paying taxes to subsidize her full cable, while I limit myself to basic cable.

rhonda
rhonda
6 years 3 months ago

Ah, would that be America’s greatest coupon clipper? Just how common are coupons OUTSIDE the United States? Does being able to get stuff at a reduced price because of a coupon actually teach you to have different attitudes to what you need and don’t need in order to achieve objectives? Seems that lots of American sites feature bigtime on coupons rather than considering what we buy and why we buy it. Is the American economy really so bad that people need coupons to save money?

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6 years 3 months ago

[…] Stop Being Judgmental About Your Friends’ Spending Habits. I Will Teach You To Be Rich […]

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[…] Sethi’s Your Spending Is Bad, Mine is Good where he illustrates several examples of how hypocritical we are in judging others […]

Meg
6 years 2 months ago
I do this a lot with my husband about this other couple we know… So yeah, I’m openly guilty. It does serve a bit of a purpose though — It gets my husband talking to me about how we spend our money and lets me make sure we’re on the same page. (Otherwise it’s damn near impossible to get him to talk money.) Kinda irked me when they went out and bought the slightly bigger LED TV than ours after seeing it and liking it. Ours was an extravagant gift that we love and wouldn’t have ever sprung for ourselves.… Read more »
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[…] at PT Money. Credit Card Rewards or Credit Card Regrets? – PF Comic #5 at Credit Card Finder. Attention annoying hypocrites: Stop being judgmental about your friends’ money habits at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Yeah, I’ve been guilty of this. You don’t know what you […]

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[…] Ramit wrote a post on not being judgmental a few days ago, which got me thinking.  I agree with the core of the post, which is that we shouldn’t be so judgmental about the purchases others make, as we all spend money on things that aren’t strictly necessary. […]

Sophia Williams
6 years 2 months ago

This is an interesting article. It is kinda scary how oblivious we are to our own spending issues, and yet soo quick to pick up on others!!

I think generally we need more advice and ideas around spending more wisely in order to invest on the more important things in life – our future.

I am working for a company that has helped me to management my time amazing, and get on top of both my work and social life – now I just need the same for my financial life 🙂

Joe M
Joe M
6 years 2 months ago
Awesome post! “The problem is that Americans hate people who write about how they spend money on anything that’s not directly focused on the bare necessities of living.” Could not agree more. I think all the frugal hints in PF blogs are great when you are trying to get your house in order. However, once you get things in order, it’s actually OK to spend money on things that bring you pleasure. I find the tendency for us to compare against one another very uncomfortable, though I know we all do it. A number of times we’ve had family make… Read more »
Financial Samurai
6 years 2 months ago

Damn that was a long post!

Do as I say, not as I do!

Best,

Sam

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[…] Me topé con que el mismo día en que publiqué “7 Errores que tus Amigos Cometen en sus Finanzas Personales“, él publicó un artículo sobre la misma línea de pensamiento llamado “Atención Hipócritas Fastidiosos: Dejen de Juzgar los Hábitos Financieros de sus Amigos“. […]

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[…] [Update] The largest post is up here: Attention annoying hypocrites: Stop being judgmental about your friends’ money habits […]

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[…] See more about judging others’ spending. […]

Azam Zaki
6 years 2 months ago

everybody has their own weakness when it comes to spend money. I like to eat and i spent lots of money to eat good food. there is no need to judge others because they spend on thing they love.

Allan
Allan
6 years 2 months ago
I know, personally, reading that someone spends more on clothes than I do on rent in a year makes me feel…well poor. (See the key word there…’feel’) I rarely worry about it much, except when it’s clearly a case in which the spender could have saved a lot of money and received the SAME product or service. I think it all comes down to “I wish I could get 1/10 of that to put away.” My boss (I am currently the only remaining employee) occasionally mentions how he, at one time or another, made or lost $10k on a particular… Read more »
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[…] which is very hard to type, but an insightful read most every time) recently wrote about how we’re all hypocrites when it comes to spending. He’s […]

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[…] which is very hard to type, but an insightful read most every time) recently wrote about how we’re all hypocrites when it comes to spending. He’s […]

Kate
Kate
6 years 2 months ago
You are so right on. When I first started reading your blog I was pleasantly surprised how different it was from the other “personal finance” blogs which do nothing but wag their fingers in my face on how dare I spend on more than the bare necessities and how my desire to have a life of better quality than “bare minimum” clearly means I am an incurable morally corrupt spendthrift. This post hits the nail on the head – 1) consider the circumstance of someone’s life before blasting them on their spending habits, 2) look in the mirror first and… Read more »
Al
Al
1 year 1 month ago
Nothing like oversimplifying. The New York Times article was written December 2, 2009. Some things to consider (1) the impact of the recession at the time (3) the annual income of the readership ,and (3) the holiday season might have played a roll. As of 2012 26% of the NYT readership makes under 30K per year, 51% make under 70k. 32% of their readers are between 18 and 29 years old. Given that ‘on a budget’ is commonly understood as ‘inexpensive’, $2000 dollars may not seem to be ‘on a budget’, particularly at what may be the hardest economic time… Read more »
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10 months 12 days ago

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