Judge Not, O Indebted One

behavior quote

I have a confession: I judge other people’s financial behavior like nobody’s business.  If I know that money is tight, but I see you in a new dress…BAM.  Consider yourself judged.  Spent money on a vacation? I can only assume that you spent the entirety of that vacation foolishly disregarding your student loan debt. Oh, did you buy a brand new car?  I hope you enjoy living in it, because you probably just spent your mortgage payments. (How do I have any friends?)

Like the quote above says, we judge others by their behavior, and ourselves by our intentions.  The way I see it, both are pretty dangerous habits.

Judging Others by Their Behavior 

Maybe money is tight, but you found a cute dress on clearance that brightened your day.  Maybe you do have a lot of student loan payments, but you saved up for a vacation–and found some great deals while you were planning it. Maybe you researched new cars, saved up a good down payment, and had a decent trade-in for that new car.  Even those closest to me don’t know the intricacies of my finances, and likewise, I don’t know all the details of theirs.  And yet, I still find myself judging them, often very harshly, on the small pieces that I do know.

This mindset–that the behavior of those around me reflects poor intentions, or selfishness, or an inability to face reality–can only hurt my relationships.  It puts me in the unearned position of feeling superior to friends and family, when I should be approaching them from a position of love and support.

Judging Ourselves by Our Intentions

Do I always make the best financial decisions?  Absolutely not.  Do I make excuses for myself? Sure do.  Case and point:

We’ve spent almost two hundred dollars on takeout over the past couple of months. 

But we’ve been busy and too exhausted to plan meals and cook.

I went to New Orleans for work and exceeded my monthly “fun money” budget.

But the colors in the Pearl Jam print are beautiful…and it’s something that we’ll display in our home…and when am I going to go to New Orleans again?

 I purchased (yet another) black dress for the trip. 

But what would people think if I wore the same dresses I’ve already worn to other events?

Why do I feel that it is okay to hold others to different, much higher standards than those to which I hold myself?

Because I remember my intentions, and excuse my behavior. 

What should I do when I see someone making financial decisions that I don’t feel are appropriate?

  1. Be slow to judge–unless it has been explicitly explained to me (i.e. “Katie, I have $5 in my bank account, but I felt like making a foolish financial decision, so I went out and bought these shoes”), I need to remember that I don’t know why the decision was made.  Even if it was explicitly explained to me, back off! I don’t need to agree, but I need to respect that it wasn’t my decision to make.
  2. Ask myself–and honestly answer–what would I do in their position?  Or rather, what have I already done in their position?  I have certainly bought something small to brighten my day, even when it didn’t fit in my budget, and I distinctly remember purchasing a plane ticket to London when my credit card was nearly maxed out.  It happens.
  3. Offer support and guidance, if it will be welcomed. Nobody likes a know-it-all, but as someone who has worked to get out of debt, I do have something to bring to the table.  If nothing else, sometimes it just helps to have someone to talk to when you’re in a financial pickle.
  4. Redirect that energy towards my own debt.  There’s enough there to keep me busy for a few more years, eh?

What about you?  How do you interact with friends and family who make financial decisions that you don’t agree with?

Photo Credit

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Spending Excuses: My Big 3