Unlike my usual self, I don’t have an elegant way to enter into this thought, that you should care less what others think of you, so let’s dive in with the belief assumptions of my content’s stance.
- I’m not talking about your integrity or public opinion about what kind of person you are. This is about assumptions and first impressions of the superficial sort.
- Money is a tool. It buys things. If you put more into it than that, I believe you’re putting too much into it.
- The love of money is the root of evil. See above. To strive for money (wealth, reserve, margin) as a tool to serve your family, friends, and those in need is not “love of money.”
- Generosity is a muscle. Children are wonderful givers. Most of them. Every time our son gets more than one of something, and sometimes when it’s only one thing, he wants to give it to me or his mom. Stickers, candy, or money. It doesn’t matter. We lose this as adults unless it’s encouraged or exercised.
- You can’t help those in financial need unless you have margin. Time and/or wealth is needed. Notice “The Good Samaritan” rented a room for the injured man and told the innkeeper to provide everything needed. He was good for it. He had margin.
With those in place, we can dig into the basis of where this is going. I’ll come out and say that I compare myself with others too often. It’s a fault of mine and it’s one that was learned and reinforced for decades. Only in the last 3-5 years have I actively tried to shake that and I still fail just about every week. I’m in an industry of successful people. I often don’t see myself as “a success” until I’m suddenly reminded how many people know me when I attend a conference. It’s like, “Oh, right… I’ve been doing this a decade in a niche and have now taught 3 Treehouse courses. I forgot. Again.” Still getting used to not being anonymous except to my friends.
At least I don’t have a big head from it, eh?
Anyway, those comparisons are my modern day “keeping up with the Jones'” that is so cliche. They got the Smart TV, they got the MacBook Pro Retina the day it came out, they got the new Mustang GT that is sooooooo on my birthday list (right!). But it’s more subtle for some geeks, especially the professional geeks.
It’s not necessarily the latest and greatest, but it’s more than what it takes to get the job done. Would I love a new Mac Pro? Heck yeah! I have a 2011 Mac Mini. When someone had a spare 2013 Air and remembered that my laptop is a 2008, they gave me the Air… would that have happened if I over-extended myself (or even not) and had a new(er) laptop? Not a chance. I lugged my 90-minute laptop to 6 WordCamps and finally just used my iPad Mini for one. It was too embarrassing to lug my white MacBook around.
I cared too much about what people thought about me. “Hey, isn’t he supposed to be successful? Why does he have that old thing?”
If I had replaced it, we wouldn’t have had margin. That would have stressed my family for the sake of impressing people who wouldn’t be impressed. Everyone has the silver unibody Macs now. That’s not an excuse to justify it.
You can spend all of your margin and go into debt very easily just trying to keep the pace with people you have no right to compare yourself with. One person I compared myself to looks young… and then I found out he is a decade older than me. It’s not even being fair to myself to do that. Look at where you were 10 years ago and compare it to now. If you’re like most people who improve every month, it’s cruel to turn around and try to compare yourself to someone 10 years your senior.
If I bought that new Mustang while I have a working car that gets the job done (which I wouldn’t do because that depreciation would just be plain stupid), more people would be impressed by it than I would gain in increased pleasure driving it over my existing car. It would serve to impress people I don’t know who see it in the parking lot when I’m inside. How do I know? Because I look at and usually take a photo of every one I see in parking lots.
So I have a few tips to curb your spending related to keeping up to an imaginary, moving line pace:
- Until you have 3-6 months of expenses saved for an emergency (margin), don’t buy things over $5-20 unless you need them. Knowing what is a need and what is a want is huge. Entertainment can be a Redbox or Netflix night instead of a $12-30 movie night.
- Let’s mention that emergency fund again.
- Be content with what you have as long as it gets the job done. I can work myself into a frenzy waiting for my computer to do something, or I can be thankful that when I finish this project, I get paid. Would spending $4k on a computer really increase my income by $4k very quickly? Probably not unless I was doing a bunch of video or photo editing for paying clients.
- Don’t look at sales fliers/emails and stay away from Amazon until you are buying something you need.
- Enjoy your friends’ cool things instead of buying your own. Why buy a $1200 gun when your friend will let you shoot his any time you go to the range with him? Borrow movies or share libraries on Vudu. Get your graphic novels from the library.
- Live on a budget. Don’t think of it as restricting. It’s a way to tell your money where to go and an easy way to give yourself permission to spend wisely without any hesitation. “Oh there’s $50 in entertainment left this month, so this $2 Redbox is no problem.”
So if you want to have enough margin to build wealth for your family and others, you have to care less what others think about you.