When my husband and I were in our 20s, we did what most young professionals do. We worked way too hard at our jobs only to spend our money without a care in the world. Sound familiar?
When you’ve worked hard to secure a good job, it’s easy to feel like you deserve to splurge. And when you’re successful, you want to look the part, because you’re often caught up in what other’s think. For us, that meant a revolving door of home upgrades, trading in our cars all the time, nice clothes and whatever else made us feel important.
Something about becoming pregnant with our first child made us think long and hard about our spending and our future. We weren’t racking up a ton of credit card debt, but we weren’t paying off our car loans and student loans very quickly, either. Most importantly, we were hardly saving money, since we were spending almost everything we earned each month.
Preparing to have a child made us rethink everything from the way we were spending money recklessly to the cars we drove and the dozens of ways we wasted money each month. Suddenly, we no longer cared if we looked successful — we wanted to have money in the bank. We wanted to have security for ourselves and our child. We wanted to be able to look back several years or several decades from that time and know that we did our best.
Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think
Once my husband and I made this serious mindset switch, we started tracking our spending and learned how to use a zero-sum budget each month. It didn’t take long for us to realize how small tweaks to our lifestyle could lead to huge financial changes over time, and how the money we were wasting could be used to build wealth instead.
It’s amazing what can happen over the course of years and decades when you pay attention to where your money is going. While we once had car loans and student loans, we are now entirely debt-free with a paid-off home. Where we once saved only small sums of money each month, we now save well over half of our income and max out our retirement accounts every year.
But, for us to change, we had to decide we no longer cared what anyone thought. We had to stop caring about what we looked like when driving older cars and not buying new clothes all the time. We had to stop wondering what other people wondered about our newly frugal lifestyle. We had to stop caring what other people thought so we could focus on what we thought and on what we wanted out of life.
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The Bottom Line
If you find yourself trying desperately to keep up with the Joneses, don’t forget that you have the power to change. You can decide to reinvent your financial life, to start saving instead of spending. You can change your life and your children’s lives, and you can make your existence a lot less stressful along the way.
A richer future can be yours, but you must be willing to focus on your own goals and ignore all the noise. You can either have wealth and security or spend your entire life trying to look like you do. The choice is yours, so stop letting the imaginary judgment of friends, neighbors and colleagues influence your vote.
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