We all have a friend like this. The one with the Prada bag who lives in a way bigger house, drives a Lexus and has a closet full of designer shoes. It’s hard not to feel a pang of jealousy when you go out shopping with her. You stealthily eye the price tag of everything while she snaps up yet another pair of $250 pants. Where does she get all that money? And why can’t you afford the same luxe handbag?
Well, according to an article in Psychology Today, envy isn’t related to your friend or all the stuff you don’t have — it’s about you. Envy comes from self-criticism and a sense of failure when we feel we don’t measure up to our own unrealistic ideals and aspirations.
The good news is that money envy is actually a great place to start examining your own assumptions and financial habits. Ask yourself: Do you have unrealistic expectations? What steps can you take to set meaningful financial goals? So, the next time you feel jealous of your spend-happy friend, ask yourself these five important questions.
1. Do I know what I really want?
Sure, your friend has money to throw away on expensive stuff, but what are your financial dreams? What is important to you? By setting goals and making a financial plan, you will automatically feel more financially empowered. So when your friend plops down big bucks on a fancy dinner, you’ll feel better knowing that your money is going to something that is really important to you personally.
2. Is she spending her money or the bank’s?
Given that the average Canadian owes $21,686 in consumer debt, you might want to step back and ask whether or not your friend is actually buying that stuff with her own money, or borrowing it from a financial institution. She might be a lot more comfortable with debt than you are. Or she might be suffering in silence trying to keep up with all those payments.
3. Am I becoming a competitive spender?
A few of years ago, I interviewed financial guru David Chilton. He discussed how trying to keep up with the Joneses is one of the most financially destructive things we can do. If you find yourself buying the new and latest to keep up with friends, than you might be doing yourself a lot of harm. Instead, focus on your own financial goals and learn four important words: “I can’t afford it.”
4. Am I grateful for what I have?
You might not have a high-paying job or family money, but you need to find a way to be grateful for what you do have. Whether it’s helping others through volunteering or making a daily list of the things you love, gratitude is a powerful antidote to envy and the unrealistic measures of self-worth we sometimes set for ourselves.
5. Do I need to find new friends?
If your friends spend all their time doing or talking about things you can’t afford, then you might want to try broadening your social circle and finding friends with other interests. There are plenty of people out there who are just as happy to have fun hiking, biking, or hanging out over a home cooked meal.
Originally published September 2014. Updated January 2017.