Justify is a great television show that I miss deeply. Justify My Love is a classic Madonna song, although not my personal favorite. Justify How I Spend My Money is my daily mantra as I frequently felt compelled to defend my choices around money, even if it was only in my head. It had become such an ingrained habit that I no longer thought much about it until I read 4 Reasons You’ll Never Be Debt Free by my friend, Laurie, aka The Frugal Farmer. She noted that people stay stuck in debt because they care too much what others think. This is very true. We also fall prey to this phenomena whether we have debt or not.
Combating the Herd Mentality in Today’s World
No one likes to think of themselves as cattle, dutifully following the crowd. But, if we’re being honest, most of us are to a certain extent. We don’t necessarily blindly follow any crowd, but we seek a crowd with similar values and beliefs and join them. They become your tribe, community, friends and peeps. This is not bad as humans are social creatures.
We want to feel connected with others and be with like-minded people. What we don’t always acknowledge (or may even realize) is how our thoughts and decisions are influenced by our “herd”. But we do subconsciously think about how they will respond to our choices. Will they approve? Or think less of us? Or even cull us from the herd? These concerns affect the choices we make.
Let’s Examine the Two Common Financial Herds:
Money is a common denominator among people. It may mean different things to each of us but is a common language that connects us all. These are the two big herds when it comes to how we use our money.
The Keep Up Crowd
These are the people who spend with abandon and tell you to just put it on your credit card when you cannot afford something. They encourage those competitive feelings where you feel compelled to outdo what others have or otherwise you’ll miss out or fall behind. YOLO is their anthem and debt is their boon companion.
I have been a part of this crowd and it is exhausting.
The Frugal Crowd
These people are quite the opposite of the keep up crowd. They encourage you to live within or even below your means. They focus on financial freedom and leaving a small footprint. Some can also be quite rigid in their frugal beliefs, with a few being extremely judgmental on what constitutes a “worthy” versus frivolous expense.
I have also been a part of this crowd and it is exhausting.
I’m Just Gonna Live on My Terms
Remember that my focus word this year is listen? So I listened and realized how easy it was to lose yourself in either herd. To get caught up in pleasing them, instead of living for yourself. The only person I need to make happy is myself. Yes, I need to be responsible and not make mindless choices, money-related or not, but I also need to stop using the Keep Up | Frugal Living filter to make decisions.
Too often I would find myself thinking I cannot share my love of designer handbags with the Frugal crowd because they might think less of me. Or I cannot tell my Keep Up friends that I do a happy dance when I come under-budget.
This is ridiculous and migraine-inducing.
It is my right and choice to save and spend my money on things that bring me joy and make me happy, even if it is foolish in your eyes. It also my right to choose not to spend my money on things that I don’t love, even if you do (and this in no way should decrease its value to you). I am my own person. I don’t believe in living beyond your means but how you choose to spend your money within your means is 100% dealer’s choice.
FYI: They Worry About What You Think
Years ago I attended a women’s retreat and one the things we discussed was how much time and energy we wasted worrying over what others thought about us and our choices. It was relief to know that I wasn’t the only who worried in secret. 🙂 The instructor shared a revelation that I think about constantly: The people you are most worried about are too busy worrying about what you think of them to worry about what you’re doing.
There are times when I fleetingly think about why so-and-so made that choice and wonder what they were thinking, but the majority of the time — I’m worried about what others are thinking about me. About my dreams. My actions. My choices. The truth is I’m so busy worrying about what you’re thinking that I barely have time to take action on my own dreams, much less spare time to think about the things you’re doing.
Live and Spend My Money on My Terms
Like many people, I have spent far too much of my precious time worrying about what others think of my choices and how I spend my money. No more. I’m taking back control. Previously, I let my “herd” act as my guidepost, while hiding things that might open me to ridicule because I wanted to fit in.
Fear of what others think will no longer dictate how I spend my money. People are entitled to their opinions and thoughts, just as I am entitled to live my life, my way. I’m never going to make everyone happy, which is impossible anyway, but I can make choices that honor my happiness and authenticity. I don’t have to defend or justify how I spend my money or the things I like to either crowd as long as my choices reflect my values and goals and fit my budget. Just like I will also respect your choices.
From here on out, no more Justify How I Spend, instead I’m going to embrace Living on My Terms as my new mantra.
Do you often feel like you have to justify your decisions, even when you’re making good ones? How do you avoid the herd mentality?