Sometimes it feels as though high school never ends in the way we compare ourselves to the people we’re surrounded by—but it’s human nature. We’re continually assessing how we fit, in relation to our family, friends, colleagues, community and society. Comparing ourselves to others informs us on how we belong. Our ancestors’ survival depended on the group, and not belonging to one meant
not surviving. But how does that idea play into our finances?
While we may no longer be at risk of a sabre-toothed tiger catching us off guard as we walk to work, we’re still wired to want to fit in. We even have acronyms for it—FOMO (fear of missing out) and YOLO (you only live once). So it’s no surprise that we may spend money to fit in, too. There’s a fine line between the fear of missing out and the pull of freedom and joy of living. It’s heady and tempting to keep up with the Joneses, but under all that glamour, it can also be hard on your finances. Here are ways to resist peer pressure and stay on track with your money goals.
1 Get crystal clear on your financial objectives.
Think about why it’s important for you to accomplish your goals. What will it feel like when you have achieved your aim? How will this target change your life? Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we’re focusing so hard on that holy grail. We can easily lose steam when we don’t see immediate and tangible results. Saving money is not as exciting as spending, so it’s key to keep that bigger picture in your mind. Tune into it.
2 Have your people on board.
Who we surround ourselves with can impact our self-worth along with our bottom line. Are your people supportive of you and your needs? Do they respect your goals and choices? Or do you have someone in your life that tempts you to spend, pressures you to come out even when you’ve said no, or mocks you for having goals? As much as misery loves company, debt loves to throw a party. The person who’s leaning on you may be struggling with their own finances and instead of facing the situation, they’re trying to distract themselves, and you, from their pain by spending money. It’s okay to say no. In fact, “No” is a complete sentence, with no explanation required. It’s also okay to ask for support from friends and loved ones. You can share as much as you’re comfortable with about your goals and why they’re important to you, and how you’d like their help with staying on track. Good friends will cheer you on; great friends will join you by creating their own goals. Anything less may require you to set boundaries so that you can stay on track with the goals that are important to you.
3 Give yourself an allowance.
We are pack animals, and living through the last two years of a global pandemic has shown us how much we need our people, and how much we need to share in experiences both joyful and sad. So give yourself some money every month to spend guilt-free. This will give you a sense of agency over at least some of your cash, as well as offering a reward for your hard work. Enjoy as you see fit.
4 Be gentle on yourself.
If you happen to go a little off course with your plan because you spent money to be a part of something, remember—you’re only human. You’ve literally survived a pandemic and have likely been as isolated as the rest of us. A little forgiveness directed inward will go a long way, because when it comes to money, perfection is unrealistic and leads to quitting before we attain our goals. Instead, focus on getting back on track and avoiding that same behaviour in the future. Find meaningful ways to belong that don’t bust your budget. Your future self will thank you!