When someone criticizes you, do you find yourself thinking that you must be doing something wrong? Do you have friends or family that don’t have a filter when it comes to how you manage your money?
I’m no stranger to people expressing doubts about our financial decision to be debt free.
- “Everyone has a car payment.”
- “Student loans are just the norm.”
- “Why waste your energy paying off low interest debt when you could be enjoying your life?”
- “You don’t make much money, so just make minimum payments.”
- “Honestly, being debt free is a luxury.”
- “If you need help with money, why not get a better job?”
- “It’s too complicated to really understand where all your money goes, don’t stress too much about it.”
- “No one lives like that. That’s a fantasy you’ll always be chasing.”
Have you gotten responses like this from people when they hear your wanting to make a drastic change for your financial life?
How to Respond
Aristotle said, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.”
I have to be honest. Other people’s opinions are a weight in my life. I struggle with judging what I want to do based on its acceptability from the close and peripheral people in my life.
If you’re reading this, there’s probably a part of you, bigger than you’d like to admit, that feels the same way.
When it comes to money, people have opinions. That’s no surprise. But, what can be surprising is how vocal people become about our financial choices once we begin to make choices that look different from their own financial decisions. When my husband and I became serious about getting out of debt and making our small income go farther, people didn’t hesitate to share all of their opinions and doubts.
At first, these comments made me hesitate. But, then I realized that what I had chosen to do was foreign to many people. So, I needed to build up some thick skin when it comes to letting other people’s opinions roll off my back.
Here are some things to keep in mind, when people give you unsolicited criticism about your debt free goals.
Winning with money isn’t normal
Almost 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Y’all, ‘normal’ is broke. When people tell you that having a car payment is ‘normal’ and making minimum payments on your student loans is ‘normal’, they aren’t lying. That is what most people are doing. When you decide to forge a different path for your life, you are being abnormal. This can make people uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make it wrong.
Their values aren’t always your values
Everyone has a different hierarchy of what’s important to them. Everything can’t be important to you. Having it all isn’t realistic for most people. Figure out what your priorities are and make sure those come first. Don’t let things that aren’t important to you take up more money than it should.
Here’s a microscopic example, when I go out for a meal, I don’t value having a drink, getting appetizers, or dessert. I would rather spend money on a good main course and paying for a sitter. For some, getting a drink/dessert/appetizer is the part they enjoy most. That’s great! But, if I did all of those things, we would only go out ¼ of the time that we do now. So, if someone tells me that I’m depriving myself or makes a joke that I’m cheap because I don’t buy a drink when I go out, it just means we don’t have the same view of what’s valuable to us when eating out. Getting a drink isn’t good or bad, it’s a matter of you deciding what you want to spend your money on. If getting a drink makes your experience, then go for it! If it doesn’t, then don’t let yourself be pressured to buy something because it’s important to others.
Spending doesn’t equal contentment
This goes back to the values conversation, but getting out of debt to live the life you have dreamed for yourself is much more fulfilling than accumulating more things. I’ve had people tell me that I’m depriving myself to not do this thing or that program, but the truth is that consumption is a quick fix for contentment, but it doesn’t last long. True contentment comes from living the life you truly desire.
Surround yourself with support
If you have influences in your life that you immediately thought of at the beginning of this post, this is your encouragement to reevaluate who is in your inner circle. You are a combination of the five people you are closest with. Are the people you confide in about your financial journey supportive? If not, it’s time to invest in the people who are. Spending less time with people who drain you will do wonders for your confidence and happiness.
Take advice from people who are winning with money
This might sound like a no brainer but it usually isn’t. We often give everyone’s opinions the same weight. If you’re wanting to do something hard that you’ve never done before, the best advice is from someone who has done that hard thing. Not the person who has never done what you want to do. It took me time to realize that the advice of someone who is doing better than me with their money (not just making more money because that’s a different thing) is better than that of someone who doesn’t have the same goals that my family does. One of my favorite Dave Ramsey quotes is, “Broke people don’t get an expensive opinion in your life.”
Learn how to identify your pitfalls
I can only take so much negativity before I start absorbing it. This is a limit I have grown more aware of. Because of this, I know that it’s my responsibility to take a break when I’m feeling overwhelmed with negativity. Learning more about yourself and your own limitations will help you set better boundaries and not waste your emotional energy on things that don’t serve you. This is helpful not just for your financial journey, but your overall happiness.
Focus on your why
It can be easy to doubt yourself when you decide to make improving your finances a priority. But, it’s important to remind yourself WHY you decided to make this decision. Getting out of debt isn’t an end in itself its a means to an end. Are you sick and tired of being stressed about your credit card debt? Do you want to stop fighting with your spouse about money? Do you want to retire? Go on vacation? Give your kids the ability to go to college without taking out a student loan? Whatever your why is, make sure it is the thing that keeps you focused because then when you get distracted, it will pull you back.
I’m not perfect at staying focused when I’m sidetracked by criticisms, but implementing these strategies has helped my family stay on track. The dreams my husband and I have for our family are bigger than anyone’s passing criticisms, comments, or doubts. The good news, is that your dreams can and should be too.
How do you move past other people’s opinions? What else would you add to this list?