“I can’t believe they spend money on that…”
How many times has that thought crossed your mind? I have to admit that it has certainly crossed mine! Yesterday, Andrea @ So Over Debt wrote about our judgment of other people’s expenses (and vice versa). Inspired by her post, I’ve decided to focus on a list of expenses that always come under the glare of judgment, based on what I’ve read on personal finance blogs and websites.
1. Wedding expenses
If there is one thing sure to get people talking, it’s the cost of weddings. And with the cost of weddings, the cost of wedding dress seems to be fodder for criticism (Sallie’s Niece caught so much flack for her wedding dress). Before I got engaged, I admit that my eyes popped out whenever I heard costs in the $20,000+ ranges. But now that I am planning a wedding, I get it. A traditional wedding costs money, period. If you want a sit-down dinner, dancing, on a Saturday night in a metropolitan area and you have a guest list over 30 and no connections with wedding vendors, it will cost money. Even my small dance-free shindig is costing more than I had expected. Sarah at Paranoid Asteroid had a great post detailing the 10 frugal things she won’t be doing for her wedding.
2. New cars
Do most personal finance bloggers hate new cars or what? I get it, the depreciation hits the instant you drive a car off the lot, etc. etc. But I love well-constructed, reliable new cars that I can drive to death (example: see my hand-me-down-from-Dad 240K miles Honda). Remember when Krystal at Give Me Back My Five Bucks bought a car and the firestorm erupted in her comment section (the comments seem to have gotten lost when she transitioned the blog to WordPress)? If someone as responsible and as on-top of her finances as Krystal can’t escape criticism, who can?
Last July, I talked about considering a new car because one of my concerns is the lack of up-to-date safety features in my car, and a commenter told me to wear a helmet while driving instead and accused me of helmet-head vanity!
Lets say there is a safety component and that’s valid. How do you improve the safety of your car so it’s equal to that of a new honda? Research shows the greatest improvement that can be made to driver and passenger safety would be to make it compulsory for people to wear motorcyle helmets while driving, like seatbelts are now compulsory. That would cost you about $50. The helmet negates the need for airbags because it’s better than an air bag (ever seen a nascar or fomula 1 driver without a helmet and with airbags?) . Now we can go from making an emotional decision about safety to a rational decision about safety.
$50 helmet vs $15000 for a new car so I don’t mess up my hair? Where you just trying to rationalize the purchase of a new car?
I blame personal finance expert and author David Bach for coining the much-too-marketable phrase Latte Factor. Poor lattes got the blame in this case, but everything viewed in the context of annual expense, then compounded over 30 years at rate of 12% will look completely astronomical.
4. Technology / Entertainment
New iPhones, big-screen TVs, video games are all targets loaded in the “bad spending” column, it seems. But all those things make people happy. Gosh darn it. I get a lot of value out of my smartphone – although it’s definitely nice that right now my work covers my plan costs.
There is this pervasive image of the free-wheeling, irresponsible young lady who spend her entire paycheck on clothes and shoes. (I think it’s part of the stereotype of women as being less financially savvy, even if they look outwardly successful). The fact is that some people love clothes and some people love something else. A woman who is decked out in stylish garb might be deep in credit card debt, or she might just as well be a millionaire. Or maybe she just doesn’t spend as much money on her cars and TVs and value clothes instead. Kelly at the petite fashion blog Alterations Needed said it best when she said in a comment to my post: “I eat cheaply, and rarely go on vacations, let alone exotic expensive ones. I sock all that extra money away, and then splurge on what I really love in life…my closet!”
6. Graduate school
Another thing that I’ve realized is that education, specifically higher education, has a lot of criticism aimed at it among personal finance bloggers. I understand, after all, it’s a big decision to leave the workforce and take on significant debt (or both! what fun). I believe most people make a thoughtful choice on whether they want to go back to school. This is close to my heart because I am applying to an MBA program. A graduate degree can lead to a career switch or great job opportunities, plus, there’s what I call the “luxury” factor. Life isn’t just about return on financial investment. I fully recognize that purely financially speaking, it may not make sense for me to go get an MBA(or have kids, or travel the world, or get a dog, etc.). It will certainly take me longer to recoup my costs that it would if I have a lower income right now or am aiming for a higher income post-MBA. But the experience of being in school, furthering my education, increasing my network and making new friends are also worth something to me, as I imagine it’s worth to other folks who decide to go back to school.
The one expense that almost always escape judgment?
Travel! I love travel as much as the next gal (and I blog about it plenty), but come on. Travel can expand one’s horizons and add a valued cultural perspective. Yet honestly, a vacation to Paris or a trip to Turkey can be as much of an luxury item as a pair of Louboutin heels or a Prada purse.
I can’t say that I free from judgment – it’s human nature to judge and compare. Okay, fine, I do judge people who pay $300+ for Hermes flip flops. Just a little.
What expense do you think personal finance bloggers judge the most (am I missing anything on this list?)? What expense do you judge the most?