I was standing in line at DSW ready to buy a new pair of sandals. In front of me stood a woman with a $150 pair of heels in her hand, talking to her friend about how great these shoes will look with her new dress.
I stood there shaking my head, silently judging her frivolous purchase. Here I was about to spend less than $30 on a pair of shoes I’d been waiting all season to buy at a discount. And this woman was spending almost five times as much as me. What a waste of money!
Didn’t she know how silly it was to spend so much on a pair of heels when she could use that to pay down her debt? Couldn’t she be using that money to boost her savings and buy something more meaningful?
As she made her way to the counter to pay, I was feeling slightly superior for my bargain-hunting, shoe-shopping skills.
Then she said something to her friend that made me pause. And I felt utterly ashamed.
Comparing the Surface of Your Situation to My Own
I don’t buy shoes that often (and when I do, I tend to do shopping sprees at Goodwill), but this was a special occasion. I’d been waiting months for the summer supply of sandals to go on-sale. My favorite cork flats with teal trim had been falling apart since May, but I was determined to wait until prices dropped before buying a replacement pair.
After only 10 minutes in the store, I’d found the pair for me – a normally $59 set of cork sandals now on-sale for $28. Cha-ching. My patience had quite literally paid off.
I stood there in line, smugly smiling inwardly at my ability to snag the exact pair I wanted for less than half the original price. That’s when I noticed the woman in front of me with the $150 shoes.
She began gushing over her shoes with her friend – how these new red heels would go perfectly with the color of her dress.
It was as she was making her way to the cash register that caught me off guard. She said she hadn’t bought a new pair of shoes for a year, that she had been saving up for something special ever since she found out her friend was engaged. She ended up borrowing her dress from a friend so she could splurge a little more on her footwear.
As she rang up her purchase, she seemed so genuinely happy to be spending $150 on shoes.
What I had assumed was a frivolous impulse purchase was in fact a very special occasion that she’d spent a whole year saving for.
This was one of the rare instances where I had actually heard a stranger’s reasoning for making a purchase. It was only until I heard her justification that her purchase was “okay” my mind.
In that moment, I realized that I had misjudged her. And I had absolutely no right to be judging her decision in the first place – even if I didn’t hear her reasoning.
But more than that, I realized I had been silently judging how other people spend money for years. And I think it has to stop now.
I Have Judged and I Have Been Judged
In so many other instances, I had assumed the worst of those buying something in front of me. “How can she afford that?” “How would spend their money that way?” “Is he just irresponsible?”
I assume that I’ve been judged as well. How do I look when I walk out of Whole Foods with a $200 grocery bill? Does the couple behind me judge me for spending $40 on organic chicken? Do people see my food budget as extravagant and unnecessary?
What those that judge my grocery cart don’t know is that I’ve paid over $16,000 toward my debt in the last year. They don’t know that I go to the library more more often than I eat out. They don’t know who I am and where my financial priorities lie.
As I get frustrated thinking about the possibility of others judging me, I feel equally ashamed and sad for the ways that I’ve judged others.
That was wrong. Forgive me.
For Judging How You Spend Your Money: Please Forgive Me
Please forgive me for judging how other people spend money. Please forgive me for judging you.
It is out of ignorance of your personal situation that I judge. It is out of a misplaced sense of superiority. It is out of a false assumption that I know what I’m doing with my money and you do not.
To the well-dressed mom I saw in Banana Republic buying a $200 jacket for her teenaged daughter, I’m sorry that I assumed that you spoiled your child.
To the twenty-something at Lululemon buying $80 yoga pants, I’m sorry for judging you for not making a “smart” purchase.
To my coworkers over the years who have come back from a luxurious vacation with tales of indulgence, I’m sorry that I assumed that you were careless and extravagant.
Your reasoning behind your purchases are not my burden. And my burden – my desire to pay off my debt, my desire to save, my desire to be thrifty and frugal – is not your burden either.
Your priorities are not mine. My priorities are not yours. And I will no longer judge you for not sharing mine.
I will no longer judge you for decisions you make that I only see on the surface. I will not judge how you spend your money if you will not me.
I will revel in the fact that I spend my money according to my values and my priorities. And I will be damn happy with the fact I found the $59 shoes I wanted for $28.
And in her own way, the woman with the $150 shoes is probably just as happy with her decision as I am with mine.
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