Updated on 11.28.16

Balancing Your Financial Success and the Luxuries of Your Friends

Trent Hamm

We’ve all been there at some point or another.

We meet up with a friend and discover that he or she has acquired some sort of luxury good or had some sort of expensive experience. Maybe that person has a brand new car that’s shining in the sun. Maybe that person has the latest smartphone. Maybe that person just got back from a trip to Rio.

Whatever it is, they’ve just enjoyed some luxury, one that’s well outside the borders of your budget.

And you’re jealous. At least a little.

It’s not a question of whether or not their luxury is something you’d actually want for yourself. It’s that a friend of yours has a luxury in their life. They have access to something luxurious that they personally desired at a time when you don’t have anything luxurious yourself.

You look at your ordinary routines and then look at the luxurious item or experience that your friend has and you simply feel jealous of it.

It’s at that point that you’re primed to make some awful financial choices. You might instantly decide that you need some sort of luxury for yourself and then, within the next day or two, find yourself making a purchase that you wouldn’t have otherwise made. You might dwell on that luxury, letting it swell in your mind and convincing yourself that your current life is denying you so much that you just abandon your financial principles for a while and start splurging. You might even begin to doubt the entire reason that you make good financial choices.

After all, if you can’t have that luxury, what good is it?

Here are some vital things to think about if you find yourself in that mindset.

First of all, you’re actually in the process of buying one of the best luxuries in the world. You don’t have the latest smartphone or a shiny new car, but you do have financial stability in your life and you’re probably building to a state where you can quit working many years before your friends and family while enjoying all the free time in the world to do whatever it is that you enjoy most in the world.

To me, there is literally nothing better that I could be doing with my money. I cannot imagine anything else I’d rather have in this world than endless amounts of free time with enough financial security to not have to worry about day-to-day needs. There are so many things I’d love to explore or try or dig deep into, and the only way to be able to do that is to maximize my control over my time, and the best way to do that is to build a financially secure foundation for my life.

What I often do is transform that luxury item into that free time. My friend might have that shiny car while I have a fourteen year old SUV that I bought off of Craigslist (seriously, I drive an old Honda Pilot that I bought off of Craigslist), but when I look at that shiny new car, what I actually see is about a year‘s worth of days where I have the freedom to choose whatever I want to do with my time. I would way rather have that year – and I think a lot of people, if they really thought about it for a while, would prefer that year, too.

Second, you probably don’t want that luxury anyway. There are many “luxuries” that I have witnessed my friends purchase that I honestly wouldn’t own if I had a billion dollars. It’s just not me. Although I can see that the item is clearly a luxury item, it’s not something I would want.

I have a friend who purchased a Jaguar several years ago. I genuinely have zero interest in owning a Jaguar. I can appreciate that it’s beautiful and so on, but that doesn’t mean I want to own it or use it as something to get back and forth.

That doesn’t mean that I view the person who bought that item with disdain. I understand why someone would want a particular item, but I simply recognize that it’s not for me. I understand why my friend wanted a Jaguar and I understand that my friend is likely to get a lot of enjoyment out of a Jaguar, but I recognize that I wouldn’t get nearly the same enjoyment out of owning one.

Third, you have a friend in front of you that’s probably very happy about this luxury, so share in that joy! Even if you feel immensely jealous of that item that your friend just acquired or that experience that your friend just had, check that jealousy for a moment and switch shoes with that person. Imagine that you just bought something you’ve always wanted or taken a fantastic trip or something and you can’t wait to share it with a friend. How would you want that friend to react? With joy? Or with jealousy, bitterness, and negativity?

Be the friend that you want in your own life. Even if you feel insanely jealous of the purchase. Even if it’s clear it’s something that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. Even if you think the purchase was financially disastrous. No matter what, check the negative feelings and be happy for your friend.

It can be really tempting as well to swing into judgmental talk about finances. Don’t. You can save the financial talk for later. Even if you can’t muster a single ounce of joy related to the item, focus instead on the joy of your friend and be a part of that.

What I’ve found, almost every time, is that by sharing in the joy, my own desire to get something luxurious actually fades away. I begin to realize that it’s not about the luxury item, but about my friend doing something that brings my friend joy. The luxury item could be anything – it doesn’t matter.

Fourth, you likely have things already in your own life that bring you joy, so make sure you always have room for them. I’ve found, over and over again, that I become more jealous of the luxuries that my friends have when I’m feeling negative about the state of things in my own life. If I’m unhappy with some big aspect of my own life at the time my friend shows up with a luxury, I’m going to end up with negative feelings of jealousy. Negativity feeds on negativity, after all.

What’s the solution, then? The solution, for me at least, is to do my best to maintain a life balance. If I feel negativity creeping up in my life, I do everything I can to address it head on. For me, addressing that negativity usually comes in the form of consciously setting aside time and energy for things that are important to me that I’m currently neglecting. Whether it’s a relationship or a hobby or something else, I make sure that I’m setting aside time for that thing, giving it the attention that it needs so that it is no longer a negative.

Letting a bad situation limp along in your life because you believe “it’ll get better soon” or “I can deal with it next week or next month” isn’t a solution because those outcomes never happen. If there’s something in your life that’s bothering you, deal with it now because the longer you let it sit, the more likely it is to become a lasting pattern that you just can’t get rid of.

Finally, give it time. Many of the solutions I describe here require time more than anything else. You might still feel jealousy in the moment, but if you don’t do things in response to that jealousy and instead give yourself some time to reflect on the state of your own life, why you feel that jealousy, and what areas of your own life are feeling negative right now, you’ll probably end up coming to some valuable conclusions that don’t involve spending a dime.

For me, a strong jealous response to something means that something is out of whack in my current life. Those things can be hard to figure out, especially in the moment. So, if you feel jealous, recognize that jealousy, but don’t act on it. Give it time. Try to figure out why you’re feeling jealous.

You may just find that the answer you needed was right there all along.

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