Why You Should Stop Spending Money to Impress People

When you’re a teenager with little life experience, it’s easy to build your entire life around what other people think. It can feel normal to let your friend’s ideas of what’s cool dictate the clothes you wear, how you carry yourself, and even the music you like.

While this pressure is sometimes internal, teenagers are known for shaming each other into conforming to social norms. And as we all know, young adults can be absolutely brutal in how they treat each other – not only those who are different, but even those who try really hard to fit in.

Sadly, adulthood isn’t always a whole lot better in this respect. Not only will you experience pressure to look your best, but you’ll be forced to either keep up with – or ignore – the Joneses all throughout adulthood.

That’s right, even adulthood has its cliquey share of cool kids, rich kids, outsiders, and rebels. And sometimes, the way someone else spends their money can make you feel like you should be doing the same thing, too. After all, most people still want to fit in; it doesn’t matter whether they’re 15 or 50.

Six Reasons You Should Stop Spending to Impress People

But, should you give in to peer pressure and waste your hard-earned dollars? If you truly want to get ahead financially — and build a successful, impressive life — the answer should be a resounding “no.”

The opportunities to spend money as an adult are nearly limitless, but they will drain your bank account if you give in every time. And at the end of the day, keeping up with your friends as an adult is just as pointless as it was in high school.

Here are six reasons you should stop spending money to impress your neighbors, friends, and colleagues and put yourself first instead:

No. 1: Your Future Self Will Not Be Impressed

Spending your money on material possessions might make you feel better in the short term, but it won’t help you reach your future financial goals at all. And if you’re not saving enough for retirement, your “future you” — who, we’ll argue, is far more important than your neighbor three doors down — will not be impressed. Unless you stash away plenty of money now, you could be stuck living in poverty in old age – or simply never be able to retire at all.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half (45%) of American adults ages 65 and older had incomes lower than twice the poverty threshold in 2013. Meanwhile, a new analysis from the Government Accountability Office showed that 29% of older adults had no retirement savings in 2013, and that even those who had savings weren’t saving enough.

If you don’t want to struggle in old age, you need to buck that trend and start putting your retirement savings first. You may need to give up some things today, but your future self will be so glad you did.

No. 2: At Least Some of Your Friends Are Faking It, Too

As of 2015, the average credit card debt for indebted American households was $15,609. That’s a startling statistic, but also a very telling one. From coast to coast, far too many people charge whatever they want and worry about how to pay later.

Easy credit makes it far too simple to obscure reality. In other words, just because someone appears to have everything doesn’t mean they can actually afford it.

Before you let the pressure to “keep up” get to you, look around and ask yourself if your peers’ financial lives are even real. Chances are, at least some of them have built a lifestyle on easy credit and monthly payments that will eventually come back to bite them. That’s not something you want to emulate, is it?

No. 3: Actually Having Money Is More Rewarding

Buying new stuff might make you feel good for a short burst of time, but that feeling has a way of fading quickly. Having money in the bank for emergencies and retirement, on the other hand, offers a kind of security you can’t get anywhere else. Better yet, the feeling that comes with having savings is not fleeting at all, but rather long-lasting.

New cars, shoes, purses, and toys you buy to impress your friends depreciate rapidly as well, which means you’re likely throwing money down the drain when you buy all this stuff as well.

Your savings and investments, on the other hand, will grow over time – giving you the type of financial security that will help you sleep at night.

friends in a circle
Real friends and faithful family members don’t care whether you have the latest gadget or a new car. And who else even matters? Photo: Cléo Morgause

No. 4: You’ll Never Make Everyone Happy Anyway

When you buy big houses, cars, and “stuff” to impress your friends, it’s really just an illusion. The fact is, friends that need impressing are fickle people anyway. No matter how much you spend or what you buy, you’ll never make everyone happy.

That’s why spending money to impress others is the ultimate waste; when you shop to make other people happy, you’re not only failing by default, but also depriving yourself of what you really want.

As my mother would say, the only way to win this game is “not to play.”

No. 5: You Have Nothing to Prove

Adulthood is a journey, not a race. Those who collect the most material possessions don’t earn a prize – no ribbon, no trophy, nothing. So, why does it feel like we need to compete?

I’ll tell you why: Because every commercial on television, online, and the radio is aimed at parting us with our money. Every ad campaign on Earth was created to convince us that what we have is not enough, and that we need this item or that service — and that we’re depriving ourselves and our families if we don’t buy it.

Don’t believe the hype. You have nothing to prove, and you’ll be a lot better off if you ignore the commercials, your friends, and the hype, and do what is best for you.

No. 6: Real Friends Don’t Care What You Have

The final reason you shouldn’t spend to impress other people is that real friends don’t care if you have a fancy home, a shiny new car in the garage, the latest smartphone, or every other grown-up toy known to man. Real friends – the type of friends you want to have – care a lot more about your character and your personality, and how much fun you have together.

Real friends love you whether you’re rich, poor, successful, or struggling. They won’t mind if you waste your money on designer clothes and shoes, but they don’t expect it either.

If you’re spending just to impress people, you might be neglecting the people who never cared about that stuff anyway – your real friends. So look around and ask yourself who has been there for you through thick and thin. Chances are, it’s the people who couldn’t care less how you spend your money.

The Bottom Line

Personal finance icon Dave Ramsey once said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Sadly, he’s absolutely right.

What’s worse is that we often do it at the expense of being able to afford what we really want in life – whether that’s savings for retirement, the ability to travel the world, or a simple emergency fund to deal with life’s uncertainties.

If you’re struggling to get ahead and can’t figure out why, take a close look at your spending to see how much of it is based on what you really want – and how much of it was for someone else. If you find you’re spending to impress others, it might be time to confront the one person who can turn your situation around – yourself.

What are some reasons you quit spending money to impress other people?

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Holly Johnson

Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.