Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Another related well-known quote is, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” It’s a very human thing to do.
I’ve certainly fallen victim to this over the years, particularly in my 20s. And this was a time before social media. While social media makes comparison a lot easier, we’ve been doing it forever. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments tells us (actually, it commands us), “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his farm, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his!”
What do these quotes mean and why are they important? From the perspective of the Ten Commandments, why must we not compare ourselves to others?
Because it’s extremely dangerous and harmful when we do it.
It leaves us feeling deficient; that what we have isn’t good enough. It creates stress in many aspects of life. Many of us stress about our professional life if we feel we’re not earning enough money. Stress can impact relationships if we feel our lifestyle’s aren’t lavish enough. Stress can make us question our self-worth because we feel we’re not good enough.
It’s dangerous because comparison erases margins. It can cause us to spend all of our resources to act like we have what others have (or are pretending to have.) It can cause us to lease expensive cars, buy houses that are too big, eat at fancy restaurants, and go on expensive vacations. This can translate to no money left over for things that actually matter.
“Sorry kid, no college fund. Your old man needed to flex on social.” Jokes aside, a dollar spent keeping up with the Jones’ is a dollar you’re not putting to work for saving and investing goals. Worse than the opportunity cost of that, too many of us are paying for this short-sighted lifestyle with credit cards. When we do that, we’re not only blowing money to impress people we don’t like, we’re paying high interest rates for the pleasure.
Alright, alright, we get it…comparison is bad. What do we do? Here are three things you can start doing immediately.
- Be mindful of your emotions. All that means is for you to think about what you’re thinking about. When you start comparing yourself to others or a thought pops up that you wish you had what you’re looking at, pause. Recognize the feeling of wanting something more, better or different than what you have, and put things in perspective. Here’s an easy way to do that: Nearly half the world lives on less than $6 a day. We have it good.
- Stop buying stuff you don’t need. Right now, I’m teaching my kids about wants versus needs. Hopefully you know the difference. I’ll say it again: stop buying things you don’t need. Once you get on track financially (out of debt, saving, and investing), you’re welcome to go back to buying worthless crap again.
- Be appreciative. Make people’s day and give compliments. Be the person who lights people up with kindness and happiness. Tell people “good job” and “thank you!”
I could continue, but these are three simple yet solid things I work to consistently do and they’ve helped me greatly. If you do them, you’ll get better. I promise.
Doing these will help you recognize and manage your emotions, which are often what cause us to overspend and/or make bad decisions. From there, put your plan together for getting out of debt (access our Get Out of Debt Course for free) and get on track to meet your saving and investing goals!
As always I encourage you to talk with someone about what you’re working to get better at. Talk to a friend, coworker, or your favorite cousin. Don’t feel like doing that? Get info on financial coaching and hop on a call. As always, ask us anything. Enter your question here. We answer all of them.