How Insecurity Damages Your Ability to Save

Ever wonder if insecurity damages your ability to save? It does - keeping up with the Joneses is based on feeling insecure! Here's how to gain confidence.

Have you ever thought about how your level of confidence or insecurity influences your spending?

There’s a clear correlation in most cases. Think about it – how many people try and keep up with a certain lifestyle just because it’s the one all their friends and families have chosen? How many people go into debt to afford it?

How many people have a horrible shopping addiction because they’re trying to fill a void in their life? Or because they want to feel nice?

Most of this boils down to feeling insecure. That’s why, to a certain extent, frugal living takes a bit of confidence. It’s about going against mindless consumerism and embracing alternatives. It’s about not caring what other people’s opinions are of your unconventional lifestyle.

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. If you want to reach that point, it helps to recognize how insecurity damages your ability to save.

The Act of Fitting In


From an early age, many of us realized that to “fit in” with the “cool” crowd, we needed to have the best stuff. Designer clothes and the latest toys and gadgets were a must. The bigger the house we grew up in or the nicer the cars our parents drove, the better. (Heck, one girl I knew got chauffeured to elementary school in a limo. We were talking about it for days.)

It’s no surprise this trend continues into adulthood for many people. It’s how we were conditioned to think. Shiny, expensive things = success. If we have something less, we feel insecure because we’re not that successful (according to society).

We grow up thinking we need to have the big house and the fancy car in order to make ourselves look better. Our insecurity drives us to shop at places out of our price range. We’re terrified to expose our “real” selves out of fear of what others will think.

As many of you know (since you’re reading Frugal Rules!), that’s not a good way to live. It’s an almost surefire way to get into debt. Your ability to save? You’re probably not even thinking about saving money. You’re only thinking about how to elevate your status in life with things.

Do Women Have it Worse?


I don’t like to get into the whole debate about whether or not it costs more to be a woman, but women do generally have to spend more to maintain themselves than the average man does.

Again, it comes down to society’s expectations. That’s why the beauty industry does so well. The media tells us to look beautiful, that we need to have perfect hair, teeth, nails, bodies, wardrobes, faces, etc.

I’m not going to lie – while I’ve had my nails done all of three times in my entire life, I’ve fallen prey to the “necessity” of makeup. I normally don’t leave the house without at least foundation on, if not everything. Yes, even when going to the grocery store.

Where does this “need” come from? Insecurity.

I was bullied throughout school. Someone always had something to say, and I had a decent amount of self-image issues by the time I graduated. This was only perpetuated by society’s definition of beauty. Actresses, models, singers – they all looked more beautiful (and ahem, manufactured) than I could ever hope to be.

Wearing makeup was the only solution I found to giving myself a bit more confidence, and I know I’m not the only one out there that feels this way. It’s horrible. While I’m confident I have a fairly lovely personality, I can’t get past my looks, even though people probably care much less about it than I do.

Of course, maintaining a certain style or look can cost you a ton. When I was actually buying makeup regularly, I’m sure I spent hundreds, if not over $1,000, on beauty products in one year. And that’s at the low end of the range.

Considering I’ve been battling my student loan debt, throwing all that money away just to look and feel better about myself was, in part, a waste. I’d much rather be debt free than have a crazy collection of makeup.

Insecurity in the Workplace


This isn’t just a problem in our personal lives, but our professional lives as well.

I worked in an office full of salesmen. They were all trying to compete with each other to see who could get the biggest deals.

Our bosses did away with “casual Friday” for them, insisting they needed to be dressed in professional attire at all times to be more successful. Those bosses also leased cars that cost them at least $500 per month, if not more.

Actually, one of my bosses joked around with me one day when I asked him which model of a pen he wanted. “The fanciest, of course, that’s how we do things here!”

Oh yeah, not to mention the time one boss got his new iPhone before everyone else…he was going around the office waving it around in an attempt to incite jealousy.

Should I even mention not wanting to order lunch with everyone got me weird looks?

This is why company culture is so important to consider when looking for a job. As I wasn’t a salesman, I wasn’t all that concerned with looking “fancy,” but I have to imagine a lot of them felt a certain pressure to have nice cars, nice clothes, and money to drop on drinks after work.

Outside of that, I felt a tad insecure because I didn’t have as many clothes as my female co-workers. That’s right – just clothes. Not even fancy clothes. It seemed like they had new outfits every week, when I was wearing the same 5 or 10 different outfits I had.

This all leads to needless spending because we’re influenced by the people we’re around the most. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to them and it’s usually a losing battle.

Ever wonder if insecurity damages your ability to save? It does - keeping up with the Joneses is based on feeling insecure! Here's how to gain confidence.

How to Gain Confidence so you can stop spending


I know most people don’t want to hear it, but the simple answer is “stop caring.” So what if you drive the oldest car out of everyone you know? You probably don’t have a car payment! So what if you’re a minimalist? You have less stuff to maintain. So what if you never go out to eat because it doesn’t make you happy? You’re saving money where it matters.

To stop being insecure, you need to be happy with what you have and where you’re at in life. I may not own a house like some of my friends, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less successful than they are. I may not have the most stylish wardrobe ever, but clothes don’t indicate how hard of a worker I am.

The best thing you can do is surround yourself with like-minded people who support you no matter what. Those who love and care about you regardless of what you own matter the most. Those who want to judge you based on material items or appearances aren’t worth your time.

You can’t take your stuff with you, and more than likely, you’ll never be remembered for it anyway. You will be remembered for the person you were, though. Do yourself a favor and start realizing how awesome and successful you are based on what matters. Spending out of insecurity will soon become a thing of the past.


Have you ever faced a time where you spent out of insecurity? Why did you feel insecure? How did you get over it? Do you care about the opinions people have on your financial habits?

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Erin M. is a personal finance freelance writer passionate about helping others take control over their financial situation. She shares her thoughts on money on her blog Journey to Saving.


  • Hannah says:

    I think that understanding this is so important. I know many people who can ill afford it who think of coffee or shows as important status symbols that take a lot of their paycheck. I think addressing the insecurity is the first step in reducing the expenditures in those cases.

  • I think this is something I have gotten better with as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, keeping up with the others in my circle was important. Now, I’ve learned that my life is my life, other people have different lives, and that’s okay. If others don’t respect my choices, I’ll find people who do. While in my 20s I may have been embarrassed if I didn’t meet some external standard, in my 40s I’ve learned to be comfortable with myself.

  • I watched a Suze Orman episode once where the caller argued that it was more expensive to be a woman. Suze agreed but said it’s not much to worry about.

    • Erin M says:

      I’m a fan of thinking most things are as expensive as you make them. There are definitely other pressures men face that women don’t, and it shouldn’t really be a competition anyway.

  • Aaron says:

    Great article. How others see you is far less important than how you see yourself.

  • Mike @ Tip Yourself says:

    This is so true!

    We’re all guilt of living in the future at times. We strive to be this or that and achieve xyz. Those pressures can get out of hand and affect our financial health as much as mental health.

    This is a great article Erin and advice that needs to be highlighted more often!

    Love yourself first! Save for YOU not for goals!

    • Erin M says:

      Thanks! I’m guilty as charged, too, since I tend to set pretty high goals and standards for myself. But we can choose how we measure our success, and it doesn’t have to be based on society’s definition.

  • Ramona says:

    It’s been already proved that our spending is in direction connection with our state of mind. We do tend to try heal some of our issues by feeling better in the stores. And the store owners know exactly what they need to do 😉

    • Erin says:

      Yes, it’s pretty awful we’re basically enabled when we’re at our weakest. That’s why I prefer online shopping, it’s a lot easier to get what you need and not get sidetracked.

  • In the past, I definitely have. Working in the beauty industry, I think there’s a certain pressure to keep up appearances and have nice things.

    • Erin says:

      I think the beauty industry has got to be the toughest (besides fashion). When you’re marketing a product you have to conform to the brand, and of course, that’s going to involve looking “done up.”

  • I totally agree with this one! When iPhone 6 plus released, my friends keep posted on social medias that they already got the latest iPhone. I really, really wanted to buy, but I paused for a while and asked myself “should I really need to buy a new one even if my 3 year old Samsung S3 is still working fine?” So I immediately turned down my thought about it.

    • Erin says:

      That’s awesome, Clarisse! It’s amazing what thinking about a purchase can do for us. Too many people fall for instant gratification these days.

  • I do think there is some importance in the looking good/feeling confident equation. Let’s take the sales scenario. I’m pretty certain that “better looking/dressed” people DO make more money. Attractive people also get hired more than non-attractive people. It’s just a sad fact, so if you want to have some success, there is a good reason for some upkeep (good hygiene, appropriate attire, well-kept hair and clothes, etc). But…know exactly why and why this could be useful, and do so with how your budget accommodates. I know there are some people out there who say, “I don’t care what people think.” Honestly, I don’t completely buy that. I once hear Amy Schumer say it much better: “I care what people who I care about think.” In other words, pick and choose your battles.

    • Erin says:

      Right, there are merits to taking care of yourself, of course. I was more or less talking about going to the extreme. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with *wanting* to look good (as I said, I’m guilty of it), but you should understand your motivation for it and work toward having other things to be proud of rather than just your looks (or material possessions).

  • Peer pressure and the want to fit in with societal norms can most definitely negatively impact one’s ability to save. We are social beings and crave those connections and, in today’s world, it can be tough not to keep up with the joneses to try to accomplish that. Not caring is the solution…or rather, caring about yourself and your financial future is the answer. And, yes, as a guy, I do believe women face more pressure than men in this regard.

    • Erin says:

      Switching the focus to yourself and your financial future is definitely important. So many people don’t stop to think about the impact insecurity/keeping up with the Joneses can have on their wallets or their life until it’s too late. It’s better to be concerned about yourself and less concerned about what others are doing.

  • Mr. Crackin' says:

    Clothes are my issue. Its always hard to find my style for my closet at a thrift store. I guess most guys wear it to the trash or they have no sense of fashion. I dont know. I’ve spent way too much money over the past few years. I wear fancy shirts and shiny shoes, but I do find that quality matters when buying clothing. But when I put on my fancy clothes I carry myself in a different way. I’m more confident. I dress mainly in layers so I can mix and match different outfits which equals less clothes but its still pricy. I believe one should look their very best the moment they leave the house. I like to feel sexy I guess. That’s my insecurity.

    • Erin says:

      At least you’re aware of it, though! I think buying high quality clothing that will last a while is a good idea in most cases. The important thing is to not go crazy with it, and it sounds like you have a good strategy with mixing and matching (which I love to do). We all have our “weaknesses” – we just have to know how to manage them.

  • Mike says:

    Once you get a bit older, like 25 or so, you pretty much stop caring and living frugally becomes extremely easy. Well that’s what my experience was at least. I used to be extremely insecure and self conscious about my appearance, and then one day it was just like… ah whatever.

    I’d still like to have nice/fancy clothes, but I’m not going to sacrifice my rent and food money just so I can have them 🙂

    • Erin says:

      That’s a good stance to have, Mike! I think the age varies from person to person, but I do think insecurity becomes less of an issue as you get older and as your peers start to care less as well.

  • You bring up a great point, and it’s definitely something I’m not aware of us as much as I should be. I definitely feel more secure when I have newer clothes or just clothes that fit better. It would be difficult to work in a work environment like the one you described.

    • Erin says:

      It probably didn’t help that our office was very small – less than 15 people. I’m sure the busier a work environment is, the less that kind of stuff happens! I think most people like to feel nice and use clothes as a way to channel that.

  • Insecurity can destroy not only a perfect friendship and relationship but also savings and budgeting!

  • Jessica says:

    I know what you mean here! It took me a while to feel comfortable declining lunch invitations with coworkers or other social invitations with friends because I was uncomfortable being different. I also hate leaving the house without looking somewhat put together. It’s very easy to feel insecure living in LA where there are tons of beautiful humans.

    • Erin M says:

      That’s a good point – where you live can certainly influence how you feel and what you buy. I’m sure cities and surrounding areas place more emphasis on materialism than rural places do.

  • This is a really great post!! It was particularly nice because I agree with you but also found myself having a few personal differences. For me, I actually enjoy makeup, fashion, etc. I don’t do it for other people — I actually like it for myself. Since I’m committed to repaying my student loans, I have to balance that with my budget. I find myself shopping only when I really need to and for things that last a really long time and are on sale. For example, I just bought work clothes from J Crew Factory (the outlet version of J Crew) over this holiday weekend where everything was 50% off… I do think “girls have it worse”, and I agree it’s because of society’s expectations. For me, Ramit’s book “I Will Teach You to be Rich” helped me not feel bad about what I like. If I can afford it and that’s what I want, then I’m going to buy it. I tell my friends that when my student loans are repaid I’m going to regularly get manicures — this may seem frivolous to some people, but if I can afford it and that’s what I like then that’s what I’m doing!

    • Erin says:

      For the most part, I enjoy cosmetics for myself, too, though I know I’m not secure enough to go out without makeup on. So in some aspects, I guess I’m doing it for others. Going for quality when it comes to clothes definitely helps, and I think it’s one of the smarter ways to shop.

      Absolutely – there’s nothing wrong if you can afford it (or you put it in the budget). There are a lot of people who don’t take that mindful approach, and that’s when it can get bad. While I’m not a fan of manicures (nail polish never seems to last for me!), I’d never tell someone not to make room in their budget for getting one.

  • I’ve always been self-conscious about my weight, even when I was skinny and should have just enjoyed it. (What a big waste of a small waist!)

    I think that may have led to some unnecessary buying. On the other hand, there has been a lot of stuff I avoided buying because I was worried about how it would look.

    • Erin says:

      That’s my problem, and largely why I don’t like shopping (so I guess it’s partially good?). I’m always overly critical of how clothes fit and I can never seem to find any that actually fit well.

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