Why Money Envy Can Be A Good Thing

Money envy can cause us to make decisions that may not be the best for us. I share simple tips how to avoid jealousy and focus on the big picture instead.

While I’m on vacation this week, please enjoy this post from Kristi at Modern Muse. If you’d like to contribute to Frugal Rules, please contact us.

Making the conscious choice to live frugally feels great about 99 percent of the time. It feels awesome to have an extra $300 a month in your savings account every month after you decide to cut out cable, switch to a cheaper cell phone plan and stop eating out so much. You start paying off debt, saving for retirement, and you’re generally enjoying a frugal life.

Then it happens. Your co-worker rolls up to work in their shiny new car, or your cousin comes back from a month long trip to Europe. You start getting overwhelming feelings of jealousy and doubt with your financial game plan. “Why did I decide to save money again?” probably goes through your head. It’s a rational response to automatic windshield wipers and heated leather seats.

Envy is such a powerful emotion; it creeps in and can make you lose sight of why you decided to live frugally in the first place. It isn’t easy to be the financially responsible friend who always says no to fun or expensive events, and it’s a big downer when you have to say no to a simple meal out. Nobody likes to feel left out or irrelevant.

Pretty much anyone on a budget or strict financial plan has dealt with money envy at some point. When jealousy pops up, you have two options: Let it creep in, fester, and make you lose sight of your financial priorities; or you can reign it in and use that jealousy to your benefit.

Remember Why You Save


You may not be able buy a new car or go on a cruise for vacation this year, but maybe you know the best ways to have fun with your family for free. Instead of feeling bad about what you can’t do, take a minute to feel good about what you are choosing – like saving more, investing in an online brokerage account, or paying down debt. Do what you have to do right now to reach your bigger goals and don’t let short-term jealousy affect your long-term finances.

Hold on to Gratitude


You know in your budget-loving heart why you made the personal financial choice to reign in your spending. Frugal living can feel alienating though, especially if your friends or family don’t understand why you can’t afford or have chosen not to have “nice things.”

Instead of feeling jealous, try to feel happy for your friends and family when they get to buy or do fun new things. They may have different priorities than you, but they worked just as hard for their money as you did. Genuine happiness for others and gratitude for things that you have, goes a long way towards quelling those feelings of jealousy and resentment.

Look Deeper


That co-worker with a new car may struggle with their monthly loan payments, or they could have been saving for the past ten years to buy the car of their dreams with cash in hand. You never know how or why someone made a particular purchase or financial decision. It’s easy to look at someone’s shiny new purchase, get jealous, and project a judgmental attitude towards their decision, but realize that you don’t know what they had to do to get it.

Learn From Your Peers


Is your co-worker drowning in debt to pay for that new car? If the answer is yes, then why on earth would you be jealous of them? Learn from their mistakes and stay on your frugal path to financial independence.

If they saved up for that car and paid for it all upfront, see what you can learn from them. Are they seriously kicking butt by doing great work at a side hustle? If so, ask them for business tips. Use the point of jealousy to spark a discussion. Just say, “Man, that’s a beautiful car. Have any tips on how to pay for a car like that with cash in hand?” Ask them about their business or investments. Ask them to impart their wisdom to you, so that you can learn from them, go out, and emulate some of their success.

Money envy can cause us to make decisions that may not be the best for us. I share simple tips how to avoid jealousy and focus on the big picture instead.

Focus on Your Priorities


Don’t let the “Ohhh, shiny!” reaction to friends’ new purchases cause feelings of doubt with your priorities. Insecurities damage your ability to make the best choices for your own financial situation. If you are doing what is best for your needs, wants, and bank account, then no amount of new clothes or new cars should be able to sway you. By focusing on the goals which direct your spending choices, you’ll be able to look past those creeping feelings of jealousy and focus on the big picture.


How do you deal with money envy? Do you struggle with judging others for their financial choices – or do you feel judged for your choices? What mental tricks do you use to remind yourself of the “why” behind your financial choices?


About Kristi: Kristi Muse is a family finance freelance writer who loves writing about strategies to save money, get out of debt and live a frugal life. She shares her experiences about debt and parenthood on her blog Moderate Muse. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.


  • Kim says:

    You’re right that we don’t know the why and shouldn’t judge. We probably do things that make others wonder if we’ve robbed a bank, like taking almost a month long vacation. Most people don’t believe we paid most of it with points. If we all worried more about ouselves instead of what everyone else has or does, there probably wouldn’t be any more Jones envy.

    • Kristi says:

      I’m having a little bit of envy about your month long vacation (just kidding). I think it’s great to see the amazing success that others have had and try to use it as encouragement in your own endeavors. There’s definitely a fine line between awe and respect and plain jealousy though.

  • Since I’ve never really enjoyed owning a lot of stuff, I deal with envy less often. The trick for me is to refrain from having a feeling about a thing, like a new car.

    • Kristi says:

      I’m trying to whittle down the things in our household as well, so that definitely helps with the “things” envy. I will be the first to admit jealousy for amazing life experiences though, like trips around the world or month long hiking excursions. I just try to remember that I will get there someday, and my own trips will be all the more precious for having worked hard for it.

  • I used to judge others and have a major problem with “keeping up the with Joneses”, but now I focus on myself and my financial goals. Having a personal plan helps me avoid comparing myself to other people. And really, if I do, I usually assume they cannot afford their lifestyle!

    • Kristi says:

      I agree, Natalie! A personal plan really helps. Also, I tend to tell myself that they are up to their eyes in debt, when I don’t understand how they can afford something. It makes me feel better, whether it’s true or not.

  • GREAT tips, Kristi! We used to suffer from the unhealthy kind of money envy before we moved to the country. Now we’ve learned to practice the tips above and it’s changed everything. They really do work!

  • I agree that keeping your bigger goals in mind is the key to battling envy, because your goals reflect what you really value, instead of envying what someone else values. It also helps to remember that “shiny new” things only feel exciting, fun, and shiny for a short time. But bigger picture financial plans set the stage for a rewarding lifestyle of your choosing.

  • I don’t have money envy – I have money confusion. I am always astonished at the things people I know buy on a regular basis. I try not to judge, but there are times when I really wish I knew what their finance were like!

    • Kristi says:

      Ha! I’m right there with you, Holly! Sometimes I wish all of my friends were finance nerds so that I could ask about their finances without being rude or stepping outside of my social graces.

  • This is one of the reasons I think “finding your tribe” is so important. If everyone around you has values of consumption, it can be even harder to stick to your savings and smart financial planning guns. So grateful for the PF community!

  • Hannah says:

    Financial jealousy is a really weird beast. My coworkers who are DINKs are probably in the top 2-3% of household incomes, so they really can afford their lifestyles. Its so important for me to remind myself that kids and a husband in grad school were a choice that I made and vacations in Costa Rica are a choice they made. It’s tough to be content living my own life, but it is much better.

    • Kristi says:

      That’s a great point, Hannah. We have all made choices and we have to live with those choices. I wouldn’t trade my two kids for the world, but it is fun to fantasize about exotic vacations.

  • My children often comments on stuff other people purchase and than say something like “they must be rich” and I always remind them that you are only seeing the highlights, not the behind the scenes of how they are paying for that stuff.

    • Kristi says:

      It’s fantastic that you’re making your kids aware of that now, Brian! It’s important to help our kids see more than meets the eye, especially so they don’t grow up judging another person’s decisions when they might not have all the facts.

  • What is that saying about being the average of the 5 people you hang out with? (I think FinanceGirl was just talking about that.) I used to hang out with a lot of women who loved to shop as a hobby. There was so much pressure to “have it all.” But I realized one day that I actually love the frugal life and no longer let myself feel ashamed for making different financial decisions. Now, I Iook for like-minded friends and that helps keep my spending in control.

  • Kristi says:

    Surrounding yourself with like minded friends is a great way to combat jealousy. It’s definitely easier to live with your own financial decisions and goals when you have friends and family who both understand and support you. It really make all the difference.

  • I actually wrote about judgment today on my blog. We live in a society where we do make snap judgments and it can be hard to make value-based decisions because everyone has an opinion on how you should spend your money. You spend too much. You spend too little. The reality is there isn’t a universal right amount of money to spend. There is, however, the right amount for you – based on what you earn and what you value. I always tell people to focus less on what others think and more on doing what is best for you and your family.

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