Why We Should Stop Judging Others Based on Their Spending

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Are you guilty of judging others based on what they spend their money on? Or how much they spend? Here's a case for why you should try to stop.

How many times have you caught yourself judging someone based on how they’re spending their money? Or what they’re spending their money on?

Maybe you’ve made a snide comment about a coworker who leases a car that’s $500 per month. Maybe you’ve rolled your eyes at your friends who insist on spending $50 on a gym class each week. Or maybe you can’t wrap your head around why a family member just bought a McMansion.

If you’re a smart consumer (and I’m going to guess you are, or you’re headed there, if you’re reading Frugal Rules!), you might find yourself questioning the spending of those around you. It can be hard to ignore sometimes. Heck, it can happen even with strangers.

The problem is, we question why other people spend money on certain things, and we make assumptions about them based on those purchases. Assumptions that may or may not be true.

Which leads me to ask, is there really any point to judging others based on their spending?

My Slight Epiphany With Being Judgmental


I’ve been frugal all my life. My parents were never crazy spenders, and they didn’t care for brand name items.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding why someone would willingly spend their entire paycheck and live in anxiety until they got paid again. No purchase (in my mind) could be worth that stress.

Judging only got worse as I began blogging about personal finance. People are putting their lives out there, along with all their financial decisions. It can be easy to judge when we think we know the entire picture.

But rarely do we have the whole story, and some people don’t stop to consider that.

Judging in general isn’t healthy. It doesn’t come from a good place in our minds or our hearts. And lately, I’ve realized there’s no point to it.

People are going to spend their money however they want to, whether we like it or not. Plain and simple.

Technically, they have every right to. It’s their money, right? Would you like it if someone told you to stop being so frugal? To get out and “live” more – according to their definition?

Now, there’s a time and place to at least try and give helpful advice to those who ask for it. As someone who can talk about money management all day long, I would be more than happy to help any of my friends or family if they asked for it. I don’t offer unsolicited advice, though.

However, this post isn’t about good intentions and trying to steer people on the right financial path. I’m just making a case for why we should stop judging others, especially when we don’t know them that well.

Is It Really Affecting Us In Any Way?


Okay, I know I’m not the only one who has made quick assumptions based on the type of clothes someone is wearing, what brand their handbag is, or what car they’re driving. There are stereotypes around luxury name brands, and many of us go along with them.

I’m going to put this question out there: Who cares?

Who really cares if your coworker is leasing a car that requires a monthly payment of $500? Does your friend paying $50 for their favorite gym class affect you? Who cares if your family member just took on a massive mortgage for that McMansion?

The answer, in most cases, is that no one really cares enough for it to be on their mind all day. You’re likely to mull it over for a minute or two, possibly gossip about it (another bad habit), and then get on with your life.

The purchases others make rarely affect us, unless we’re somehow financially tied to them (and I’m not talking about immediate family members here).

People Have Different Values, and That’s Okay


Especially if they work to afford what they value.

Cars get picked on a lot, so I’ll use them as an example here. Sure, there are quite a few people out there who have nice cars because they value luxury brands, or because they want to look cool on the road.

But there are people out there who might actually be car enthusiasts. What if waking up and getting to drive that $500 a month car to work is what puts a smile on their face? What if they look forward to taking it on a long drive over the weekend? Or taking it to the track?

What if, gasp, they can actually afford it? Or maybe they’ve optimized their finances in such a way to make it affordable?

I’ll also throw this out there – not everyone prioritizes retirement, early or traditional. Yes, saving for retirement is still important, but some people can actually see themselves working at their jobs or in their field for the rest of their lives.

This is simple a case of people having different values, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are many people out there who don’t understand the appeal of retiring early or side hustling. At the end of the day, it’s important to do what’s right for you, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for personal finance.

Are you guilty of judging others based on what they spend their money on? Or how much they spend? Here's a case for why you should try to stop.

Focusing on Others is Just a Drain


Lastly, being concerned with how other people are spending their money is almost as much of a drain as is keeping up with the Joneses. The difference is, it’s not a financial drain, it’s an emotional one.

This goes along with the gossiping I mentioned before. If any of you have ever worked in an office environment, or have family who likes to judge, you know how easily gossip can get out of hand.

What’s the use in talking badly about someone behind their back? Does judging someone else’s financial choices make you feel superior?

While I’m quick to commend people for saving, attacking debt, and making sensible financial choices, I don’t necessarily think it’s right to be condescending toward someone taking a different path.

There are quite a few people who like to get on a high horse and espouse their financial beliefs. The more famous financial gurus are certainly guilty of that. But are they perfect? Are they truly superior?

I wouldn’t say so. Don’t get me wrong – you have every right to be proud of yourself and how you manage your money if you feel that way. But it’s all subjective. Everyone defines success, financial or otherwise, differently, and none of us are in the same situation.

Sure, there are basic tenets of personal finance that are great to follow, but even if two people have the same goals, they’re not going to take the same exact path.

Instead of focusing on how other people are spending, keep the focus on yourself. There’s no use in wasting your energy on things you can’t control, especially when it doesn’t directly affect you.

Stop the Judging


I think we would all benefit from less judging when it comes to financial matters. As the cliche goes, “personal finance is personal.” What’s right for us might not be right for others. There’s no way to know.

One last note – if someone is vocal about their financial situation (saying they’re broke, and then spending on “unnecessary” things), unless they ask for help, just brush it off. I know there’s a few people out there like that, but you can only lead a horse to water. You can’t make it drink.


Are you guilty of judging people based on their spending? Do you judge people for their lack of spending? What purchases do you find you’re most judgmental of? Have you tried to stop judging when it comes to money?

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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.


  • Fervent Finance says:

    Other people’s spending will the keep the economy growing, as well as my portfolio. Spend away and make my FI dream a reality 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    The only time I judge someone about their spending is if they whine about not having money for groceries, but then take a trip to Disneyworld. Yes, that happened. I don’t care how anyone spends their money but I expect them not to complain when they don’t have money because of it.

    • Erin says:

      Right – I can understand that, which is why I put that note at the bottom. Unfortunately, there are far too many people that do that!

    • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

      I know people like that, Kathy. It’s hard not to judge when someone starts a GoFundMe account to help them “save their car” due to late payments then takes a beach vacation a few weeks later. That happened too.

      • Erin M says:

        It’s definitely appalling to see the crowdfunding campaigns people come up with! I don’t know how someone could ask for money and then go on vacation…

        • Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

          Like some of the other comments, I am judgmental when people complain about not having money but won’t help themselves. Otherwise, people should spend money however they see fit. I certainly don’t want to be judged for how I spend!

          • Erin says:

            Agreed – it’s a classic case of treating others how you want to be treated. I’m no stranger to getting judged based on my lack of purchases, and I’m not a believer in shaming people because of how they spend their money.

  • Dane Hinson says:

    People definitely place a different value on certain things which is why my wife and I can disagree on certain purchases. From time to time she likes to renew her wardrobe, whereas I’m fine wearing the 10 year old sweatshirt as long as I can hit the golf course every now and then. We may not always understand each other but we recognize that we value different things and our spending habits reflect that.

    • Erin says:

      That’s great you have that understanding! My fiance and I are the same way sometimes. He has a few different values than I do, but you just have to reach a compromise.

  • Mark@BareBudgetGuy says:

    I’m very curious what other people make and how they spend it, but I don’t judge it. The only people I judge are my wife’s violin students who are always making late payments!

    • Erin says:

      Eek! That’s not good (on the late payments). I think a lot of us are curious about other people’s financial habits. It can tell us a lot about a person!

  • Natalie @ Financegirl says:

    LOVE this post!! Everyone has their own plan and their own problems. The best thing to do is mind your own business. It’s easier said than done of course, but this is a fresh reminder when it comes to money.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks Natalie, glad you liked it! I think it’s easier to come from this perspective now that I’ve been working from home. I no longer have to deal with so much judgment and gossip at the workplace, where a lot of it seems to happen. It certainly makes it easier to mind my own business!

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies says:

    Yep, everyone’s priorities are a little different. For example, because of our health problems, we value less stress and less energy expended over cooking. It takes its toll on our budget, and we’re always trying to find ways to keep convenience food on hand rather than eat out. But a lot of people would judge us harshly because they don’t understand chronic fatigue, depression and severe joint and back pain.

    I think the only time it’s okay to judge people (she said, rationalizing her judgy, judgy ways) for how they spend money is when they’re actively complaining about not having enough. Then you can be a little self-righteous, as long as it’s only in your head.

    • Erin says:

      As someone who thinks cooking is a pain and is in decent health, I can only imagine. There really are so many different reasons and motivations behind people’s purchases – we can never be sure, and judging/assuming can make us look a little silly!

      I think most people would agree with that, which is why I had a note on it at the end. It’s really hard *not* to comment (in your head or otherwise) when that happens because it’s so frustrating!

  • Kayla @ Femme Frugality says:

    What a timely post. Just last night I was judging a former friend of mine for complaining the she never has money and then she went and drove 1.5 hours to the next biggest town over just to see the movie Pitch Perfect 2 on it’s release date. In my opinion that is a dumb use of money if you can’t pay your bills, but to each his own I guess.

    • Erin M says:

      It’s so frustrating to witness things like that, but I’ve learned with a lot of my friends that they’re going to do what they want no matter what I say. I’ve resigned myself to only giving advice when asked – their actions don’t directly affect me so I try and stay out of it. We all have different thought processes and reasons for our actions, and being pretty frugal, I’m usually the odd one out. =)

  • Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says:

    I hope some people would just stop judging others because some who are being judged sometimes do not know how to deal with these so they are affected. I am thankful that I don’t get affected have more focus, Erin.

    • Erin says:

      It’s definitely not fun to get judged. I’ve been on the receiving end of it for being frugal many times while at work. Not buying lunch kind of made me an oddball, but saving money mattered a little more than fitting in there.

  • Dr. Penny Pincher says:

    I don’t worry about how other people spend their money, I have my hands full taking care of my own money. I often wonder how people can afford such expensive houses and cars- I think DEBT is often the answer! That is not the way for me, but I believe people should do what the want with their own money and finances.

    • Erin says:

      Exactly, we have way too much going on in our own lives to be bothered with the finances of others. It’s always better to focus on yourself.

  • Ramona says:

    I think we all do this from time to time, since our values are different. I for instance cannot understand why one would pay for expensive clothing and make up, or dine out, while others frown upon my travels or the fact that I spent a little fortune to have my baby in a private clinic (everything turned out amazingly well, so it was money well spent ;))

    • Erin says:

      Yep – sometimes other people’s values aren’t easy to understand, and we aren’t in a position to say whether they’re right or wrong. We just have to assume people know what’s best for them/what matters to them!

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