Why You Shouldn’t Compare Your Finances with Others

money is the anthem

In this day and age, comparison is somewhat inevitable. Unless you refuse to watch television, don’t own a phone or never engage in conversations with others, you are likely to naturally compare yourself to others. One of the aspects we compare quite often is our finances.

Like most 20-somethings, my finances can sometimes be a source of stress. I’m so fortunate to have a great job that pays well, but even so I worry about my financial future in the upcoming years. Things like buying a house, planning a wedding and eventually having children (many years from now Mom!), are all very expensive.

The problem with comparing finances is that every person is at different stages in their life. Two women who graduated from the same university and now work in the same field probably both lead very different professional and personal lives. They both live in different cities, make different amounts of money, and have different expenses to pay each month.

I often find myself wondering how my peers and friends can afford to go on 4 vacations a year, pay for their $2000 a month apartment, own 3 different Kate Spade bags and dine out numerous times a week. Meanwhile, my idea of a vacation is visiting a nearby beach for a weekend, my monthly student loans cost more than my rent, I try to pack my lunch often, and I don’t even own a Kate Spade bag (yet). As much as I don’t want to compare my financial life to others, it’s impossible to do so sometimes.

But as I step back and think about it more and more, I realize that although I may not be able to live a lavish lifestyle like others, I’m still doing well for myself. I enjoy the field I chose to work in and know that my future salary should steadily increase and pay more than other similar fields. I am responsible enough to pay for my own bills- rent, student loans, car insurance, and more.  I work my ass off on my blog and freelance services so I can make extra money to pay for the expenses I have. There’s something very self-fulfilling and rewarding about working hard, being grateful for what you have and making our own money to pay your own bills.

I know that because I’m in a relationship, I often have more expenses than most of my single peers- things like purchasing a home, getting engaged and married are all in my future, while for them it may be many years away or not even on their radar. This is one instance where it’s clear that my single friends can afford more outings, material possessions and vacations and therefore I shouldn’t compare. I know that because I chose to go to an expensive college with barely any financial aid that I will be paying these loans off for many years, while my peers have measly $200/month payments. And that was my choice. We all make choices and those choices greatly impact our finances.

It’s easy to try to compare your finances to everyone around you, but I’m letting you know that you shouldn’t be. Next time you find yourself falling into this trap, remember that everyone is at a different place in their lives. You can’t compare apples to oranges- they just simply are two different, delicious fruits.

Do you sometimes compare your finances to others? 

34 Comments

  1. no I do not and I agree with everything above. Also remember a few people are born into money and a lot are just getting into major credit card debt, so you just never really know people’s business. I just focus on myself and my life.

  2. thank you for this…student loans are about to hit for me and with bills that I already have (like a mortgage!) the stress of wondering how I’m going to pay for it is getting to me, on top of all that, I have found myself comparing my finances to others even though I don’t know their side of the story. this post was a nice little reminder that I need to stop.

  3. Great post, doll. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare yourself to others- but perspective is important. You gotta focus on you. (I need reminding of this sometimes, too!) 🙂

  4. I’m definitely guilty of comparing my finances to others. I’m not horrible with my finances, but blogging in the personal finance niche means that I see a lot of bloggers doing EXCELLENT with their finances and sometimes I compare myself and wonder why I’m not as good as them.

  5. i am guilty of comparing my finances to my boyfriends, which is absurd because we work in completely different fields –how can you even compare fine arts to finance? the problem is we live together and split all expenses down the middle… a source of stress to someone who makes a quarter of what the other makes :/

    1. I SO relate to this! My boyfriend works in IT while I’m part-time retail/part-time student. It’s very stressful and frustrating sometimes. We’ve had lots of conversations and really feel like it’s not fair for one of us to feel totally bankrupt all of the time while the other is living like a king. Usually we’ll approach larger purchases with me saying, “I can afford X,” and then he’ll decide how much he is willing to put in, then we’ll go from there.

      1. I don’t understand this. Why can it not be split by percentages based on what one earns? I don’t live in the First World, but I’d like someone to explain why it is done this way.

        1. I’m not sure why it is this way… I was brought up to believe everything should be split equally in terms of shared expenses, it was something my father instilled in me and reiterated over and over. If my older sister got to participate in an activity that cost x amount, my father made sure that later on I would get x amount towards an activity or something more relevant to me (like I got to spend more on my prom dresses because my sister got to travel to Europe while in high school). While it isn’t necessarily fair or the correct way to do things, I think others might have been raised with the same mentality.

  6. I’m not horrible with my finances, but blogging in the personal finance niche means that I see a lot of bloggers doing EXCELLENT with their finances and sometimes I compare myself and wonder why I’m not as good as them.

  7. Totally guilty. I could be making double what I make now if I got a “real job” instead of freelancing and I’m often reminded of it when I want certain things and can’t afford them. But then I realize that at the end of the day, I’m happy. The stress my lack of money causes is nothing compared to the stress I faced when I had a 9-5.

  8. It is so difficult to not compare… especially when I start thinking “well what if I had gone this route…” but the truth is that is a waste of time to think that way. I am on this path for a reason, and no I can’t afford a house or a wedding or 4 vacations a year right now, but I’m also learning how to be completely financially stable and setting myself up for the future, all while still enjoying going out and doing things every once in awhile. I think sometimes money is too easy of a topic to bring up among friends and sometimes that’s when people start to compare. I know a couple people in particular who hang within the same group of friends as me and they are always boasting about how much money they make. And you know the saying, money doesn’t equal happiness, so if they feel the need to talk about how much they make that might be the only thing they feel good about in their lives I guess!

  9. I think it’s hard not to compare finances especially as a blogger. I see blogs where the blogger is much younger than me and has brand new designer everything for each post and I think, where did I go wrong? But you really never know what someone’s true financial situation is.

  10. It’s so freaking hard to not want to know what other people’s financial situation is. I KNOW it is none of my business but when I see people constantly buying, buying, buying and never seeming to wear something again I totally want to know. It’s stupid and nothing really of consequence to me but I am just always curious.

  11. I know exactly how you feel! My husband & I have very good jobs, own a home, and have a 2 year old. All of our friends are single, 20 somethings. They’re always going on trips, buying expensive bags, and eating out. It’s really hard to have to excuse ourselves from so many things due to financial obligations, but like you said – everyone’s situation is different.

  12. Yeah, it’s impossible to compare because everybody we know is in a slightly different situation. You have a good attitude about this, just live your life the best you can and don’t worry about what other people are doing and what they have that you don’t, and visa versa. Thinking about it too much can make you crazy.

  13. So true! My fiancé and I have been discussing this lately—how “lucky” others are to have no student loans or like you said, a “measly $200/month student loan payment”, but we really need to stop comparing ourselves. Although our student loans are high on top of our high rent (due to living in a very expensive area) we are lucky enough to have gone to a great college and therefore have great jobs. I have to start patting myself on the back just for paying my bills! That really is an accomplishment 🙂 We are also feeling strapped due to planning our wedding next month..ahh! Great topic. Good to hear I’m not alone!

  14. This is so, so true! It’s hard not to compare finances sometimes, but comparison is always going to make us feel worse. My brother and my husband make the same amount of money, for example, but my husband and I have more expenses that include things like his college loans, which my brother and I were lucky not to have. So the circumstances really are different for everyone. We have to appreciate what we have.

  15. It’s SO HARD not to compare finances with others! It’s also true that some people use debt to pay for things while others are leaving below or above their means… everyone’s in such a different situation!

  16. this is a great post! I love how you mentioned how everyone is in different situations and times of their lives. Its so true. I think its so great you want to save and prepare for the future! Such a great way to live!

  17. You have no idea how badly I needed to see this! Finances have been a major stress for my boyfriend and I lately and it’s hard to handle. Sometimes it feels like we take one step forward and then three steps back and we can never get ahead because some road block always shows up. It’s hard to see others who seem to be getting by just fine and things just seem perfect for them. It helps to know I’m not the only one. Thank you SO much 🙂

  18. Well said! It is hard not to compare and have the “grass is always greener” feeling once in awhile. Like you, I wonder how people seem to be able to be living the life that I am currently working towards when we are not much different in age. I try I remind myself that often the fun is in getting there and feeling the reward of what our hard work has earned us. Very good post!

  19. SO true! I’m always reminding myself of this! I think we should be careful to compare A LOT of things in our lives to others. We’re each different.

  20. It’s hard not to find yourself comparing with others.. it happens even after you’re married. Who has the bigger house, who has a nicer car, etc. I’ve learned to get over all of that and just appreciate what we have, because truth is, we have it pretty good! 🙂

  21. Really great post!! I totally agree that we can’t help but compare and not only that but I’m guilty of comparing myself to other’s way out of my realm like the Real Housewives or people like that – I certainly am not on that level! But I have been learning that I am blessed with what I have and honestly health and happiness are much greater in wealth than physical money!

  22. I do compare, it is so hard not to, but then you have to remember that people are in other situations and you never really know all of the details!

  23. Girl, get out of my head! This is probably one of the BIGGEST struggles we as 20somethings face. My friends and I are very open about our finances, so it’s always interesting to see how much things actually vary. The main thing we have to work on is focusing on what is right for you, not what you think you should be doing. I’m guilty of it, but I’m working on growing!!

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