One of the hardest parts of being a new graduate with debt is seeing how my friends without any debt—or just those in no hurry to get out of debt—spend their money.
Within my circle, we represent a variety of ages, upbringings, and careers, which translates to a variety of incomes, spending habits, and debt levels. One of my best friends is still a cash-strapped student, while another drives a shiny new Lexus.
Consequently, I can go from feeling ahead of the game to feeling like I’m in last place depending on who I go for coffee with.
YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE KEEPING SCORE
There seems to be a lot of pressure to accomplish certain milestones before turning 30: buy a car, get married, own your own home, achieve certain success in your career, etc.
While these are all worthy financial goals, they sometimes make me feel trapped in an unnamed competition with my peers to see who will complete their imaginary life checklist first.
When you’re focused on what everyone else is doing with their money, it’s easy to feel like you’re spending yours in all the wrong places.
TRY TO TAKE IN THE WHOLE PICTURE
Keep the right perspective when browsing someone’s vacation album on Facebook or stepping into your friend’s gorgeous new home.
- If their parents paid for their education, they don’t have the burden of student debt holding them back.
- If they entered the workforce before you, they’ve had more years to earn and save money.
- If they’re in a long-term relationship, they might have a partner to split the bills with.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so it’s a waste of time and effort to try to make your life fit someone else’s.
YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING, BUT NOT EVERYTHING
If I had my way, I’d go out for dinner every day, drive a fast car, and fly first class to multiple destinations around the world. But having it all is unrealistic, so I have prioritize what I want now, plan for what I want later, and give up some of the things that don’t realistically fit my lifestyle and income.
This makes the things I really want more attainable because I’m not wasting any of my money on items that belong to someone else’s wish list. It takes some practice, but breaking the habit of comparing yourself to everyone else will spare you a lot of wasted tears and dollars in the long run.
KEEP THE MAIN THING “THE MAIN THING”
The most important thing is achieving your own goals—not keeping up with the Joneses. Ask yourself why you want the things that you do: is it because someone else has it, or is it a genuine priority in your own life?
You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to buy a home if it represents security or success to you. Just remember that needing granite countertops to match those in your neighbor’s kitchen don’t have to be part of the equation.