Home » Are You a Prisoner of This Money Mistake?

Are You a Prisoner of This Money Mistake?

do you make this money mistake?









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Happy Friday, Frugal Farmer friends!  Sorry I’ve been so MIA this last couple of weeks.  When you live on a farm with self-sufficiency as a goal, the arrival of spring and summer means the arrival of a LOT of work.  We’re getting the garden in, chopping wood for next winter (the wood stove will be installed in July at the latest – WOOHOO!) and catching up on all of that big cleaning of bedding, winter gear, etc., that I couldn’t do until recently since we couldn’t hang stuff on the clothes line due to our ridiculously long winter.  Add that in with finishing up home schooling, caring for farm animals, and helping my parents search for senior living communities, and that means a whole lot of busy.  Rick’s been working 10-11 hour days every day too, and although we’re working hard on finding down time, rest these days seems to be highly evasive.  Therefore, we are planning on trying to simply relax for a good chunk of the weekend.  Well, part of the weekend, anyway. 🙂

Ok, now that my babbling is finished, I wanted to talk to you a bit today about a subject that has become increasingly near and dear to my heart: the tendency we humans have to give a crap about what other people think of us.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life after nearly 47 years, it’s of the dangers of caring what other people think.  Don’t misunderstand, I don’t suggest you go around doing whatever you want, whenever you want, regardless of the feelings and well-being of those around you.  To the contrary, I’m suggesting that you do what’s best for yourself and your family, but also regardless of the feelings of those around you.

I’m not sure exactly why, but many people LOVE to have opinions about how others run their lives.  They have this idea in their head that it’s their business.  And most all of us have, at least on some level, a fear of that judgment of others.

In the financial world, this is called “Keeping up with the Joneses”.  We hear somebody judge Joe down the street because he drives a (gasp!!) decade-plus old car, and then we feel like a failure because our car isn’t shiny and new.  Or we hear the neighbors talking about how “uncool” it is that Mary’s kids are always walking around in garage-sale clothes and bottom of the line tennis shoes, and then we feel the urge to run out and buy designer clothes for our kids, lest they not fit in at school.

Or we overhear the snob at dance class talking about somebody’s (or our own) house/purse/clothing/neighborhood or whatever being sub par, and we start to question ourselves and worry about whether or not we might be perceived as being “sub par”.

This house of lies is also readily available in the media and marketing sector of life.  All of the “cool” people on TV, whether it’s a celebrity, a sports figure or just the random guy/gal on the latest beer commercial, have much more awesome lives than you and I do, simply because they eat/drink/wear/drive/own this, that or the other thing.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s all a big bunch of CRAP.  

I know, because we lived that life for years,  and among other things, it was the biggest money mistake we made.  We lived in a place where what you wore, where you lived, what you drove, what you looked like, and what you did, be it activities, vacations, social gatherings or whatever, mattered immensely.  And our experience isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, at least here in America.  We live, by and large, in a society where people judge and accept/reject us based on how we stack up to the media’s standards of success vs. failure.

We didn’t see it or realize it, or, maybe we did and we just though that this was normal, until we left suburbia for the “isolation” of country living.  Suddenly, it was as if we got to look at the world as if it were in a giant aquarium.  Because we were, by and large, away from everybody, we  got to see life from the outside looking in.  And we learned that it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about your decisions.


1.  It’s simply their opinion.  Why do we care SO much more about opinion than we do about fact?  Why do we care what people’s opinion about what our material life looks like, but yet not care about the fact that we are in a financial hellhole?  Isn’t the well-being of our family’s or our own finances more important than living up to somebody else’s expectations of what OUR lives should look like?

2.  Trends/opinions/lifestyles are fleeting.  They’re fickle, just as fickle as weather in the Midwest.  One day you’re cool for having Nike tennis shoes, the next day you’re “uncool” for having Nike tennis shoes.  One year you’re popular in the view of the neighbors, and the next year, for who knows what reason, you’re shunned.  One year your Lexus is the coolest car on the block, the next year Lexus’ are “out” and everyone’s driving BMWs.  If you’re intent on living up to everyone else’s opinion about what is cool/right/wrong/bad/good, let me tell you, you’re going to have a pretty stressful life ahead of you, always staying on top of the ever-changing rules of status and success.

3.  People come and go.  Those people that you care SO much about their opinion; who are they – truly – to you??  Why is their opinion so God-almighty important?  What makes you think that they’re so much better/smarter/cooler than you that their opinion about how you live your life should be valued?  Really!  I promise you: if they really give that much attention and time to being so concerned with what everyone is wearing/driving/living in/doing, they’re the LAST person that will ever be there for you when you really need them.  They’re too damn self-centered to really care what’s happening in your life.

4.  Short-term thinking will never get you as far as long-term planning.  Constantly making your decisions based on today’s trends/opinions/desires is like a dog chasing its tail: it will get you nowhere real fast.  It’s time to start thinking, big-picture and long-term, about what YOU want out of life.  I mean what you really want.  Is having the latest fashions and fitting in with the “in crowd” really that important to you, or is financial security and peace a more inviting dream?

My dear friends, you deserve better.  Don’t make the money mistake of settling for basing your life decisions and your spending decisions based on what the opinions of others are.  Instead, enjoy the freedom of making your life and your spending decisions based on what is truly the best decision for yourself and/or your family.  It may be difficult at first to stick out from the crowd, but when you’ve achieved your goals and dreams, you’ll be glad you chose to swim upstream.



  1. Great post Laurie! This is a big teachable moment for my 3 children. As they have reached middle school they have dealt with influence from other classmates, mostly negative. What my wife and I have tried to impress upon them is that why do these other kids matter so much to you. If some random kids say a bad thing to you just brush it off. At 15 my son and daughter have already had some really good friend for years, not gone from their circles because the drama they bring. A hard lesson for them, but a good one too. Always be yourself, do what’s best for you and your family.

    • Laurie says:

      “Always be yourself”. That was a lesson that took me a long time to learn, but now, I’m glad I’ve learned it. Great that you are teaching your kids this lesson so young, Brian!

  2. Preach it Laurie! 🙂 I could not agree more my friend. It can be so easy to get yourself trapped in the mindset that you need to live to please someone else or make them happy when all that’s going to do is put you on a rat wheel chasing after something you don’t want. The sad fact is that far too many think it’s their right to tell you how to live life when instead they should just focus on their own lives.

    • Laurie says:

      Your last line here says it all, John. Too many people, and I don’t know how they find the time, have too much concern over what other people are doing/wearing/driving/owning. Who cares?

  3. Love this post Laurie! I try not to care about the opinions of others, but I’ll admit it can be hard. There is a lot of pressure to keep up with the Joneses, but you make great points…it’s only their opinion and trends/fads come and go. You really have to focus on your financial health and ignore those who’s opinions will damage it. Brian also makes a great point…while I am older and wiser, I’m fearful that my kids will have a hard time dealing with these issues in the future.

    • Laurie says:

      Andrew, getting out of the city really gave us a super clear perspective on this. We’re on the outside looking in now, and we can see what a waste of time and energy it all is. And I have no doubt you’ll do great with your kids. 🙂

  4. I don’t experience too much of anyone judging me for my frugality (at least to my knowledge), thankfully! I have had a couple friends mention to me that I could look so much “cuter” and “sexier” with flashier clothing, but I explain (and most know about my blog now) that I don’t go out much because of my budget, so there is no need to buy flashy things. It’s just not in my budget. Then they understand. But I was with an old friend who moved away from this area and came back for a day so I hung around her and the other Manhattan Beach moms….the words that were coming out of their mouth was just crazy and stuck up. I think it’s tougher to raise kids in this area because it is so wealthy and there seems to be a LOT of judgment going on. Crazy!

    • Laurie says:

      So sad about those MB moms. I cannot comprehend why inexpensive clothing can be perceived as making someone less of a person. So happy for you that you have awesome friends who support your decisions; you deserve it, Tonya!

    • Laurie says:

      Funny, isn’t it, Stefanie! Now that you’ve achieved “success” with blogging, suddenly it wasn’t such a stupid idea anymore. 🙂

  5. Brit says:

    People’s comment, specially from family members, used to hurt me a lot. Now, because I don’t give a crap and I’m succeeding and deserve more. My life has changed and so have their opinions when they saw how after a year of leaving my job we are happier than ever. Great post!!!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s awesome, Brit! I find that happens a lot: when people have proven that they don’t care what others think of them, and make decisions based on their own desires, suddenly they’re a lot more magnetic. 🙂

  6. Great post Laurie! It can be hard to change your frame of mind and get out of the “keeping up rut” and it seems like your family has done it very successfully. I still struggle with this sometimes, but it’s getting easier and easier as I continue in my journey to pay off debt and simplify my life. I still like/want some of the “latest and greatest” but it’s lessening and my actuall shopping/purchasing of these items is even less than that. I know now that when/if I choose to purchase something it will be deterring me from both of my main goals: paying off debt, and decluttering/simplifying my life.

    You’ll have to keep us up-to-date with how your garden is going this year. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      So happy for you that it’s getting easier for you, SHNM! You’re doing great. 🙂 Yes, there will definitely be more garden updates as things progress. Right now I’m waiting for the potatoes to come up. I love me some Yukon Golds. 🙂

  7. E.M. says:

    All of this is so true. I went to school in a great district, but as such, I always felt at the bottom. Taxes were a bit insane, and many people that lived within it were well-off. Not us. I had many people make fun of me for the clothing I wore. I was never in the “popular” crowd because I didn’t have name-brand things. In the end, I realized that wasn’t who I was anyway. Even if we had the money, I didn’t care enough about fashion or the latest trends. Trying to keep up is a losing race. I’d rather be content with what I have!

    • Laurie says:

      I can identify, E.M., and will be writing a post about this soon!! So glad you’ve stayed true to your heart – it’s SO much more fun that way. 🙂

  8. Well said Laurie! I used to care a lot more about things like this, and now we just care so much more about becoming debt free and achieving financial freedom. In fact, these days the hubs and I have a good laugh when sometimes looks askance at our beat up 14 year old car (which we have purposely decked out with lots of bumper stickers- what’s the point of driving a 14 year old car if it doesn’t have bumper stickers?) Anyway, these days we don’t care about being weirdos and we just focus on putting our money toward things that will make us happy.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, totally agree about the bumper stickers. 🙂 You’re right, Dee: it is SO freeing to be able to cast those cares aside and focus on your goals – and extra great that you and hubs are on the same page about that. 🙂

  9. Michelle says:

    I use to care a lot about this, and it was probably taking over my life. I don’t even care anymore now and I just do what I want to do (well, what me and wes wants to do 🙂 ).

    • Will, FQF says:

      You mentioned in one of your recent articles that your Camaro even sometimes garners you negative attention as if you’re a show-off.

      Damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to spending money.

      Glad you don’t give a rip and drive the car because it’s fun.

    • Laurie says:

      You guys really seem to be doing a great job to sticking to your own goals and buying and doing what’s best for you two as a couple. So glad that you’ve found that freedom, Michelle!

  10. Liz says:

    Being able to NOT care about what others think of me is a huge struggle. Sometimes I really lack the confidence to just be myself and be comfortable with my opinions and decisions. I actually think blogging has helped with this struggle a lot. Gives me a place and really awesome community to voice my opinions without being afraid of too much criticism.

  11. So true Laurie. What a messed up culture we live in. I remember Suze Orman always saying in her show, “why are we trying to impress people we don’t even know”. It’s harder to deal with when it comes from family and friends but at the end of the day you have to do what’s best for you.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great quote, Raquel! Yeah, there are times when it still hurts us too, and we feel that urge to give in to fitting in, but it’s decreasing every day. 🙂

  12. It’s so true Laurie! I was a prisoner myself to other people’s opinions and I didn’t realize how restrictive and unsatisfying that life was until I got out of it. There is truly freedom in making individual choices and not trying to keep up with other people who are equally as miserable they just haven’t realized it yet.

    • Laurie says:

      There IS freedom in that, Shannon – you’re right! The thing that people don’t realize about that need to keep up is that you never, ever reach “the top”. Someone will always have more than you.

  13. You know, I never really gave a crap what anyone thought of me. My dad was a trip…he taught me all kinds of things but only worrying about what I thought of me was one of the lessons he hammered in most. He’s the type of guy that will own 4 businesses, make great money, and drive a Ford Focus, live in a small house, and be content with life. But, you know what…he’ll never struggle and neither will I!

    • Laurie says:

      Joshua, you are very, very lucky that your dad knows what he’s talking about, and passed that wisdom on to you. And kudos to you for taking his advice. 🙂

  14. Amen, Laurie! So many people get caught in this trap and they spend money on things that they don’t even want or care little about to impress others. It makes me sad. We do live in a world where we judge people by what they have and wear, which can be incredibly misleading. I’ve said this before but working with people from the extremely wealthy to those with far less – the happiest people are not the ones with the most money, but the ones who give their money purpose based on what truly makes them happy, not to impress others. Have a great weekend, Laurie – take some down time. It sounds like you deserve it!

    • Laurie says:

      So interesting to me that you’ve found in your practice that those who are happiest are not the ones with the most cash, but instead the ones with the clearest vision. Thanks for sharing that very wise lesson. 🙂

  15. Great post Laurie! Thankfully, I’ve been able to resist the temptation of keeping up with the Jones’s, but I’ve seen first hand how it’s impacted those close to me. The difference between opinion and fact is SO BIG and it is so easily overlooked. All you see are these flashy new things, but no one really stops to think about how you paid for it.
    Us frugal folk need to band together and make debt free living, retirement savings, and responsible spending the new norm. Can you imagine a society like that? Gosh, it would be great.

    • Laurie says:

      So happy for you, Kate, that you’ve been able to resist that temptation. Totally agree, too, about us frugal folk needing to band together. I see a lot of that with the bloggers and blog readers, and it’s SO awesome. 🙂

  16. anna says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Laurie! The biggest complaint people have about me is my car (mostly relatives), because I make decent money yet still drive a 1997 model. Granted, it could probably use a paint job, but other than that, I could care less, and would love to see it reach 300k miles! At the end of the day, it’s only me that I have to answer to, and I’d rather have extra funds than owing it to others (especially when the car still runs well!).

    • See a lot of people wonder why other people drive ‘beater’ cars. I used to think it’s because the people had to but now I realize it’s because many want to.

      I read The Millionaire Next Door not long ago. A guy driving a used F-150 is more likely to be a millionaire than his neighbor who drives an Audi.

      My last car lasted well over 300k! Good luck!

    • Laurie says:

      “At the end of the day it’s only me that I have to answer to.” Isn’t it nice to know you’re making decisions that give you so much peace? My old boss was well known for always driving beater cars, but people aren’t laughing now that he’s retired and doing what he loves.

  17. Interesting — I’ve been thinking about GMD’s post on financial peace for a solid day now and here’s the same theme again! Fortunately there is not a lot of pressure among my friends and family for new/cool stuff — we tend to be prouder of great, cheap used clothing and furniture! — but it’s all too easy to get crunched in other areas: food, travel, entertainment.

    It’s really important to resist though!

    • Laurie says:

      That was a terrific post! Cecilia, I think the important thing is that you are pondering those words. Sounds like you’re at a crossroads financially – make the decision that’s truly best for you. 🙂

  18. Matt Becker says:

    I definitely have moments where I feel insecure in situations just like you’re talking about. It’s not always easy sticking to your guns when everyone around you is doing something different, but all your reasons for doing it are spot on.

    • Laurie says:

      Matt, you guys are a prime example of sticking to your beliefs, and you just wait: a few years from now, people will be looking on and understanding your choices.

  19. This is a truly good one Laurie, that why do we care so much more about opinion than we do about the fact? I felt like this before, but I realized why would I care about their opinions, I should focus more about on myself and not on others.

  20. I hope you get some rest! I’ve been busy too and will rest and write this weekend. I am getting better at not caring what people think. When I was a teenager it was the worst. I wore GAP clothes and was easily embarrassed. Now I walk to the beat of my own drum. I am self-conscious at times of what others think about me, but I won’t let my finances be ruled by that!

    • Laurie says:

      Ugh, high school is the worst for that. Hope you get some rest too, Melanie. I know you’ve been a working machine!

  21. I hear you, Laurie, but I am a borne extrovert and I fear there’s not much I can ultimately do about the fact that I really do care about what people think about me, my actions, my lifestyle, etc. I’ve tried going against this instinct but have had poor results. Instead, I try to use my extrovert nature to my advantage by hanging out more with people who have the values I like/admire (church folk, PF bloggers, & otherwise responsible people), and leverage my natural inclination to try to impress them. I think that’s half the reason I like blogging so much: I am tapping into my desire to make you finance gurus think I’m doing well. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, as a born extrovert myself, I couldn’t disagree more. 🙂 I think the main thing that helped me to get over caring about what others thought of me was the realization that the only person I truly have to worry about impressing is Jesus Christ – and He loves us no matter what. We all have that natural inclination to want to be accepted, but trying to get accepted by other people will always result in disappointment, b/c people (myself included 🙂 ) are so prone to making mistakes and incorrect judgments. Being involved in ministry has helped me a lot too, b/c when we get our focus on to helping others, we don’t have the time or energy to care what people think, LOL.

  22. Isn’t it too bad that we have to learn this lesson the hard way? OK not everyone, some PF bloggers are financially savvy and frugal from the womb, it seems. I lump the rest of us in the category of “Been there, bought the T-shirt” as far as trying to keep up with the Joneses.

    You’ve certainly been very busy, Laurie. Hope you get a chance to rest up this weekend. I’m tired too and think I need to take it easy tomorrow before another work week begins!

    • Laurie says:

      Hope you got a chance to rest yesterday, Deb. I completely agree about most of us being in that “been there, done that” category. I wish more of us were in the other one, though. 🙂

  23. Such a great message Laurie! It can be very hard to live by sometimes, but I think one strategy that can help is to find real, true friends in your life who have the same core values. Not only will this help reinforce your own values (like the old maxim ‘you become the average of the 5 people you spend most time around’), but hopefully those true friends will call you out if you start feeling the need to impress others that you really shouldn’t care about.

    Easier said than done of course, and your friends will always have their own unique perspectives (imagine feeling pressured to be more frugal than really works for you, just because your good friend is a hard-core-frugal-fanatic!), but I think this can help with fighting the broader ‘society’ pressures.

    That’s also why the internet, and blogging in particular, is so fantastic – it’s much easier to find like-minded people to support your own values!

    • Laurie says:

      Blogging has been great for me in that respect, Jason, and you’re so right about sometimes feeling the need to keep up with others more frugal too – how funny that is!! And I would agree that it takes a lot of work to live by. For me, anyway, some days it’s a piece of cake, and others, I really need to work on it.

  24. Blake Cameron says:

    Cheers to that,

    Great so see more and more people are not trying to live the role of the consumer and become a debt slave to the government. I too finally got tired of spending money I didn’t have to impress people I didn’t really like.


    • Laurie says:

      That’s one of my favorite lines, Blake, about getting tired of spending money I didn’t have to impress people I didn’t like. It all seems so pointless when you really think about it, doesn’t it? 🙂

  25. YES! I like to think that I’m above others’ constantly throwing their opinions at me, but sometimes it’s hard not to listen to them. This is great motivation for me to just keep doing what I’m doing because clearly, it’s working!

    • Laurie says:

      It is hard, Lisa!!! We still have to work at it on occasion. But keep up the good work, because you definitely are winning by doing it your way. 🙂

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