Today there are so many temptations and societal pressures that lead individuals like you and I to believe we have to buy stuff. That stuff is important and critical to your and your family’s worth and well being. We live by stuff that society has hard wired into our brains as the way things have to be. Even if it hurts our overall financial situation, even if we simply cannot afford it, we feel that we have to pay the cost, whatever it may be so we can meet these expectations.
I personally struggled with these expectations as I tried to fit in and thought it was what living was about. If I didn’t have this stuff then I clearly wasn’t ok. I have seen friends and family also struggle with purchases and the true sentiment that they need to purchase this item or stuff. I also personally felt the aftermath of the purchase or lack thereof, the emotional pain it causes, and the financial strain it puts on individuals and those in their innermost circle.
Here I share a list of examples of stuff that society has led us to believe we need. I personally have fallen into the expectations of the examples shared here, and are sharing them to help others recognize that this stuff is not needed as well as, to let others know they are not alone. This is a common problem many struggle with in our material world today, and it is up to us to put a stop to it to lead to a healthier and happier life.
Find below, a list of some of the material stuff we as a society feel that we have to spend money on. I know some of you may look at the list and think, wait, that is not an option I do need to spend money on that item. Know that you are not alone, and there is a brief summary to explain each item in hopes that it will help you understand that it is not a need. At the end of the day our needs as humans are only the following: shelter, clothing, and food. That is it, those three things, everything else are nice to haves that we have a choice to invest in or to not invest in.
Expenses Society Has Convinced Us We Need, But In Reality We Do NOT NEED
Item # 1: Gifts
Gifts, we feel guilty if invited to a celebration and do not bring a gift, it is as though we feel that others will not think the same of us, and it is shameful to not be able to afford gifts in your budget. I say it is “as though”, but it is just like that. The things that people say, both in person and all over the media, stereotype that gifts are expected at celebrations. We are also trained in society to feel like we did something wrong, something we need to apologize for when not able to meet the expectations of others. Including when we do not bring a gift to a celebration. Individuals have not gone to a celebration because they cannot afford a gift, and don’t feel worthy of the celebration.
At the end of the day though, if I invited you to celebrate with me it wasn’t because of a gift I thought you were going to bring me, it’s because I want you to be part of my memory in that particular celebration. It’s because I have more fun when you are around. I feel this would be the same for any true friend you have. Your friends and family should not be inviting you for a gift, but because they care about you, enjoy your company, and want you to be part of their memories. So, maybe take a good look at your friends and family to assess if they are asking you to a celebration or asking you to bring them a gift. Then make a choice of whether you have time for someone who only wants a you around for a gift.
Item #2: Pictures
It’s not just gifts, society puts expectations on pictures too, many people think they need professional pictures. We, as a society expect the general person to purchase pictures all the time, including when a child is born, milestone birthdays, school pictures (yes we have even monopolized on photos in public schools, when you think about that, it’s weird), graduation pictures, holiday pictures etc. Pictures that we purchase, after insisting on purchasing expensive phones with cameras and expensive cameras, we still need a professional to take staged photos.
Why? 30 years from now is a staged photo going to make your family remember you any differently than an unstaged photo? Of course not, as a matter of fact the only staged photos that get kept and passed down through generations are of elders, and even those after 3 generations get set aside. Still though, we pay for professional photos and hand them out as prized moments in our lives. Then we never see them again.
Also, just a thought, who has room for all these photos? No one has a home big enough for all these photos from their own family let alone a home big enough for all their family photos and the photos that extended family give them. So, we are paying for photos to be hidden away in boxes, envelopes, and most likely in people’s basements or closets or storage container. So next time you feel the need to pay for more photos, think about where you are going to put them and where your loved ones will put them. If you are paying for photos to be stored away, maybe deprioritize that expense and save up for the purchase of photos when it makes sense for your budget.
Item # 3: Social Outings or Gatherings
Social outings, an expectation society has given us. We are expected to go out to have fun. We purchase stuff like games, movies, craft supplies, televisions, computers, etc. so we can enjoy ourselves at home, and still we feel like we have to go out somewhere to be happy and have a life. Why can’t we dress up to have drinks at home with our friends? There is nothing stopping us other than the societal pressures that have been hard wired into our brains.
This is big financial expectation. Many friends expect you to meet up with them for coffee, iced tea, meals, or shopping to spend time with you. Many friendships are built around social outings that require you to spend money. This happened to me, particularly in my twenties, and after I made a move for my career I found I did not have the money to support those friendships any longer.
I had to choose between my mortgage and my social outings with friends. At first, I was really depressed, and thought I would have no friends. When friends reached out I made up excuses to not be able to go. Then one friend noticed it had been a while, and asked me to come over for pizza. Really they wanted to know what was up, they thought something was really wrong with me or my family’s well-being. After that, I came clean, I told my friend about my financial concerns and confessed I missed hanging out with them. In the end our friendship became stronger and we spent time together doing activities that did not cost anything.
After that experience, I started to share the truth with all my friends. If I received an invite to go out, I explained that I would love to but couldn’t afford to, then I would counter with inviting them either over to my home or to a free social outing. At the end of this journey I didn’t lose any friends, my family, my friends, and I resulted with less debt and more memories and experiences together.
How to Start Living Within Your Means to Reduce Financial Stress
I could go on and on, the list is endless, but I think you get the point. If there is an item I didn’t list here that you are looking for support with, feel free to add a comment at the bottom of the page or on facebook or twitter. Let’s start talking about it.
At the end of the day there is nothing wrong with making purchases that are not needed if you know you have the money to make the purchases. That does not mean that you know you make an annual salary that should be able to afford the purchases, or that you feel you have worked hard enough and you’ve earned the purchases. Knowing that you have the money to make the purchase means that you have looked at your finances and know your budget for purchases after paying your needs like rent and groceries etc. To know if you have the money, check out How to Budget in 6 Steps on TheGirlNinja’s Financially Fit page.
When we cannot afford purchases and are making them regardless of that fact we become victims of the stress of late fees, having to borrow money, the depression when you don’t have the money for something you need or want, and the stress that unrealistic expectations or borrowing money puts on relationships. These are some of the driving factors creating financial stress in people’s lives. To reduce or eliminate the financial stress in your life LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.
That is the number 1 way to reduce financial stress in your life. To be clear this is not something you just think about doing and it magically happens. This is a goal you need to decide you want to achieve in your life, and it needs to be worked towards. The good news is there is a method to get to living within your means if you are not there already, and you can do it. To live within your means you first need to start a budget, which you can learn how to do here, How to Budget in 6 Steps. After you budget you will want to continue to monitor your expenses and income to continue living within your means, which the article on How to Budget in 6 Steps also goes over.
First, recognize you have room for growth
Second, set your goal and know you can conquer this challenge
Third, conquer your challenge
Fourth, smile more