It’s pretty easy to look at someone else’s life and judge them for their choices, and it’s even easier to judge them for their spending. I would be a terrible store cashier because I would constantly be telling people not to buy stuff that I consider “wasteful,” “pointless,” or “unhealthy.” It’s like we (or maybe it’s just me) can only judge our own decisions by comparing them to others.
But seriously - let’s just stop.
This is a super important aspect of talking about spending your values - in fact, I’m not sure why I didn’t mention this sooner. It’s certainly something I need to hear on a regular basis
So let me say this very clearly -
EVERYONE’S SPENDING PATTERNS AND CHOICES ARE DIFFERENT. AND THAT’S OKAY!
You can’t really judge values against each other (assuming a baseline of normal human morality of course). Alex and I buy $80 board games and $60 winter biking gloves and $1,000 plane tickets to China. Other people I know buy front row seats to the hockey game and weekly massages and all organic food. Some people, like Kevin’s friend, upgrade to 9-bedroom houses. Everyone spends money differently, determined by his or her values. Alex and I value hospitality so we don’t want to live in a tiny house, but someone else may value flexibility and live in an RV. Our friends value adventure, so they accepted a job in the foreign service. All of these values lead to different spending decisions that don’t compare. Which is why we cannot cannot cannot judge others for what they spend or do not spend and we cannot cannot cannot judge others’ spending against our own. We can certainly challenge each other to align our spending with our individual values, but there’s no ideal level or type of spending that we should all aspire to.
I’ve found two primary reasons to stop judging other people on their spending:
God tells us not to judge our friends, family, neighbors, or strangers (Romans 2:1-3; James 4:11-12). As Christians, we are called to acceptance and love, and judgment doesn’t have a place in that type of relationship.
You’ll likely be wrong. The more I talk to people about personal finance and frugality the more I learn that people generally have good reasons for their spending decisions and my assumptions about their values are almost always incorrect. For example, one of our friends wanted to change her monthly spending on Uber, which she considered to be far too high. As people who are not a fan of the expense of rideshares, we were happy to try to help her. But as we talked, it became clear that she was primarily using rideshares to return home at night (an appropriate safety measure) after celebrating friends’ birthdays and other happy events. Community building and hospitality are strong values for her, so in the end her rideshare spending actually made perfect sense.
HOWEVER! While spending decisions will all be different, these decisions should still always be based on moderation and thoughtfulness. We should spend money deliberately, with purpose and direction and intention. Which is why we will continue to challenge the spending decisions of American society and the American church until this thoughtfulness and moderation becomes widespread and important. That’s the goal of this blog - we don’t want to tell you what to spend money on. We want to spark a conversation about how to identify and articulate your values and how to thoughtfully integrate spending (and saving and investing) with those values and your faith.
We also want to help create a culture of transparency and sharing about money, especially in the church (hence our annual expense report). While judging each other’s spending is a waste of time, sharing finances with each other can be immeasurably helpful. Seeing other people’s choices provides an opportunity to consider what is possible (both for finances and for life). It also challenges us to re-examine our outlook and decisions.
Spending time judging others is just an excuse for not taking a good hard look at how we spend our own time and money. It’s a way to distract ourselves from the spending habits and patterns we need to address in our own lives. So let’s give up on judgment. It’s just not worth the effort.
What spending habits do you find it the easiest to judge? How can we help each other with finances without judging? Do you think it would be helpful to share finances? Or just awkward?