One of the reasons that I’ve decided to stay anonymous on my blog is because I have noticed that when it comes to money, people are very judgmental and opinionated about what you do with your money. When that comes in the forms of comments here, I don’t mind. I have voluntarily put this information out on the internet, so being judged is a risk that I take.
That’s different when it’s someone you know and see on a day-to-day basis, however. I think I’m pretty honest on this blog, but I don’t want to blog in the morning about how I need to stick to my budget, and then have a coworker comment on that when they see me coming back from my favorite deli after lunch. What if that lunch was in the budget? Part of that also has to do with the fact that as a government employee, my coworkers all know how much money I make. Most of us in the Executive Branch are paid on the General Schedule payscale, which involves a series of Grades and Steps. The Grade is related to your position. Where you fall in terms of Steps has to do with the years you have been in that position, and in some of the higher Grades, there can be a difference of $30k between Steps 1 and 10. I know the Grades of all of my coworkers, and I can make an educated guess as to the step. Since I just received a promotion, that drops me back down to Step 1 in my Grade which means that everyone I work with knows exactly how much I make, down to the dollar.
Of course, that doesn’t tell them the size of my paycheck. They don’t know which insurance plan I chose or how much money I put into my retirement. They also don’t know what sorts of monthly bills I pay every month. But it still gives them a good window into my financial situation.
Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m not judgmental. In fact, I find myself doing it all the time. The coworker who complains that she can’t afford a nice birthday gift for her husband but makes three trips to Starbucks every day. The friend who whines about the balance on her credit cards but goes and buys a fancy new camera anyway. I can’t help but find myself thinking that perhaps these individuals should take a step back and analyze their situation.
But maybe that’s a slightly different situation. I don’t think I would notice the Starbucks addict’s purchases if she wasn’t talking about her lack of money, and I wouldn’t question a friend’s new camera if she hadn’t mentioned her credit card debt. Because what you choose to do with your money is your choice. It’s why I’m not a fan of people who discuss the latte factor. Sure, if you spend $5 on a latte every weekday, you’re suddenly out $100 a month. But maybe you budget for that. Maybe you cut out somewhere else. Maybe you have friends and family giving you Starbucks cards all the time. I’m in no position to judge.
I wish I could find a good way to turn my judgmental feelings into educational opportunities. But really, there’s no good way to say “Hey, friend, I think you shouldn’t buy that camera, no matter how much you want it, because that will just increase your credit card balance and destroy the work you’ve done to get it paid off over the past few months.” Somehow, I don’t think my good intentions would be well received.
Now I’m not trying to say that I’m perfect. I budget and try to make smart spending choices, but sometimes I slip up, and sometimes I splurge, but I try to be mindful of all of these things. And I do my best to not judge.
So that’s why I tend to stay quiet about financial matters around my friends and coworkers. Of course, maybe a little judging would be good for me. Maybe knowing that someone is watching my every move when I sneak out for the occasional afternoon coffee would prevent me from doing it in the first place. But somehow, I don’t think that’s the best way to save.