Frugal Living

How we quit comparing financial numbers


Adjusting Your Financial Focus 

Some people like knowing what their friend’s financial numbers are, other’s don’t. Comparing what you don’t have to what they do have could hurt you in the long run if you don’t view it from a positive angle. People will complain, moan and groan about what they have or don’t have and why they deserve more or how they worked hard but life crumbled on top of them. Sure everyone has a story and likely a story worth listening to but will anyone really care about what you didn’t do in order to be happy with your life? Note I said happy, not rich and famous.

I’ve talked about it before how both my wife and I never did use a budget when we first got married.  We simply spent less than we earned and packed away money when we could after our everyday expenses were paid. That seemed like the common sense approach to personal finance and how people would amass their net worth.

We knew that it didn’t matter how much money we earned it was how we were saving it that mattered. You can make $1000 a week but if you blow $950 you only have $50 left to put away for a rainy day. If you make $500 a week but only spend $400 you have $100 left for the future. Hopefully you can see my point here. If not, re-read it again until you get it.

Money and relationships

Talking about money while we were friends seemed to make things a bit easier even though we knew something special was developing. It was likely the smartest first step in our relationship in that we did talk about money and its importance in our lives.

We were both frugal in our own ways but complimented one another enough to the point where one didn’t want to spend money on a pair of jeans and the other would say, “We have the money, come on, live a little would you” and so the jeans were purchased. That’s just a small example but money was important to us as a couple as was making sure that our path in life started off on the right foot.

Life was far from easy for us and we earned every penny we have ever made. I think coming to a new country not knowing where to begin and only having the help of my wife and the school system was a difficult task for me. I had given up everything to move to marry the woman of my dreams and to a new country. I had to work bloody hard to fit into a culture that was unknown to me, where people would laugh at my accent or what I said likely not understanding a bloody thing.

Renting vs. buying

Since we practically lived in run down shack for the first 2 years of my new life in Canada it allowed us to save money. It was a crappy circumstance but without me having a job we had many reasons to worry about whether we would have money coming in or not to pay the bills.

The decision to rent vs. buy was something that was easily made because we simply weren’t ready with us both back in school even though we had money for a down payment. There was no sense committing to a mortgage when we didn’t have a steady income. Renting allowed us to save more money and to give us the freedom by having less responsibilities. We didn’t have to pay for any utilities as they were all included in our rent. (I know lucky us).

During our first few months together we found ourselves dreaming about what type of home we wanted to purchase and where we wanted to live. We often found ourselves comparing our life to those our age and at times it seemed depressing that others were so far ahead of us. In all honesty looking back it wasn’t that they were ahead of us, heck I bought my first home at 21 and my wife had her first house at age 30. It was that we gave it all up to be together and we were living a new life starting from scratch.

Jealousy and envy

During our renting years we would get invited to our friend’s beautiful homes for backyard barbeques and we would be envious of what they would have. Many would have large homes, pools, double or triple car garages and a mortgage to go with the couple of kids they had. We had each other and our small suitcases of belongings.

Every time someone would ask what we did for a living we would practically sink in our seats. It was as if we were embarrassed that we were so far behind in our careers and they were off making near 6 figure incomes or more. We didn’t want to tell them that we were back in school for a second time hoping for a new career. Thing is, many people are doing it and by no choice of their own or because they want a career change. It wasn’t a bad place to be but it’s also not the place you dream of being just turning 30 years old.

I struggled mostly for people to understand me when I spoke because of my heavy accent and I would find that I didn’t open my mouth unless I needed to. I’ve obviously adjusted my speech over the time I’ve been here, mainly the speed and words for items.

We realized as a couple that even though our friends seemed to have it all we had to stop comparing financial numbers. The only cure for jealousy is to stop being jealous although it seemed more like envy than anything else. Are jealousy and envy the same though? Seems to be although one may assume that envy may be more of a positive than jealousy which may breed evil thoughts of others. Even though we really didn’t talk about how much money we earned we were more focused on the “stuff” they had rather than our own success.

It took a bit of time to realize that success is in the eye of the beholder. Just because we didn’t have kids or we didn’t have a big house, fancy cars and the career to go along with it that we weren’t just as successful as the next person. We were successful and we were only going to become even more successful when we stopped worrying about what others had.

When you focus too much on what you don’t have you will continue not having anything at all or that you desire from life. Granted that some people are lucky and win the lottery, have their educatioin paid for and others get an inheritance but for the most part success comes from hard work and a motivation to succeed.

Friends with goals

When I read personal finance blogs now and I see how well some of my fellow bloggers are doing I praise them because I know they work very hard because blogging is not easy and takes more time than I had ever anticipated but it’s a great hobby for me. Even in my life outside of the blog I have many friends  with goals who are successful and happy with what they have acquired over the years even if it’s simply to own their own home or pay down their debts.

When I read Tony’s story a blogger at We Only Do This Once who got rid of $100,000 in debt  it was a reminder that anything is possible. Other bloggers I know have a flourishing business like Michelle who blogs at Making Sense of Cents. Michelle works full-time and has a successful blog working from home earning her thousands of dollars each month. All of this has helped her to almost finish paying off her student loans. She works hard and plays equally as hard because she wants that success.

My friends, The Pops at Planting our Pennies share their monthly net worth with the world in hopes of motivating others and themselves to keep on working hard. There is also John and his lovely wife from Frugal Rules  who both run a business from home or Holly from Club Thrifty who gave up her career to blog full-time. They all set goals and are giving it their 100% to see where it leads them in life.

Then there is my happy friend Pauline a young woman in her thirties who runs the blog Reach Financial Independence who gave up the corporate world for cows, chickens, land, coconut plantation and a little house in Guatamala with her boyfriend. They are thriving because they are taking charge of their lives and are waiting around for no one to hand it to them on a platter.

There are many more amazing blogs that I read and am proud to learn from each day. My point is that people can sit back and complain about not having what others have but it does no good. Not everyone gets the opportunities in life to do what they dreamed but the only way to be happy inside is be the best you can be with what you are given. The moment we think that others are better than us or are showing off because they have more is the time you might as well go hide under the sheets and sleep your life away.

Teachers are lazy

We had a conversation with our friend the other day who is a teacher and brought up a good point about how others are more concerned about others than themselves. She said that she’s been asked if she became a teacher just to get the summer off.  She told me that she was made to feel lazy and not worthy of getting time away because everyone else has to work all year-long.

She said, “No, I love my job and the summer off is just a perk that comes with the teacher role”. She would be offended by those that think that she worked so hard in University and Teachers College just to score a job to get the summer off. It was an insult to her intelligence. She says if someone is jealous about what you have or what you did to get to where you are then walk away.

You will never change the way they look at you and you don’t want to be around people who are not motivated like you are to have a good life. They are too busy comparing their apparent miserable life with yours and pointing out all your faults instead of improving their own. You don’t owe them any explanations either and hopefully they get the hint when there is no more you in the picture.

You don’t have to make money to be successful because success is only what you believe. Our friends success was going into her classroom every morning even if she was having a miserable day only to see the kids smiling and saying, “Good morning Mrs. Teacher” to her face.

Some of the children would run up and hug her and others would bring her a treat to say good morning. That is her success, not the money, not the holidays, it’s the kids. All of that came with many years of studying, student loans and debt which she paid off with dedication to her role as a teacher. She told me that many of her friends have the big homes but they also have 6 figure OSAP loans and massive mortgages and are swimming in debt. She and her husband are in a happy place in their marriage even if their home isn’t massive.

How we quit comparing financial numbers
  • We stopped thinking about others finances and what they have.
  • We created a concrete plan with a set of achievable goals.
  • We set a reasonable time frame to accomplish our long-term and short-term goals.
  • Rewarding ourselves each time we achieved a goal became a challenge for us.
  • Be positive. If we weren’t positive about where we were headed we would have failed before we began.
  • The minute we stop educating ourselves is the minute where the story will end. We want to keep on learning so we can continue to battle our way to the top of our bucket list.
  • Spending less than we earn is a forever clause in our marriage and we continue to use a budget because that’s what keeps our finances on track.

Once we got rid of the jealousy bug we were able to focus on us. We purchased our first home with a price tag of $265,000 when we could have spent much more on a bigger house. We chose not to do that. We realized that in order for us to become successful in our world of personal finances we wanted to become debt free and mortgage free before we were 40 years old. This is now a reality for us.

Not having all the “nice to haves” in our home doesn’t matter to us any longer. We are simple and we now know that our success is being able to wake up in the morning and not worry about bill collectors or owing money to anyone. We created this life for ourselves with hard work, frugal living and by forgetting about comparing our life with those of others.

In essence we started from nothing but some money in the bank and our suitcases to create the life we have now. So for anyone who thinks comparing our life and personal finances to your own, don’t. It was far from easy and I recommend you take a look at what’s in your own backyard before focusing on others yards. You might thank me one day for that one day.

Have you compared your life to others success which de-motivated you? What did you do to change that?


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Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos. net renjith krishnan

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  1. It takes a lot of time to realize that the things that are important to other people don’t need to be important to us. Especially all the stuff that sometimes tears us apart from the things that make us happy. A lot of people don’t want to seek happiness in everyday things because it just seems too hard. It’s not something they’ve done before, so why start now? Best of luck with everything!

  2. I should add (because I sounded whiney!) that since the new engineer has come on board the company, and well before that, actually…I’ve applied to several higher level positions. My first two years were spend in a Midwest location and the improvements I put in place were evident – I then decided on a cross-country move to another facility a year ago, one that was slated for multiple changes – new machinery, staffing increases, etc. The workload is incredible, the hours are long, but I’m making some headway. Knowing this “new” engineer was hired in at more than my current salary is a very strong motivator for me to start the process again to move to another facility or to a regional office.

    I have 20+ years to go in my career and I’m not content to sit back and stay in the same position the entire time. Knowing she is making more money than me is a good reminder that where I go and what I make of my career is up to me – I have to be the one to stay motivated and to keep looking for the next step because no one is going to do it for me.

    1. That’s just it, never settle if you don’t get what you want. I would work harder towards reaching your goals. Is it possible since they struggled to fill the role that they negotiated that salary with her? I know there are many metrics for Human Resources to follow in terms of compensation and where a role falls on the pay scale. I don’t know how your facility rates each role but you could always ask if you feel that your role is not being compensated fairly. I think you have a good head on your shoulders. Remember that the only way up is with a will, strength and determination. Sometimes we may get crushed but giving up only means you’ve given up on yourself. You can do it mate you have many years to conquer!! I hope you come back to tell me one day your positive work ethic took you to higher grounds!

  3. Comparing yourself to your peer group can have a useful short term gain if you are behind them and use that to motivate you to leapfrog, but ultimately it is better to use a more broad benchmark than your immediate peer group. Unless you want to be the big fish in the small pond.

  4. I’ve been working at an engineering position for 3 years – no raises, pay freeze, etc., because it is quasi-government and times are tough They just hired a new person from “off the street” with no background at all in this line of work – in fact, she has an electrical engineering background and no experience with the industry. She is making over $2,000 more a year than me because they had a hard time filling the position (it went unfilled 11 months longer than my slot.)

    Hard not to compare my abilities and skills to hers, and not feel just a bit p.o.’d over that.

      1. I think that’s awesome and same here but as long as we look at them as positive reinforcement to motivate us to reach for our goals. Some people frown about it and compare themselves and they get angry at those that do become successful instead of working on their own goals. Nothing in life is free. CHeers mate

  5. Thank you for the mention Mr CBB! You can only compare yourself to yourself, anything else would be pears to apples. If you can look back and say you have moved forward, based on YOUR scale of values, then it is all good. My mom is a teacher and she is grading papers most nights, and preparing lessons for the next day. During holidays she tutors kids for extra money because teachers don’t make a whole lot. I think she takes about a month off per year when the usual in France is 5 weeks. And teachers who teach for summer off aren’t to be looked down on either, they may have charity projects, personal projects, etc. that make them better people for having a summer off. You need to rest from the kids!

    1. No kidding! Sometimes people can’t handle being around 1 or 3 kids let alone a full class but teachers do love the kids. Apples to pears is true, it makes no difference. It’s like trying to say your life is over because you aren’t as famous as Kim Kardashian for doing nothing but looking pretty. Comparisons, mean nothing but learning from those how they became successful (realistically) is a positive if used in good faith.

  6. I will not compare my financial life to others. However, I like to admire other people who are successful financially. I want to follow their foot step how they achieve huge fortune and wealthy living.

  7. Yes I’m guilty of this from time to time, although it never de-motivted me. Bummed me out, but I still kept going. I think it’s human nature to do this from time to time, but it truly is the enemy of happiness.

  8. It is hard not to compare your numbers to others. I think it is easy to forget that you are the ones who are saving when everybody else has a bunch of stuff – and usually a bunch of debt too.

  9. We raised three kids on one income….did we have everything others had?? No……did we have the debt load that others likely had??? Again… no. Sure there are things we could have done better but we did what we thought was right at the time. We went with what was important to us. Everyone has to figure out their own priorities. We don’t keep up with the Jones….they are likely in debt to their eyeballs. Sooner or later it will all catch up with them. I remember reading a cartoon years ago about keeping up with the Jones…..I’ll just wait and catch them on the way down. That works for me. I made my kids clothes when they were small, did it make me feel poor??? No… it was my way of providing for my family and an artistic outlet all in one. It took me a long time to figure out that what others thought of me wasn’t as important as what I thought of me…. That takes a certain maturity that some never get to. I am what I am. Deal with it….

    1. That’s great Christine that you made all of your kids clothes, that’s talent. My wife kills plants and doesn’t know how to sew, I do all of that lol. It’s those talents that we learn from our parents or whoever that can help us down the road.

  10. I love to read about people who are doing well because it inspires me to do better. Getting out of debt seemed impossible, but I read so many stories about people who did it that it became possible. Same thing with paying off a mortgage early, but now that is in my sights as well. You do have to be careful about comparing yourself to others. Sometimes those who seem like they have it all are financed to the hilt or really flat broke, like my cousin who recently passed away and left his wife with nothing because he blew their retirement. Make your own goals based on what you want, not what your neighbor has.

  11. Nice post Mr. CBB! Thank you for the mention as well, I really appreciate it! I think you nailed it on the head when you say that success is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be tempting to compare, we all do it, but at the end of the day you need to be happy with where you’re at in life. Sure, there might be many who might seem like they have it all when it really is just a shell.

    1. It’s too easy to do and it’s not worth it. We all live in different areas and countries and we may have different types of housing, cost of living. There are so many variables that all we should worry about is what we have not anyone else.

  12. Great post, Mr. CBB. It can be difficult when everyone else seems to be living a better life. And whether they really are – we believe it so we try to emulate it. The only life we need to focus on is our own. If more people understood this, maybe there wouldn’t be so much debt or trying to keep with the Joneses. Only we know what we want, so that’s we should work towards, rather than worry if our life is deemed important enough by others.

  13. I have experienced that sense of de-motivation. I touched on that in a post called “So You Are Debt-Free, Where are the Granite Countertops?” Sometimes I look at friends who have houses tricked out with all the current niceties and feel behind the ball a bit. Then I remind myself that I could have those things if: I went back to work full-time, stopped contributing to our Roth IRAs, took out home-equity loans, had husband switch to a job where he wouldn’t be able to come home for dinner and take off work for kid’s school events. . . Then the laminate counters don’t look so bad!

    1. Yes, we go through the same when we see people with the big homes etc.. and just a small reminder that we enough money to pay our mortgage off means that waiting to renovate our home is worth the wait.

  14. Thanks for the mention, Mr CBB!

    This is definitely an issue that a lot of people struggle with, but for us, we tend to try and remember the negatives of scenarios that we might otherwise be jealous of.
    A friend’s big beautiful house in a HOA neighborhood? Well, she has 2000 more square feet of living space to keep clean and is constantly complaining about the headaches from her HOA board. By contrast, our little 1100 sqft place seems pretty awesome by comparison. =).

    1. We don’t have any kids so having a bigger home that what we already have is not worth it. Some of our friends have 5 bathrooms and a huge home and have to hire cleaners to keep up which costs even more money and they hardly use all the rooms in their home.

  15. I had to mature enough to realize “stuff” doesn’t make me happy… it’s actually an inside job.

    The more I focus on enjoying the current moment to the maximum that I am capable of, the happier I am. The happier I am, the more positive I become and the more positive that I become, the more I attract new and exciting people & opportunities into me life …. all the while I focus on enjoying the new, emerging, great moments that come to me as a result.

    I have “stuff”, don’t we all? In fact, I have so much excess stuff that I am donating weekly to charity these days and probably will be for a long time to come… as I simplify what we choose to have on hand.

    There is beauty in simplicity and joy from spending times with loved ones. Joy has never come to me from acquiring bigger and better. In fact my motto is that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. That attitude has allowed me to enjoy whatever “stuff” I have without coveting my neighbor’s stuff. More importantly – I have the funds tucked away that I could have spent on getting bigger and better stuff. If we need to upgrade or replace some stuff, we will. But another thing to consider is – how many do you really need?

    When my mother passed, I realized that she had her priorities straight! She had 4 day-to-day outfits, 1 fancy skirt and jacket suit, 1 “little black dress” and 1 dress for formal occasions. That’s it! Her attitude was that you only wear one outfit at a time and with a family of five, she did laundry twice a week. How many things did she really NEED?

    When I get a case of the green eyed monster, and it can happen on occasion, I remember that advertising folks have worked very hard to ensure I feel a WANT that they prescribed for me as a means to earning their own wages. Then I get back to the business of focusing on my NEEDS and all is well. Happy & content in the moment am I! 😀

  16. Great read! The more we come to appreciate the things we do have (or are really important to us), the happier we’ll be. While I can’t speak for everyone, it’s the family, friends and relationships that are the most rewarding to me. There’s many times I compared my life to others successes. I think that’s human nature. Heck, even seeing how quickly other blogs have grown, has got me a little jealous. Ha! Anyhow, thanks for sharing your story!

  17. No, I haven’t. We’re either in better shape than most people we know or there’s no way we can match a few people we know. What motivates me are unexpected medical expenses (long story), but I still try to keep with my goal.s

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