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Get Out of Debt

CashBlog Commandment #3 Part A: Don’t Compare Yourself To Others



DH = Dear Husband

DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

“One of my sisters told me that she, her husband, and their three children were going to go out west for a ski vacation in February.  I found myself stifling a surge of envy.  Ashamed of it, I forced a pleasant response and asked about details of the planned trip.  It seems that everyone I know is traveling!”.

Do you feel ashamed when you realize you’re envious? I like to think I’m “above” such feelings, but clearly I’m not.

Susan Cain, author of (the WONDERFUL book) Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, says we shouldn’t cover up our envy when it surfaces. “Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.” Two years ago, I “stifled” my envy. Now, I’m paying attention to it.

What was it about my sister’s plans for a ski trip that made me envious?

  1. First of all, she and her husband could afford the trip.
  2. Secondly, they were taking the kind of trip that I would love to have: one involving stunning scenery and intense physical action in the great outdoors.
  3. Third, and most significantly, it was a family trip. They would have so many great moments with their daughters, and these moments would become treasured memories.


If I take a closer look at those three items, I can see what it was I desired:

  1. I desired financial peace. I wanted to be in the position of being able to make choices to spend without worry. DH and I had been through too many years of financial anxiety, and I felt bitter about it.
  2. I desired permission to have fun with fabulous outdoor activity. In our state of financial stress, there were many things I denied myself in the name of being “responsible”. I felt deprived.
  3. I desired great moments with my family. Ever since DH started his home-based business in 2009, our work-life balance has been tipped too far to the “work” side. Even more so since the start of our journey out of debt in 2012. I wanted more “down time” to give space for the great moments to happen.

Paradigm Shift

When I focus on what is beneath my envy – on the desires of my heart – a paradigm shift takes place. My mind becomes absorbed in the creation of strategies I can use to meet those desires, and the envy becomes insignificant. How am I doing with this shift?

  1. Every time DH and I make a payment off of our debt, we increase our level of financial peace. When I wrote about that surge of envy just over two years ago, I included the fact that our business debt was ” already down to $66,300″. Now, we’re about to break $10,000. The end of that mammoth debt – originally $80,800 – is in sight! And mammoth stress is evaporating.
  2. You don’t have to travel to distant lands to enjoy the fresh air. Cycling, jogging, walking the dog through the woods, canoeing, hiking, skating, skiing . . . There is so much I’m able to do for free that’s close to home. I’ve become more appreciative of everyday opportunities to soak in what Mother Nature has to offer.
  3. Much to my surprise, our increasing frugality has created space for some of those great family moments I desire. My recent focus on frugal groceries, for instance, has involved slow cooking, bulk food preparations, hours of chopping and stirring, enticing smells . . . and a magnetic force that pulls people to the kitchen to hang out. Great moments happen in that hang out time. Moments that will become precious memories.

Evidence of Progress

During the recent March Break, my brother and his family went to Cuba. I was honestly happy for them. For our part, we didn’t travel anywhere, but we had some fine frugal moments. Late Thursday afternoon, “free admittance” time at the art galleries and museums of our city, DD3 and I drove downtown to the Art Gallery to see an Escher exhibit. We checked out some permanent displays too – like the photography exhibition of which you see an example above. lt was an outing we had never made before, and DD3 LOVED it. It was the highlight of my week, and I don’t think it could have been surpassed on the beaches of Cuba or the ski slopes of British Columbia.

Fruclassity Commandment #3 (Part A): Don’t compare yourself to others . . . People have different levels of income and different sets of expenses. Renounce the idea of keeping up with the Joneses in any way. You don’t know their situation – or if they can even afford what they’re buying . . .

I don’t need to know if other people can afford to do what they’re doing; I just need to know that it’s best for us to live frugally as we make our way out of debt. Do I hope to take a great family trip some day. Of course I do! But until that time comes, I’ll keep my focus on the desires of my heart. Not the envy that uncovers them.

When you find yourself feeling envious, try not to stifle it. Try to ignore the shame you might feel about it. Instead, pay attention. What is that envy telling you? What desires of your heart are being tugged? Now, start thinking of ways you can fulfill those desires without making a huge expenditure. And let envy dwindle to nothing.

Photo of author

Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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