When my husband and I first moved here (the big city…) we had a hard time adjusting. We were very young (20) and engaged (getting married later that year) and had already been living on our own (together) for quite some time. We had decent jobs but definitely struggled to balance our bills with our wants and such.

We had a really difficult time making friends here because it was hard to find others in a similar stage of life. Where we had come from, there were lots of young couples and we were all struggling to make ends meet and we all knew each other and we had a good time.  Here, everyone our age lived with their parents. Heck, everyone 5 years older than us still lived with their parents! I’m not necessarily knocking living with your parents a bit longer to save up some money and such but the 20-25 year olds we were encountering (and still encounter) here were not saving up to buy a house or start a business or even going to school- they just had no good reason to leave.

Developing friendships with these people presented a few difficulties. Get-together were always at our place (it’s not cool to have friends over in your parents living room when you’re 23) but that was usually fine by me since our friends would bring the beer and pay for the pizza. It was hard to relate to each other at times as they generally had little idea what was involved in being solely responsible for yourself. The only bill they were generally accustomed to paying might be their cell phone or car insurance- and that was only if they were unlucky enough to have good parents that made them pay for this stuff.

By far the biggest problem with having friends that worked full time and still lived with their parents was the disparity between our disposable income and theirs. They had all the latest gadgets and toys. New car? check. New iphone? check. Newer iphone? Count them in. It was nothing for them to pick up and grab a hotel if they wanted to get away for a weekend. They had money for restaurants, clothes, booze, time off from work… It was hard to maintain good friendships sometimes because we just couldn’t afford to have the kind of fun that they were having all the time. Truthfully, they couldn’t afford it either but most of them wouldn’t be realizing that for another couple of years… Even with the huge amounts of disposable income these friends had, they still all carried large credit card balances!

We spent some time trying to keep up. We charged a lot of restaurant meals to our credit cards. We drooled over their toys and gave into our lust sometimes- racking up a bit more debt. In the end, we bought our home and all of these friends sort of drifted away since we really couldn’t keep up with their spending anymore- credit included, we were tapped out!

Most of these people realized over time that they actually didn’t want to live with their parents forever and would need to make some changes to their spending habits to make this goal a possibility. We were lucky that we got smart before we did too much damage and were able to clean up our debt and get into a more comfortable position. Many of these old friends are just now having to tighten the belt and live the way we were when we were hanging around them while we are now starting to be able to enjoy a few things that we considered luxuries back then.

The whole experience taught me something very valuable. I look at the world and peoples’ stuff very differently now. When I see a young person with an awesome car or $400 boots and wish I could afford the same, I picture the dollar signs associated with the items. I remind myself about the debt they most likely are in. I realize this isn’t always the case but I have learned that it is often the case.  I am so much more grateful for the (paid for) things I have when I realize the debt I would incur to have the same items that the others around me have. Sometimes I see someone driving a nice, newer car and think about how much I’d like to have the same. When I think about a car payment though my rusty, beat up car that is in dire need of a paint job starts looking a lot shinier!

I’ve realized that life is a trade off. I can live in my parents basement for 10 years and buy lot of toys and nice vacations. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. I could buy a $50,000 car with $0 down and charge my groceries to my credit card to be able to afford the car payment.  I could also live on my own, buy a home and make do with a staycation and a 12 year old car. When I keep a firm hold on my priorities and remember what the things that others have really cost, I am so much more thankful for the things that I have.

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5 Responses to How I Avoid Jonesing For My Friends’ Stuff

  1. Erica says:

    “When I keep a firm hold on my priorities and remember what the things that others have really cost, I am so much more thankful for the things that I have.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I am in a similar boat right now. It feels like everyone we know has a shiny new car, a brand new house in the suburbs (like, just built new), goes on vacations and has lavish weddings. We had a small wedding, drive a 7 year old car, and live in a 1 bedroom apartments. But, we’re on track to be debt free in 5 years, don’t have any credit cards, and own our car outright. I know that it’d be really “nice” to have all those new things, but by taking care of our debts before we get older we’ll be able to do so much more with our money.

  2. “I’ve realized that life is a trade off.” Yup, exactly. When I look at people’s fancy cars and clothes and phones, I also just see the dollar signs, and I often don’t even see the point anymore. What do you need a new phone for when the old one still works? Eh, I’d rahter keep the $300 and retire 2 days earlier.

  3. Christa says:

    I rarely want what others have because I know how much happier I am in a Ford than a friend’s BMW. She’s in a different situation from me, so she can afford both the payments for a BMW and the limited space (no room for a car seat in there!). It’s all relative to needs for me, not wants.

  4. Life lessons are not always easy to learn, but often worth it. When you’re in your 40′s and 50′s you’ll look back and be glad you made those sacrifices in your 20′s.

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