Kira Bushman on How To Handle Money Criticism

(editor's note: Kira Bushman, the blogger behind Style To Spare, wrote this piece for us. Check out her marketing portfolio here!)
Money is a sensitive topic. When it comes to how much we make or how much wespend, it’s downright taboo. This is even though one of the best ways to create an economically fairer world is to be open about your money and how you use it. But this comes at a price. If you’re willing to share exactly how you use your cash, there’s someone, somewhere, who is going to give you shit about it.

You may play it off like you aren’t gonna let what they have to say get you down. Yet, especially when they come from people close to you, comments about your spending or saving habits can really affect you. Your life is probably stressful enough without added judgment.

The Two Main Money Criticisms
From what I’ve experienced, there are two main money criticisms: “I would never spendthat much!” and “You need to get your priorities straight!” They’re equally annoying, but once you think them through and know how to respond, it’s much easier to shut them out. Here’s how I deal with them both.

“I would never spend that much!”

I’m from the Greater Cincinnati area, a mellow midwestern place that’s much cheaper than bigger cities on the East Coast. When I moved to South Florida with my fiance, I knew the cost of living was going to be much higher than I was used to. I thought my family would get it, too. But when I finally told them we were going to be splitting $2,100 for a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Fort Lauderdale, they couldn’t hold back.

“I’ve never even paid a mortgage that big,” one of my family members said. “That’s a lot. Are you sure about this?” Well, I had been sure about it until they said that. I started second-guessing myself. Should I really be spending that much? Was I being realistic? Was I good enough at budgeting to make this work out?

Of course, the answer to all of these questions was yes, but hearing my inner fears voiced by my relatives put me on shaky mental ground. To work through it, I started doing my homework. What percentage of your income did experts recommend spending on housing? What was the difference in cost of living between where I grew up and where I now lived?

Knowing how to answer these questions gave me a way to respond calmly and factually to friends and relatives who didn’t understand why I was spending in a way they considered excessive. It also helped me realize that I was still being smart with my money, no matter what anyone said.

“You need to get your priorities straight.”

I’ve gotten this comment many different times from many different people, usually after they witness me make a large purchase on something they see as trivial. One good example is the way one of my family members reacted when I told them how much I recently spent on skincare products. I splurged and bought some high-quality stuff for around $200. According to my mom, I was taking myself too seriously and spending in the wrong places. My priorities were out of alignment.

Her comments bothered me at first, and I had to remind myself that it was totally within the budget I had set and that it was more than fine for skincare to be one of my spending priorities. In the end, I just stopped feeling the need to defend myself. I knew my own truth.

My Tips for Responding to Criticism and Gaining Money Confidence
The two stories I shared are just a couple of examples of working through getting criticized for your personal finances. These tips can help you get through whatever negative comments come your way:

Tip #1: Recognize critical loved ones for what they are.
As cheesy as it sounds, your loved ones are probably only criticizing what you do with your money because they love you and want the best for you. They probably also don’t want you to end up losing all your money and moving back home, but that’s beside the point. The bottom line is that it’s much easier to take criticism when you recognize that it’s coming from a place of compassion.

Tip #2: Research helps others - and your inner critic - understand.
If you can’t seem to shake those negative thoughts after being criticized, then start doing your research. You’ll either find facts to back you up or find methods to fix your mistakes. It’s a win-win.

Tip #3: Know that you don’t have to defend your personal choices.
Comments about your personal finances can automatically put you on the defensive if you aren’t thinking it through. Take a moment to think. Do you need to defend your choices to this person? In almost all cases, the answer is no. When you resist getting defensive, your interaction doesn’t have to get toxic and you feel better about your situation.

Tip #4: Practice mindfulness to see these situations from an unbiased perspective.
Yeah yeah, I know. I’m probably the hundredth person this week to recommend that you try meditation or some other mindfulness practice to center yourself and improve your life. The thing is, being mindful in your daily life is what will enable you to truly take advantage of the first three tips. It’s hard to look at money criticism objectively if you’re stuck in your emotions and getting upset too quickly. If you’re willing to try meditating, start with just ten minutes in the morning for a few days a week. I use the simple MindBell app, but if you need more guidance, try something like Headspace. If meditation isn’t for you, just remember to take a few deep breaths and think before reacting to a negative comment about how you use your money.

Tip #5: When you need extra help, try financial counseling or therapy.
Sometimes, money criticism can be too overwhelming to deal with on your own. This is nothing to be ashamed of! Money is a common stressor and there are many services to help you deal. If you think the problem is the way you handle your money, talk with a financial counselor. If it’s more related to your self-esteem and how you feel about the opinions of others, try therapy with a licensed psychologist. You could even try a combination of both to tackle your money problems from multiple angles.

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Focus on what’s good for your wallet and not what other people are saying about it. You’ll be confident that you’re doing the right thing for your life and be able to block out the noise.