Here’s Why It Always Feels Like Everyone Else Can Afford the Things You Can’t

Spoiler alert: Sometimes it's not just your imagination.

enviousDitty_about_summer/ShutterstockUh oh—you’re playing the dreaded comparison game again. Now you can’t look away from your Facebook or Instagram feed, which is filled with beautiful photos of your neighbor’s new car or your coworker’s vacation abroad. It’s not fair! You have to wonder: How can they afford to spend that kind of money?

We’re all guilty of a bit of comparison every once awhile, and social media has only upped the ante. (By the way, this is what your social media profile says about you.) Still, you should take what you see on that little two by four-inch screen with a grain of salt. Why? Most people only display what they want you to see about them, experts say.

Turns out, most people buy things because they believe it will improve their status in the eyes of others—and maybe earn some bragging rights at the next cocktail party.

“A lot of our decisions are based primarily on this comparison effect,” behavioral economist Fernando Zapatero of the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles told Business Insider.

What’s more, you probably don’t see what others give up in order to have their gadgets and gizmos.

“Just because they have these things, you don’t know what’s behind it,” certified financial planner Lisa Kirchenbauer of Omega Wealth Management in Arlington, Virginia said. Perhaps they have a smaller house in order to travel more, or they pass on that $5 cup of coffee every week as they save up for a new car.

Regardless, it’s important to define your own budget by what you can afford—not by what others are purchasing. Financial planners recommend setting goals based on what you think is valuable and essential, and what you think is not. Kirchenbauer suggests using budgeting tools such as Mint, Quicken, or YNAB to manage your money. You can learn how to make a budget you can actually stick to on your own, too.

In the end, don’t let the envy bug get to you; your friends’ lives probably aren’t all that they seem. Here’s how to become more confident, instead.

[Source: Business Insider]

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