Mar 15, 2010  •  In Baby, Finance, Personal, Pregnancy

Judging Others for Their Financial Decisions

I once knew a blogger who lived an enviable life. Not only was she gorgeous, her husband was extremely wealthy and handsome. She constantly wrote of her designer purchases, exotic getaways, and decorating their mansion with custom-made furniture and one-of-a-kind decor.

Soon, she started getting snarky comments from readers who judged her for her lifestyle. “Shallow bitch,” they would write. “Don’t you know there is a recession going on? How can you brag about being rich when so many people are hurting? Why don’t you donate some money to charity?”

After receiving numerous comments of this nature, she shut down her blog.

I felt bad for this girl, because she genuinely seemed interesting and wrote of her extravagant life without sounding snobby.

Then I realized…I’ve done it too. I’ve judged others based on their purchases and lifestyles. And I’m sure many of you have too.

Financial decisions are coming into play more than ever, as we slowly begin budgeting for the baby’s arrival. (I know I have 6 months left, but it’s never too early to plan and prepare, right?)

Do we really need a $500 stroller?

Is a recliner/glider — which can run upwards of $1000 — really necessary? What’s wrong with the couch? I love my couch. Can’t I just feed the baby and read to my baby on the couch?

Why pay an extra $300 for a doula when my husband can do the same thing?

What the heck is a lactation consultant and why do I need to fork over additional money to be told how to breastfeed? (Read the harsh comments a NYTimes article about lactation consultants received.)

(ETA: these were my initial reactions. I am not dismissing, or looking down on anyone who chooses to do these things. I just didn’t realize the numerous options that are out there, or how much they cost…nevermind the number of women who become trained to think that they need these options.)

As I browse mommy blogs and pregnancy boards, I can’t help but be astonished at how much some families spend in preparation for their little ones.

Alright, I’m a bit jealous too.

J and I aren’t wealthy. We will rely on a lot of hand-me-downs when the baby arrives. I don’t plan on adding anything to the second bedroom (which will be the nursery) aside from a crib.

So as much as I would love to paint the nursery, set it up with new furniture and decorate it with nice accessories, we realize that these are unnecessary expenses that can be better spent on other things.

And this is when the judging comes in.

Because I can’t help but ask myself: Will a baby really appreciate a nicely decorated nursery, an expensive stroller, or a $1,000 crib? Are these things necessary for a happy and healthy baby?

Maybe it’s my own jealousy talking — for not being able to provide for the baby these nice things that seem to be the norm for so many of my friends’ households. For being made to feel like I’m an inadequate mommy for not being able to afford these things. Maybe it’s my own form of rationalization.

Maybe it’s guilt for planning a babymoon — our first vacation together in over 2 years and probably our last for another few years — when that money could be spent on nicer things for the baby.

Wow, I’m judging myself here.

And yes, I’ll probably be judged for choosing a babymoon over nice baby stuff.

How do you rationalize your splurges and luxury items?

Do you ever get worried that you will come off as shallow and materialistic as you share your latest purchases (whether via a blog, Twitter, Facebook) and talk about numerous vacations, especially in light of the current economic climate?

20 Responses to “Judging Others for Their Financial Decisions”

  1. While I think I would love to splurge and go crazy buying baby things, I will be just like you. I don’t need most of the fun stuff. When I have a house and am pregnant, I almost certainly won’t be painting the baby’s room.

    Go have fun on your trip. The baby won’t notice that you don’t have the glider. Get the true essentials, because I suspect some of it you might not even use after baby comes. Invest in your relationship with J before baby comes. I’m sure you won’t regret it!

  2. I really appreciate your candid thoughts on this topic. I know that I have probably judged someone else when it came to materialism at some point or another even though it really bugs me so much.

    The speaking about how your baby wont have this picture perfect nursery makes me realize how much I’ve thought about my own feelings on the topic since most likely we won’t be in a situation that allows me to create a perfect stereotypical nursery either. The thing your baby needs the most is a happy family and I think a babymoon sounds like the perfect solution.

  3. When we found out we were having twins, we couldn’t splurge on anything because we had to buy two of many things. So two regular cribs equaled one fancy crib, for example. And we were fine with the regular cribs and regular everything else. I think hand-me-downs are awesome…wish we had more! Don’t get me wrong…I do have rather expensive taste. I also feel a longing when I see a modern designer nursery, or a tricked out stroller. And it’s even harder when it’s your friends who have that stuff. But in the end, it’s your love, your snuggles and reading to your baby on any cozy chair that will make the difference in his or her life!

    For my own blog, I’ve mentioned an expensive purchase here and there but not all the time, mainly because there are some IRL family members that read my blog who may judge me, and I don’t want to deal with the comments so I keep most of my purchases to myself. I usually mention purchases made by gift card hehe.

    And about the lactation consultant and doula…you may not know if you need them until you actually get to that point. I had LCs in the hospital, but I decided not to pursue their services after I was discharged. I decided to exclusively pump because my girls wouldn’t latch, and didn’t think that the extra money paying for an LC would make a difference. I was fine wih them just getting my milk without feeding at the breast. It’s just something I came to terms with so an LC was no longer necessary.

    Enjoy your babymoon, guilt-free! You deserve it! To be honest, if I was in a judge-y mood I would judge the expensive baby stuff over the babymoon!

  4. we painted the nursery & we were gifted a $150 glider/ottoman. the quilt i picked out for her did cost $100, but i bought it off etsy so i supported a craft, plus i feel she can keep it for a long time. the crib i like is about $150, the changing table is $80, the dressing is a little over $200 – and i’m spray-painting an old bookshelf… that covers her furniture.

    most ppl are gifting her clothes, and i’ll hit up yardsales for everything else.

    i think you can spend money on the baby without going overboard, but i also don’t think it’s "essential". i think a lot of it is to make *you* more comfortable (for example – a changing table prevents you from getting down on the floor post-partum, etc.) you can live without most of it for sure & it’s nothing to feel guilty about – your baby won’t ever know the difference. :)

  5. Of course not – having a fancy stroller or magazine-worthy nursery or any of the other things you mentioned aren’t necessary for a healthy and happy baby. They’re for the parents. And I think if those things make life easier for someone or make someone happy and they can afford it, then hey, that’s great for them.

    I know from experience that it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, especially in this mommy-baby world, but truly, no one is ‘making you’ feel like an inadequate mommy. It’s all up to you how you view these things.

    On the flip side, I read some blogs where girls brag about how frugal they are and how little they’re spending on baby and you know, it’s funny – that can sometimes be worse. Like the blogger you mentioned, the mamas-to-be who I read and who share their nifty decorating ideas and purchases seem to be doing it out of innocent joy and the desire to share that joy, whereas the frugalistas often seem to need to prove they are superior somehow. Just some food for thought.

    P.S. About doulas… They’re definitely not something everyone needs and your perception of them is common, but a good one will actually play a role that’s very different from the one your husband will play during labor. I don’t think it’s right to consider women who choose to have one as women who have money to burn.

    P.P.S. I also don’t think it’s fair to dismiss lactation consultants before having had the experience of breastfeeding ourselves. I haven’t tried it yet either but I’ve heard it’s not as easy as we’re told it’s supposed to be. At any rate, even if I decide a lactation consultant is not for me, who am I to judge someone else for their choice? If they choose to have one and it helps them, power to them.

    Reading over my answer before I posted it just now, I realize that what I really want to say, Jenny, is: we should do what’s right for each of us and trust that everyone else is doing what’s right for them. Maybe it’s a bit of a utopianistic view but I can’t help but think it would be a nice way to be.

  6. Lyzz:

    I was thinking about this very same thing the other day and how much we have to cut back and where to spend on the baby. In some ways, it is nice to have a little space for the little one that reflect the rest of the home. Having said that, most of the things are not necessities but are quite expensive needs to be looked at twice before purchasing. In this day and age, and depending on each of our economic situation, we can’t really judge each other for the spending habits. I do admit that I am sometimes jealous of those who are able to spend more.

  7. Geek in Heels:

    Thanks, everyone, for your supportive responses!

    I think that a lot of my opinions about baby stuff stems from the thought, "Well my mother didn’t even have the option and she did more than a good job. So why do I need that?" I know every generation is different, but I like to do things the old-fashioned way when it comes to domestic matters, and this includes child-rearing.

    @Kasia — I know exactly the type of sites you’re talking about. I think the thing about all blogs, whether they advertise their frugality, or boast about purchases, is that there’s always someone else who will one-up them. I’ve found that motherhood is such a big competition…everything from how soon everyone’s baby starts walking to, to their first words, first teeth, even the birth itself! Like you said, I wish everyone could trust that each one of us is doing that is right for them, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

    P.S. — I only realized after re-reading what I wrote that it may sound like I don’t approve of doulas or lactation consultants. This isn’t the case at all. What I wrote are my initial reactions to my finding out about these services, and my bewilderment at why so many women are trained to think that they NEED one and how much they cost. I’ve edited the post to include this statement.

  8. My reaction is pretty close to Kasia’s… it’s not a matter of "need" for the baby or the parents, but more just what gets purchased. I think judging others financial positions via blogs is always a very difficult thing to do… because how well do any of us really know the intimate bank details of others? I love to talk about deal hunting and saving money, but that doesn’t imply that I don’t have the money to spend in the first place? I dunno… it’s only when people complain openly about money/jobs and then brag about some expensive purchase when I raise my eyebrows.
    Our baby purchases have been for our convenience more than for the baby. The expensive stroller, the ultra comfy rocking glider/recliner, and the pretty decor for the nursery… all selfish stuff for us. And if we didn’t have the money, then we wouldn’t have been able to indulge ourselves in a bit of extra comfort. But isn’t that the purchasing rule for pretty much everything? House? Car? Clothes? Etc?

    p.s. You’ll laugh when you discover what will end up on your baby’s "must have" list… as it’s different for everyone and no one can tell you what it will be. For us, it’s the 200+ newborn diapers we’ve gone through in 2 weeks… diapers that everyone told us would be a waste to purchase because no babies need newborn sizes!

  9. I’m totally reading this post and nodding. I’m not a judgey person, but I’ll sit there and think about when we are ready for kids, there’s no way I’m going for a $500 stroller or expensive furniture. I’m all about saving money and of course those things don’t contribute to a baby’s happiness.

    I guess it’s like designer clothes…you don’t NEED them. Kohl’s/Target clothing does the same thing (covers your body), but people I guess feel better with more expensive items. Eh…I’m going off the deep end here, so I’ll stop. :)

  10. Vee:

    Far to soon to start beating yourself up over your own "mommy decisions!" Don’t get caught in that trap. Take your babymoon; y’all deserve it.

  11. Wonderful post Jenny. I totally agree that people tend to judge others based on their own financial situations. People who have more money and people who have less. I think if you have the ability to buy some nice things, go for it. If you can take a vacation, do it. Whether or not you buy things from Craigslist or from Pottery Barn that’s your choice. Do what’s best for your family.

    PS – Enjoy your babymoon!

  12. I echo everyone else’s thoughts – to each his/her own. I’d love to hear more about the babymoon!

  13. Amanda:

    The baby needs love, food, clean dry diapers, and soft blankies. The stroller needs to not collapse on him or her and that’s about it. The rest won’t matter. A relaxed mom is one of the best things you can do. Let yourself take breaks, naps, have mom come over for a few hours so you can relax and veg out or run errands.

    My son is twelve and he survived and flourished despite a broke, stressed, crazy mom.

  14. We all judge. Sometimes, more than others.

    I grew up with very little, and that’s the way that I would want to raise my (future) kids. Kinda like a wedding, baby stuff kinda over whelms me. How can a little one need so much?! :P (I know, I’ll be surprised when my turn comes around.)

    Enjoy your baby moon guilt free and let all the judgments and comments fly away. I’m sure that your baby will be just fine, and you and J probably won’t have much of a break after she or he arrives!

  15. I have the money to buy things.. perhaps not spend millions in a year, but I think I have quite a bit of good cash for whatever I want. But I choose not to spend it on something I don’t see the value in.

    Secondhand baby stuff? Hand it over if you are going to toss it! .. I am totally on board with not spending money when I don’t have to, especially since I firmly believe babies don’t care/need the $4000 stroller on the market. Naturally, they shouldn’t be in a $10 one for safety reasons, but if I can score it for free or cheap, why not?

    For me, it’s more of a choice on how to spend my money to make me the happiest and to get the most out of it.

  16. By not splurging on expensive baby stuff, you are actually helping your kid, by grounding them in the practical, over appearances for appearances sake. There is that saying, "born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth."

    Then again, I passed a homeless man at lunch, pushing his dog around in a mclaren stroller.

  17. Tara:

    Your baby definitely won’t notice! All they need is love, attention, and a few basics that can just as easily cost $10 as $100. Never regret a purchase if it makes you and/or the baby especially happy, just don’t sweat it if you don’t see the need or don’t have the desire or the means.

    We are generally frugal to a fault. (So email if you need any tips on finding the good stuff for cheap — I’ve got it down to a science!!) But I find certain splurges have been totally worth it. Mostly, anything that really feels special to enjoying my memories of the first year — a special outfit for each holiday, a better camera, a few special toys that we’ll keep as mementoes. And the thing I regret NOT spending on is anything to make our lives easier in this first year — babysitting, cleaning help, some pampering for mama.

    Have a great time on that babymoon, live it up, and make some wonderful memories. I promise it will be worth every dollar!

  18. Sunny:

    I think a babymoon is a fantastic idea – you will be more relaxed and prepared to be a good mother. I honestly don’t understand how people spend thousands of dollars on baby stuff when it will be outgrown in a matter of months and a few yrs. As long as it’s safe, functional, and not too shabby, right? But yes who am I to judge, maybe I will think differently when the day comes that I’m married and pregnant.

    I avoid publicizing my purchases unless I want to pass on a good deal. I already share any cute purchases with my gfs, why does the rest of the world need to know? I have been guilty of judging others’ financial decisions, especially if I’m envious that they have more disposable income and they’re still making poor (IMO) choices, but I remind myself that everyone has different priorities for where they want to spend their money. I’m just as judgeable as anyone else on my spending habits. :P

  19. I’m totally cheap and mostly because of the new house but for the most part, I’ll splurge if I know I’ll use something a lot and/or it will last. I bought $90 flats (a lot for me) but I’ve worn them everyday for 3 weeks on my trip and I know they will last a long time. They are super comfy. We had a table custom made because I knew it would last as long as we would. I don’t spend much on clothes that are trendy for a season because I probably will only wear them for a few months.

  20. I’m totally cheap and mostly because of the new house but for the most part, I’ll splurge if I know I’ll use something a lot and/or it will last. I bought $90 flats (a lot for me) but I’ve worn them everyday for 3 weeks on my trip and I know they will last a long time. They are super comfy. We had a table custom made because I knew it would last as long as we would. I don’t spend much on clothes that are trendy for a season because I probably will only wear them for a few months.

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