How to Deal with Financial Envy and Jealousy in Your Life

by Hank Coleman

How to Deal with Financial Envy and JealousyAlmost everyone experiences jealousy at some point in their lives, and for some of us, feelings of envy are regular aspects of our lives. We might not consciously realize it, but comparing ourselves, our families, our stuff, and our experiences to others’ is a strong sign of envy because it suggests we want something we can’t have and/or we resent other people for having bigger/better stuff than we do.

How to Deal with Financial Envy

Financial envy is particularly commonplace, and if you find yourself on the verge of making impulse purchases because someone else bought it first or your current social relationships are faltering because of the income inequality gap between you and your family/friends, then here are some strategies for dealing with financial envy:

Stop Making Unfair Comparisons

The problem with comparing your financial situation to others’ is that there are so many other factors involved beyond the money itself. While your friend’s annual salary might be enviable, their grueling work schedule, unpredictable work demands, and high-strung clients might be less enjoyable to deal with. Alternatively, your relatives with that luxury vacation home or boat might only use it once or twice per year because they’re so busy working to pay for their pricey lifestyle.

In short, no matter what your job entails, there are downsides to every job (even if people don’t openly discuss them), and the trade-offs might not be worth the financial rewards, so don’t be too quick to compare yourself to others because doing so will only lead to more resentment, self-loathing (or pity), and conflict in your interpersonal relationships.

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Avoid Short-Sighted Spending

The “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality typically involves more than just feeling jealous and comparing yourself to people you perceive are better off/more successful than you; oftentimes, people ramp up their spending habits in an impulsive, almost unconscious attempt to reassert their self-worth through material items and lavish experiences that other people seem to have on a regular basis.

Whether this includes dining out at more expensive restaurants more frequently, upgrading your fully-functional furniture simply to make your home look nicer for guests, or ditching your budget-conscious travel plans in favor of a carefree, “I’m on vacation” mindset, impulsively spending your discretionary income on things you don’t need or really even want is short-sighted at best and financially devastating at worst. It might seem like common sense, but buying things simply because other people have them can derail your financial goals and hinder you from saving up for something you truly want.

Develop Affordable Compromises

If you struggle when it comes to socializing with well-off friends or family members who have no problem going out to ritzy restaurants and buying a bottle or two of wine (outside of happy hour!), then the consequences of financial envy might be even greater if you try to keep up with them.

Instead of draining your wallet in an attempt to keep up appearances, try suggesting an alternative, more affordable options for dining out and if they insist on ordering pricey booze or full-course meals, consider asking for a different approach to splitting the check instead of evenly amongst all parties.

In terms of social etiquette, admitting that you find one restaurant out of your price range or asking to split a bill differently might feel uncomfortable at first, but these money-saving ideas are perfectly reasonable requests and could help you maintain your social relationships without letting envy or financial difficulties get in the way.

Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude

Did you know that psychological research consistently finds that gratitude is linked to greater levels of happiness? The problem with envy is that it prevents you from seeing the awesome things you have in your life – that others might be envious of! – because you’re so focused on acquiring whatever someone else has, whether that be more money, more free time, a bigger house, more stuff, or better vacations.

While this is easier said than done, the old adage of “count your blessings” is especially true here because reminding yourself of the good things you have going for you can reduce feelings of lacking and inadequacy that naturally go along with envy, allowing you to feel content with what you already have. These reminders might include photos of your favorite things (family, in-progress DIY project, a team you coach, etc.), or regularly telling the helpful folks in your life how much you appreciate them. 

As clichéd as some advice might sound for dealing with financial envy, there is a lot of truth behind the clichés because psychological research and financial sense have proven just how valuable this advice can be.

Of course, it’s always easier said than done to just “stop comparing yourself to others” and “stop spending money even if your friends are spending”, but with some dedicated effort and a renewed focus on your own financial goals, you’ll be able to overcome (or at least lessen) the feelings of jealousy and feel more content overall.

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 582 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sarah Saverdink

Great advice. Jealousy strikes all of us – but recognizing it and fending it off is key. I love the “suggest alternate options” approach. If friends invite us out to eat and it’s going to be a gorgeous sunny day – we’ll counter with “Hey, come over for a BBQ instead!” Even with providing food, it’s still a lot cheaper than eating at a restaurant and an activity I enjoy more. Plus, our friends usually bring some awesome beverages to supplement 🙂

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