Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'm not a special snowflake, you're not a special snowflake. Sometimes, the best policy is to just be quiet.

I've seen some blog posts about people who try to sabotage your efforts to save money or make you feel bad for doing so--either 'haters' who dismiss what you're trying to do, or people who won't take your reasonable and wise advice, or people who complain they can't get breaks even though they aren't making the sacrifices they could make.

I am going to say something really unpopular here--or it would be if I had any readers--but really? Sometimes the best course of action is to just be quiet.  Don't offer advice unless someone specifically asks for it.  Don't tell people about how much money you've got in the bank if you know they're going to be bitter towards you, or discourage you, or somehow act like jerks.  Don't counter someone's complaints with chirpy advice.

I learned this the hard way.  There was no real confrontation or anything that pulled me up short.  Well, the closest I can think of is when a friend wanted to buy some sort of doohickey that sucked the air out of resealable baggies because it would prevent freezer burn.  I pointed out she could use a straw and she retorted, "Can you let me want something or buy something without getting on my case about it?"

Well, she kinda had a point.  I mean, it's her money.  And it's not like I'm particularly perfect on those counts--my well-known weakness for books (when I live next door to a library) and Chinese food (when I am a pretty decent cook) can endanger my budget much more than some little plastic doohickey.

If someone is always complaining and they aren't doing anything about their situation, I figure I have two options: I can listen with empathy, or I can suggest that they get help for their problem.  And if it continues nonstop and it's grating on my nerves, I can say something.  But offering advice and then judging them for not following it or not seeing what they're doing wrong takes up a lot of energy and does nothing particularly positive.

And if someone is trying to dismiss a goal I have--financial or otherwise--or they make belittling comments about it, I stop talking about that.  Or I confront them about it.  (Or both.)You don't have to get in their face and scream.  Just say, "You know, it's really discouraging to hear you tear down my goal like this.  When you do that, it makes me reluctant to tell you about my life."  (Maybe that's what they're hoping for? Silence from you? Well, give it to them, then.  Win/win.)

Sometimes, these folks aren't spendthrifts or negative people.  Sometimes, they're just going through a tough time and are venting (I've been there, certainly). When I was frustrated, chirpy and unsolicited advice didn't help--it actually made me feel worse.  "You could always" really does tend to come off as judgemental.

So I don't give advice unless I'm specifically asked for it.  I'm upfront about things--I don't hesitate to tell people that I'd rather eat in because I'm trying to save money, etc.--but I don't talk about the nuts and bolts stuff with most people besides my folks and a few very close friends.  And if I start feeling superior, I remember my weakness for books and Chinese food.

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