A couple months ago, I wrote a post about What To Say When You Can’t Afford It (Or Don’t Want To). This post talked about financial peer pressure and what to say when asked to spend more money on something than you want or can afford to do. The post was inspired by several questions from readers and conversations with friends and received a lot of positive feedback. Thank you for the idea!

This week’s post is also inspired by readers and friends and is about not making judgments about money when talking with friends. I’m talking here about casual conversations – not discussions where someone is specifically asking for financial advice. (Even then, you shouldn’t judge.)

Here are some not-so-great examples (responses best read in a sassy tone):

  • Someone asks your opinion on a new coat they want to buy. “Do you like it?” You check the price tag and say, “You would spend THAT? On a COAT?”
  • Someone asks for recommendations on a new TV. You say, “You make time to watch TV? That’s such a waste. Forget TV. And cut cable while you’re at it!”
  • Someone starts to tell you about a recent trip. You say, “You always travel. How can you afford that?”
  • Someone shows you their new car, which seems quite fancy to you. You say, “Didn’t you just get a new car? Your old car was nicer than mine, and my car still runs fine.”

I hope you get the idea.

I offer two suggestions when responding in these conversations.

First, unless someone has shared their annual earnings and net worth with you (remember assets – liabilities = net worth), you don’t know their financial situation. Maybe it’s something they really value – and we don’t all have the same values. Maybe they have lots of money. Maybe they don’t spend money on things you do and do spend money on things you don’t. Maybe the big thing they purchased was the result of saving up month after month or a reward for completing a big goal. Maybe they simply wanted it. The point is, you probably don’t know, and even if you do…

That’s not what they’re asking you!

My second point is to remember what they’re asking. Unless you’re their financial planner (or trusted confidant) and they have come to you specifically to talk through whether or not they should make some financial decision, they’re asking your opinion on the thing – not whether they can afford it or not.

Let’s refresh our examples from above with some much-improved responses:

  • Coat: “I really like the fit and color on you!” or “Have you tried it in this color? I think that make look even better.”
  • TV: “I have a [whatever TV you have] and haven’t had any problems.” or “I’m not really a TV expert, so I can’t make a recommendation.”
  • Trip: Try asking questions about the things you do care about – the culture, where they stayed, the food they ate, or excursions they took.
  • Car: “What are your favorite new features?”

And don’t forget, if you’re on the receiving end, you can certainly say something to the effect of, “That’s not what I was asking. I’ve already determined I can afford it.”

No one is perfect, and even I catch myself doing this sometimes. This is as much a reminder to me as it is to anyone, so let’s all remember these two things:

  1. You don’t know their financial situation.
  2. They’re asking your opinion about the thing – not whether they can afford it or not.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks again for the post ideas!


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