One woman spends $300 on makeup a month.
Another spends $300 on books.
Is one of these expenditures more worthy than the other?
Your reaction probably depends on how you choose to spend your own money, but the short and very emphatic answer is no—and I say this as a personal finance expert.
Yes, you can be responsible with money and spend $300 on makeup every month.
But the fact that this even needs to be said is a problem. Just look at the comments section of any of Refinery 29’s Money Diaries, a series where mostly young women share their salary alongside the details of their financial lives for a week, including every online purchase, takeout order and exercise class. These articles get such consistently negative comments that it prompted the New Yorker to explore why so many of us are OK with openly judging people about their spending habits.
We aren’t immune to money shame in Canada either—just scan the comment sections and social media discussions about practically every Toronto Life ‘Cost of Living’ profile to see what I’m talking about. Which is too bad, because there’s a lot to be gained from opening up about real-life money stuff (including chatting salaries, and sharing how you can actually afford your life).
So why are we so eager to jump all over someone for opening up about where their money goes every week or month?
Granted, some of the profiles are written in such a way as to get an inflammatory reaction out of their reader. But there are a few more reasons why we’re so judgemental, and the biggest one, in my opinion, boils down to value.
It’s really rare for people to boldly declare what they value.
I mean, what they actually value, not the poster of five carefully chosen values, written in gorgeous calligraphy, that you’d hang on your office wall.
That poster is our ideal selves, the ones who value minimalism and slow food and shopping local. No one would put “the convenience of UberEats” or “looking good for the holiday party” on that poster, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about them, or choose to spend our money on them.
And that’s fine.
The whole point of a spending profile is to include everything, especially the things we don’t talk about often. But that’s what many people in the comments sections and elsewhere tend to take issue with, especially when someone chooses to value (a.k.a. spend their money on) things the commenter feels aren’t “worth it.”
When it’s a young woman sharing how she spends her money, it’s even worse.
Without even sharing your money stories on the internet, how many times have you gotten comments about your spending from people who considered it frivolous, or not “worth it”? Maybe they took issue with your clothing budget, or you what you spent on a haircut, or your fancy gym membership, or that leash you bought for your dog. Hey, maybe you identify on a spiritual level with the woman in this recent New York Times article who spends $300 a month on makeup.
All of which is still fine, BTW, but that doesn’t stop people from commenting on it. Plus, those comments are just from people in real life, who as we all know, are moderately better behaved than anonymous internet commenters.
This is all part of the horrible, no good, very bad assumption that says things young women like aren’t to be taken seriously. Remember when That Awful News Man tried to tell Lauren Duca that she should stick to writing about thigh-high boots, not politics? While she very much got the last laugh, the implication, just like every comment that demeans women’s spending on categories that someone else doesn’t care about, is that Things Women Like aren’t worthy, or serious, or worth spending money on.
Which, in my professional opinion, is total BS and should have no bearing on how you spend your hard-earned cash.
When someone comments on your spending, either because they notice you picked up the new T3 Whirl Trio, or because you went full Money Diaries on the internet, you can rest assured their reaction (however uncalled for and unasked for) is just them stating their values.
You spend $300 on makeup a month? That’s ridiculous (according to them).
You spend $300 a month on books? That’s amazing (according to them).
Two different takes, on two different categories of spending, and both of them should be given exactly the same amount of weight in your spending decisions: zero. Those judgement calls are what someone else thinks, and you don’t need to care about that when it comes to your spending decisions.
The only thing you do need to care about is how your spending aligns with your goals…
You can also care about how you can buy the things you like while still taking care of yourself financially. Because whether it’s sports or makeup or books or literally anything else, if your spending is causing you to go into credit card debt, or forgo responsible things like saving for retirement, it’s bad spending.
If, on the other hand, you’re saving for retirement, you’re out of debt, you’re building an emergency fund—and you can still afford your sports gear, your makeup habit, or your books? Go right ahead.
Haters gonna hate.