“You Should Care Less” Is Terrible Money Advice

This might be the most terrible money advice I've ever heard.

There’s a lot of really great money advice that takes the form of people sharing things that they’ve done to save money, and using specific examples to illustrate it – I’ve given advice like that when I share the straight-up oddball things I personally do, like wearing the same thing every day and cutting my own hair.

I like reading other people’s crazy stories too, because it opens my eyes to things that are possible that I probably never would have considered doing otherwise, but those stories can quickly veer from “fun, interesting story with some hefty associated savings” to “downright terrible, no-good, very-bad money advice.”

All with one tiny, seemingly innocuous little twist, too.

They can so easily go from “I spent (or saved) money this way, and here’s why I liked it,” to “You should spend money like I did, because it’s better.”

Which like… again, doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary in personal finance, right? Like, we’re all out here trying to teach people how we do money, and how they can do it better?

But there’s a line between those two things, and the line is called “You should just care less.”

Wait, how did you get from A to B on this?

Let’s look at an example, shall we?

I don’t spend a lot of money on makeup, because I don’t care. Sometimes, if I forget to moisturize my face, I’ll literally pull the jar of Costco-brand coconut oil out of the kitchen cupboard, slap some on my face, and call it a day.

This approach saves me a lot of money, and if you also don’t care about makeup, you should try it! It’s pretty great!

But I’m never going to blanket-advise that everyone should take this approach, because that’s insane.

Maybe makeup is your favourite hobby, and you could spend an entire day watching tutorial videos and trying them out. H*ck, maybe you make those tutorials for fun. Maybe you have always had “problem skin” (I think you look great bb) and the thought of trading in the $100 moisturizer that doesn’t make you break out for a literal food product made 100% of oil gives you heart palpitations, and not the good kind.

You care about makeup and skincare. No amount of me “explaining” how much money you can save is going to make you care less.

And it’s not going to change your behaviour, either. You are going to keep spending money on it, and – I might lose my personal finance card for this – you totally should.

Yeah, you can’t make people stop caring about things they like (duh)

It’s useless to try to tell people that they should just… not care about the expensive things they already care about.

And if you’re like uh, no, people really should care less about expensive things (or you have a know-it-all coworker or uncle who you think probably agrees with that statement) let’s add some context real quick.

I was alllllllways the person who thought I was going to have a 10-person wedding. Seriously, I was going to have it in our not-large backyard, and it was going to be so great.

And then we got engaged, and the reality of it all set in. See, as a couple, we have deeply expensive taste when it comes to one thing: Family.

(You’re already seeing how “just stop caring” is bad wedding budget advice here right? Good.)

See, a big part of both of our families lives somewhere that’s not Ottawa, and we really like our families. There’s also just very few occasions big enough for everyone to justify prioritizing a cross-country get-together, and – depressing sentence alert – the only ones my side of the family has had recently have been funerals.

So yeah, we care about throwing a party for all of our family, all at once. And given that our families count eight – eight – uncles between us, we are not looking at a backyard-friendly guest list (sorry not sorry, not everyone has access to a giant, free backyard to host a wedding in). All of a sudden, my smug 10-person plan has ballooned to renting a venue, paying for catering, etc.

But I care about it, and no amount of “just elope!” or “you should keep it smaller to save money!” is going to change my mind. I think that’s pretty normal. You’re not going to argue I should just care less about my family to save money, right?

(Oh please god tell me everyone is nodding right now.)

That doesn’t mean you can spend endless money in the name of “caring about something,” though. Far from it.

So what should you do instead of giving up the things you care about?

Just because you care about something doesn’t mean that your bank account will magically grow to the size of your caring, and immediately cover the price tag of the things you care about. So while “stop caring” is bad advice, so is “if you really care, buy it and consequences be damned!” (basically, the YOLO advice. Just assume the YOLO advice is almost always not a substitute for a financial plan or a budget).

Here’s what you should do when you really care about something, and you know you’re going to spend money on it… but you don’t want to ruin your financial life to make it happen.

Understand your numbers

You need to know the basics to make informed decisions about “spending on the things you care about” – and I mean the basics.

  • You need to know how much money you make every month.
  • You need to know how much of that goes towards needs (which come before wants, duh).
  • You need to know how much of that goes towards your savings goals.

Whatever’s leftover once you’ve covered your needs and your savings goals is what you can afford to spend on wants – and that’s ALL you can spend on wants.

Cut back on other things

Everyone has a hierarchy of things they care about, right? Like yes, of course I love my lattes, and I’ll do a whole lot to stand up for anyone’s right to keep them in their budget… but I love my dog more.

If push came to shove, I would give up lattes in my budget to afford dog food, yaknow?

You need to know which of your I-Care-About-This Things are The Things, and which ones could take a backseat if they needed to. Maybe they need to ASAP in order for your monthly money situation to work, maybe they might need to in the future if you added something new to your budget, or maybe they’re situation specific (ahem, like saving for and planning a wedding).

Figure out the parts that are really worth the money

Sure, there are times when The Thing is The Thing is The Thing – like the only skin cream that makes you feel like your face is a face actually does cost $100. But if your thing is “having family at your wedding,” there are probably still ways to cut down on how much that costs to do.

And no, I’m not assuming that you have access to a magical free venue that can suddenly make your bigger wedding affordable, but if renting a venue to hold everyone is the big expense, do you really need the fanciest buffet or the filet mignon for everyone? (Because “having family around and feeding them” isn’t the same as “showing off fancy food to family.” They’re your family, they will love you even if you order them pizza. Maybe… especially if you order them pizza?)

Save up for it if it’s really big, really important, or both

I’m not here to tell you that saving up for a wedding is any more or less morally ~pure~ than saving up for a Birkin bag or a nice car or a fancy vacation, because obviously, it’s not (and this is clearly not that blog, or that article). But if the thing you care about happens to be an expense you can’t just pay for out of your monthly salary, you need a savings plan to make it a reality – and you are officially not allowed to count the money you save towards this want as part of “saving 10% of your income.”

That shit is for retirement, and you do not want to be the old lady who lived in her Birkin bag.

To help you get to where you need to go, there are a few tactical things you can to do stay on track for this thing you’re saving up for.

  • Set up a separate savings account, and nickname it so you know what it’s for.
  • Set up automatic monthly contributions that happen without you having to lift a finger.
  • If you find yourself with an extra $20? Consider “buying” yourself $20 closer to affording The Thing, and putting it into your savings account (it’s basically planned spending at this point anyways).

If you care about something, you can probably afford it

Sure, you might not be able to afford it and everything else you want, but even if what you care about is something that is roundly demonized as “not worth spending money on,” if you like it? Do you.

You can still have a dog / live in an expensive city / rock a designer bag / have a big wedding if you’re willing to make the adjustments you need to in your budget and your life.

And no amount of advice to just “care less” about it should change that.

Desirae is on a mission to demystify and un-boring financial info for millennials, so that we can all save more money, spend on stuff that matters to us, and still have a latte or two along the way. Money is literally why we can have nice things, and Desirae is committed to helping make sure you know just enough to make the right calls for you. (She’s also committed to her expensive dog, her side hustle, and her retirement fund.)

14 Comments on ““You Should Care Less” Is Terrible Money Advice”

  1. Casey Elliott

    As someone getting married in 10 (!!!!!) days, I totally get you. I always thought we’d rent a pavilion in a park and do BBQ and our wedding would cost $1000. well, the pavilion isnt really waterproof, nor can it fit 100 people in case of rain. and we want to drink, and the park is alcohol-free, and we really WANT 100 people because they are all very important to us.

    So our goal just became to have the wedding we want, but at the best price. That ended up being a $20K wedding. We are fine with that! we DIYed a lot, all the people we love are coming, and it is going to be a good time!

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Yay! Which is basically what we’re aiming for, with about 70 people and about a $15K budget – and the entire time, I’ve just been so grateful that we’re in a place where this is a thing we can afford, and doesn’t fall into the “You’re dreaming, your budget is not going to support that” category! I feel you on a spiritual level on the outdoor venue challenges too. We even considered family-only (so maybe 50 people) and trying to squeeze in a backyard somewhere, but if it rained?? We’d have been crammed into a tiny living room and let’s just say I would not have been a happy camper, lol.

      Also, HAPPY ALMOST WEDDING I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!

  2. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    I think I live in the opposite world when it comes to weddings. We didn’t do the 400-person affair where you’re introducing yourself to people in the receiving line that is fairly standard practice in my Italian-American family. In fact, people kept commenting on “how small” our 120-guest wedding was. In the PF world, though, we spent too much, cared too much, had a huge wedding, blah, blah, blah. All I knew was who we wanted to attend and that it was really important that our guests have a great time. I cut costs as much as I could with flowers and things like that. But when it came to food, music, and booze? That credit card (paid off each month!) came out REAL fast. And you know what? I don’t regret a single penny.

    1. Desirae Odjick

      … Plus I mean, your wedding shoes are basically the fourth most important character on your blog at this point. Like, it’s you, Mr. P, Half P and the wedding shoes. It’s too bad you can’t retroactively write them off, you know?

      And music is an intriguing one! We’ve been to a few weddings where The Fiance has actually been the laptop-wielding DJ (and let’s put it this way, he’s not a “real” DJ) so we’re thinking of doing something similar – did you find having “pro” music was worth it in the end?

  3. Leigh

    I had a coworker once try to tell me that he would never fly across the country to go to a friend’s wedding, that he had no friends close enough to consider doing that for. This wouldn’t be a problem except he really didn’t think I should be either. He was ignoring the fact that I went to college nowhere near where I currently live nor is my husband from anywhere near where we live either.

    We did the 10 person elopement and it was SO not what we wanted. It was, however, what made sense at the time and we are now throwing a larger reception for our first anniversary. In fact, a few months before we got married, we had specifically talked about how a 10 person elopement was NOT what we wanted and we didn’t want to plan a reception yet, so we were specifically choosing to not get engaged. (Cue laughter when we then got married about two months later.) We prioritized people so much that the vast majority of our wedding costs are directly linked to head count, which means our final spending could still fluctuate a huge amount at this point.

    I started out thinking eight uncles was very few and then realized that we have nine aunts between the two of us and seven uncles, which makes twenty people in our parents’ generations.

    I’ve been “finding” money to pay for my part of the wedding reception by reducing wants. It’s mostly been working out great. What I did was I took $X that was in my bank account on 12/31/2016 and I’ve added any meager income I bring in this year to that $X figure. Every month, if I have cumulatively spent less than N/12ths of $X, then I transfer the excess into my “Wedding” savings account. Depending on our final guest count, that may or may not end up being finally enough and then I’ll just steal the excess from my taxable account.

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Hahaha I should have been more clear on the uncles too – each one comes as a package deal with a spouse, most come with some kids we’re close to, and then some come with kids AND grandkids we’re close to! So yeah, the 40-ish people on the guest list are like, almost extensions of those 8 uncles, lol.

      And we’re taking a very similar approach on funding it, minus the getting married right away! (It crossed my mind to do a surprise wedding but then I realized how mad some people would be.) All funding and savings is coming out of monthly budgets, and we’re not touching other goals to get there… but at the same time, we just so happened to need to rebalance our goals after getting the house anyways, so I can’t take too much credit there! And I’m not above stealing from a few other fun-and-discretionary savings accounts, like “vacations” or “gifts” to get there if we need to, lol.

  4. Amanda @ My Life, I Guess

    I didn’t care – at all – about having a wedding. But my husband did (sort of). So we had a simple wedding. I spent $16 on my dress. About 10 minutes shoe shopping. Let his mom do all the decorating. Because I didn’t care.

    What I did (and still do) care about was not going any further into debt. And getting caught up on our bills. And (eventually) being debt free. (Oh, and y’know, marrying the man I love, too!)

    But I feel as if I’m taking this to the extreme. I am still not allowing myself to spend money on the things that I do care about – even though I can afford it. I really need to find a better balance. And I don’t just mean about my finances.

    1. Desirae Odjick

      Balance is tough! It’s a process for sure, and I feel like any time I’ve ever been like “Aha! Balance! I found it!” something goes and changes and I have to do it again, lol. And I’m so glad you guys managed to have a celebration that worked for both of you!

  5. Sarah (Smile & Conquer)

    Does this mean that I’m going to get engaged and throw away my plans for a small wedding?! I’m kidding (kind of!) I have a tiny family, many of whom live overseas, so my side of the family will be small even if everyone showed up. The bf’s family is an entirely different story…his Dad is one of twelve so there will have to be some cuts made there. Our deal is that if I’ve never met someone they don’t get to come to the wedding (we’ve been dating for a decade, that seems fair).
    I love your advice to screw caring less, and care more about the things you that you actually care about.

  6. The Luxe Strategist

    I love how all the comments are wedding-related so far 🙂

    This post is awesome, and there are so many gold nuggets sprinkled through. I also like the practical part where you show people how to actually afford the stuff they want. Because it’s so true. If I want something really bad, I will cut back on the stuff I don’t give a crap about, or save up to actually afford it.

    The other thing that bugs me about the “you should care less” posts is that it assumes we’re all perfectly rational, soul-less robots. So much of our spending is emotional, let’s face it. And it’s like telling us think 100% rationally/logically (like, why don’t you spend less?) is like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t work or compel people to change.

    Also, can we talk about how the only category that seems to be universally “not stupid” is travel? Because experiences are always better than things, right?

    1. Katelynne

      The travel judgement on is the one that I can’t get over. I am reading your last paragraph as slightly sarcastic – I don’t know if that’s right or not.

      I feel like I’m surrounded by people in my life, and on my social media feeds, that assess this “travel is the only way to spend your money”. I’ve done some traveling, and enjoy it, but I gotta admit that I feel like this is one area that I constantly feel “NOT ENOUGH” for. And if you choose to do local trips or your partner doesn’t want to travel so you just don’t as much it’s this huge value assessment that you’re not millennial enough or not cultured enough or SOMETHING. Like if I don’t spend every one of my trips jet setting or HEAVEN FORBID have not been to a Central America resort ever in my life I’m missing this huge human experience. It gets my goat sometimes!

  7. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    This: “If you care about something, you can probably afford it”

    I love how you covered this here.

    Advice that’s perfect for me is going to be terrible for someone else because they hate road tripping and really really value having a big house because they can have tons of people over for epic sleepovers.

    Personal finance is all about personal priorities – if it’s important to you, then spending on it is GOOD. If it’s not, then spending on it isn’t.

  8. Danielle Kubes

    Yes! I spend a ton of money on stupid shit to other people, but its stuff that matters to ME. But I also save on stuff that doesn’t matter. I think as long as you’re spending less than you earn, being aware of your finances and investing than there’s absolutely no issue with spending $60 on a Becca highlighter!

  9. Jeff

    I think you are right on with this. To me, we did not really care about a fancy wedding. We did it in a back yard and it cost about $5k all in. If it had rained, oh well we would have gone inside. To *us* a wedding is one day and we would have rather used $20k as a house down payment, an entire new car, or 4+ awesome trips for 2 to the Caribbean. It’s true that I have no idea why many people care about weddings, but they do and the great thing about money is it is yours to spend and prioritize. What I care about shouldn’t matter to anyone else (except my wife that shares all our money or course)

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