Fighting the Pressure to Have Nice Things as a 22 year old
In the past several months, I graduated college, got married, moved, and started a new job... whew! That’s a lot. These are all beautiful and celebratory things, but to be honest, I have never felt more small or more humbled.
For me, graduating college felt like I was walking out of a community of structure and purpose into a far more confusing space – adulthood. Every long-term plan I had seemed to dissipate without calendar events or big assignments to work towards. All of a sudden, I’m aware that I don’t really know how to cook very well, I can’t seem to keep my apartment clean, and I have no idea how to make new friends. More than anything though, the poor spending habits I have developed over the years are in my face, every day.
I’ve never felt more financially illiterate. I feel guilty working in a coffee shop knowing that I will have to pay for that obligatory $3 cup of coffee. I hate that I feel stressed about dishing out another $12 when a friend asks to grab lunch. I don’t know how to create a budget, let alone stick to it. And how on earth do I start saving for retirement? Can I ever buy that new pair of shoes I’ve been eyeing for months?
I constantly feel behind my peers. My Instagram feed only reminds me that I’m still wearing the same clothes I wore for the past four years. I don’t travel enough. I should be able to afford trying out that new restaurant in town. My apartment isn’t cute enough. And the list goes on.
This comparison is toxic. It leaves me feeling discouraged almost every day. I begin to imagine ways that I might have my life together more than others: “Maybe they get money from their parents, or perhaps they’re just racking up credit card debt. At least I’m saving! I bet I have more money than they do.”
Yuck! This mental spiral becomes selfish and materialistic real fast. Why do I feel the need to have brand new clothes and furniture? Why do I feel compelled to get that $3 coffee every morning and that $12 cocktail every weekend? This is silly.
Fighting the desire to live the lifestyle of the rich and Instagram-famous is no joke. And while I still feel the pressure almost daily, I have learned a few lessons that have helped me ward off bad spending habits. So from one 22 year old to another (or, anyone else feeling this pain), I’ve learned that it’s important to...
Give yourself time. It is impossible to start your adult life with brand new everything. Give yourself some grace! You’re young, and have plenty of time to work for that comfortable lifestyle. This is the time of life where you have the freedom to save and to learn. Need help saving money? Try Peak to start saving towards your goals!
Be creative. Embrace this phase of life as an opportunity to be creative. Repurpose furniture or go thrifting to find unique rugs or decor that are inexpensive and give your space personality. Go hunting for a new top in the sales section. Stay in, invite friends over, and try a new recipe. Take pride in the process and accomplishment of making something that was old or dirty fresh.
Be patient. Remember that no one who looks successful around you or on social media got there automatically… if they got “there” at all. Remember that not everything is as it seems. Success and financial independence takes hard work, prioritizing, and sacrificing some things. Often, it takes time. Learning to wait will pay off long term and make you more grateful for the financial decisions you make. Learn to be okay with not having that new couch right now and save for the one you really like that will last you for years. Rather than buying the cheaper option, it can be valuable to just be okay with not having it at all for now.
Avoid comparison. More than anything, practice being aware of how you are comparing yourself to your peers. Comparison will always leave you feeling dissatisfied with your life, will make you resentful, ungrateful, and financially frustrated. Free yourself to focus on your individual financial journey. Sit in this time of transition and soak in the freedom to not have nice things as a 22 year old.
If nothing else, I hope that one thing you’ll realize one final element: You’re not alone. So many people our age are experiencing this, and it really is hard. Don’t blame yourself or get down when you’re struggling. Let’s help each other out and work through this together. So, those are some things that I’ve learned… but what has been helpful for you? Leave a comment, to let me know!