Large-Scale Expenditures That People Use To Judge You

You tell people a lot about yourself by the way you spend your money. And the larger the expenditure, the more analysis from others the purchase tends to draw.

Well Heeled Blog identifies some major purchases you make, and what your expenditures say about you:

*Weddings. Costs for the ludicrously self-centered parties can spin quickly out of control, and it’s tempting to cut extras such as open bars or sit-down dinners. It’s here that the yearning for frugality runs up against the need to seem generous.

*New cars. Bring home a shiny new ride and you can draw envy or scorn, and sometimes both at the same time. Frugal folks may think you’re an idiot for paying a new car premium rather than buying a comparable used car for far less. Buy something modest and others may feel bad for you, assuming that’s all you could afford.

*Clothes. By choosing what you wear, you’re not only expressing your taste but projecting an image and class rank you’d like to assume you’re a part of. If you’re always complaining about how poor you are but never wear the same pair of shoes in a week, people may see you as frivolous and undisciplined.

“I can’t believe they spend money on that…” – Expenses That Are Judged The Most [Well Heeled Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mauispiderweb says:

    I try not to spend my money, at all. What does that say?

  2. Cat says:

    5. Clothes
    “…Kelly at the petite fashion blog Alterations Needed said it best when she posted:”

    What? WHAT?

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    “Bring home a shiny new ride and you can draw envy or scorn…buy something modest and others may feel bad for you, assuming that’s all you could afford”

    Or you could be like this large property owner I worked for years ago. He would drive his 5 speed, 10 year old Volvo wagon when he had to deal with his tenants or drive to his properties to inspect them, then he also had his Mercedes sedan, his Mercedes two seater convertible, his Mercedes wagon, his Miata, his BMW sedan, his…

    • temporaryerror says:

      At first, I was going to ask if the person you dealt with was from Chile, and ran a chain of fried chicken joints in the southwest…

    • rpm773 says:

      Heh. I always shake my head when the pizza delivery boy pulls up in his BMW 3-series.

      Granted, as a guy who did that for a few years, I tip them. But I think to myself “That’s not the way you earn, man!” I drove an ’81 Volvo with a hole in the muffler.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        There’s another benefit. Once customers get to know you, they’re probably at the door with the cash before you’re halfway down the walk.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Shocking indeed that the pizza delivery guy would want to drive a fuel-efficient new vehicle for his job that requires reliable transportation which constantly uses gas.

  4. powdered beefmeat says:

    I think the real question is, why care what someone else thinks?

    • Cat says:


      If only I could convince everyone in my family of this, our lives would be better, and not just financially.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I value your opinion care about your reply.

    • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:


    • mauispiderweb says:


    • pop top says:

      Because it’s built into us by society?

    • deathbecomesme says:

      Yea, who wants to get laid anyway!

    • SalesGeek says:

      You’re not in sales, are you?

    • DoodlestheGreat says:

      *Potential employers wants to hire you for technical position*
      *sees that you own Yugo*
      “So much for HIS decision-making skills. Next candidate.”

    • dolemite says:

      Lol, I’m with you. I drive a Hyundai and my clothes usually come from a combination of Target and JC Penny. I literally don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. Oh, and I’ll opening admit to reading comic books and playing video games at the age of 36, to boot.

      Could I afford a BMW and nice clothes? Sure. Do I want to pay 2x more to simply impress people? No. I’m actually shocked by the people stating you should care what people think, simply because society says you should.

    • veritybrown says:

      This! The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.

      We have always bought the least expensive/best combination we could afford. Cheap doesn’t always mean junky, and expensive doesn’t always mean good-quality. We’re slow to follow trends, and we don’t follow them into places that we’re uncomfortable with. My worst investments ever have been in things that “society” thought I needed (such as an education I ended up not being able to use because I have the wrong political beliefs). Living the life that other people think you should be living is a recipe for unhappiness.

  5. Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

    *clothes All spent on work clothes and pointless name brand kicks. The latter asshattery offsets the sensibility of the first.

  6. pop top says:

    What does Gomer Pyle have to say about this?

    Hasn’t this been going on since well, forever? The only big difference is that it used to be horses, then carriages and horses and now it’s cars. People have always judged people based on what they buy. Many commenters on this very site will negatively judge others for doing the opposite (i.e. spending too much on a wedding, buying an expensive car, etc.).

  7. zantafio says:

    any Apple product?

  8. theycallmeGinger says:

    Everybody’s got nice stuff but me. I want a car, I want a jet ski! I want hair that’s blue or green.

  9. JennyCupcakes misses her grandson says:


    • Cat says:

      yea, funny, huh?

      I find the people who last the longest are those that spent little on the wedding. Maybe a lavish wedding set unrealistic expectations for the new couple. Maybe coming into a marriage without all that financial stress is a plus.

      When you meet mister right, have a simple wedding and a beer blast with your relatives and friends in the park. Take the money you saved and take a nice, but not too expensive, honeymoon.

      Your friends may judge you as “cheap”. But they’ll be divorced within 10 years of their fancy nuptials. Then you can judge them.

      • sponica says:

        see…the people I know who had lavish weddings didn’t have to pay for them because bride’s parents paid for the weddings.

        my rule of thumb is if parents have the money and want to spend the money on said wedding, why not let them? it saves you a boatload of money you can use on a house or honeymoon or action figures…

        the number one thing to not do is pay for it yourself and then get miserable because you let other people influence your spending decisions…especially when the other people (both sides parents) OFFERED to pay for all wedding expenses

        • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

          I gave our daughter the option of a nice wedding or a new car (nothing fancy – a Scion Xa). She chose the latter. I think she chose wisely. She’s still driving it nearly seven years later… and their marriage is going strong too.

          She ended up having a nice wedding anyway because she and her mom did almost everything, including cake and decorations. Her hubby is a composer, so he handled the music. My niece is a professional photographer, so that was almost free. All I did was rent a place for the reception (a local winery), and pay for catering. It ended up costing about 5 grand. Everybody, including her, thought it was great.

      • veritybrown says:

        This. We eloped. Our 25th anniversary is in May.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        We were married by a JP and provided our own reception at a friend’s house. It probably cost about $300 for everything. We spent the first four years of our life together in a used mobile home, saving up for a down payment on a house. We’ve been married for over 28 years, and I’d marry her again tomorrow.

        I just shake my head at couples who spend — or more accurately who expect their parents to spend — $30,000 to $50,000 on a wedding. That’s money that could be used for housing, transportation, savings, education, or other essentials. Our friends gave their daughter a lavish wedding which ended in an ugly divorce five years later. A wedding is one day in a life. A marriage is something that can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, people tend to conflate the two.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      I’m of two minds about weddings. First off, weddings kept me fed in an otherwise lean time. I worked for a caterer for a good bit of my 20s, and rarely had a weekend off from spring through fall. In a good month, I could bring in as much from catering as I could from my workstudy position or some of my first work after grad school. People willing to drop sick amounts of cash on one-day events support caterers, seamstesses, florists, etc. Weddings may not make good financial sense, but it helps ends meet for a lot of people.

      When I got married, my wife and I had around 20 people there. We kept things really small and simple, and had a fantastic lunch afterwards. My wife and I both worked for the same caterer, and worked enough big events to know we never wanted anything like that for ourselves. To each their own.

  10. SkokieGuy says:

    I intentionally still wear pleated khaki pants as a BS filter.

    As an (otherwise attractive and socially acceptable) middle-aged gay man, I find that if someone actually cares about this, I know that we are not a match and their priorities and interest are not the same as mine.

    In my youth, I worked in an ultra high-end retail setting. I quickly learned not to judge, as often the wealthiest in the area would come in in casual clothes and look two steps away from being homeless.

    Remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Women? – So true.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      Oh snap! What’s wrong with pleated khakis?!? You mean my wardrobe’s outdated? FML!

    • Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

      While I agree to some extent I would also say that not wearing pleated khakis demonstrates an attention to detail that I value in another person. I also tend to associate pleated khakis with 90s used car salesmen with full goatees and a beer gut hanging over their washed-out horizontally striped cheap polo and braided leather belt.

      I guess what I’m saying is you can have attention to detail, an eye for what’s cliche and what’s modern, and still spend approx the same amount on your clothes.

    • SheTastesLikesCigerecxh says:

      I agree with the Julia Roberts syndrome whole heartedly. I work in retail, in a high end vintage store. I see it all the time. At my old job, another vintage store, people thought the owner was a creepy homeless man. Until he jumped into one of his many classic cars, usually a porche. I have not bought new clothing in more than two years, yet I get complimented on my style all the time. I love thrifting for clothes. Fur coats and silk shirts for under $5? yes please

    • RvLeshrac says:

      I intentionally wear whatever the hell I feel like wearing. If people don’t like my clothes, they’re free to go buy whatever they want to see me wearing, but I’m sure as hell not spending *my* money on what someone else wants to see.

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It seems like many of the old rules regarding new vs. used car buying no longer apply, in my area at least. The used market is highly inflated and there’s very little difference in price when buying a new car over a 2 or 3 year old one, especially if you factor in financing.

    Even older cars, 5+ years old or in the ballpark of 100,000 miles, are going for some crazy amounts of money.

    • tinmanx says:

      I’ve never seen the deep discounts on newer model used cars I always hear about. They say new cars loses thousands in value after you drive off the lot, well yea, if you turn around and sell it to a dealer. The dealer I went to told me my old car was junk and offered me $100 to scrap it, I turn around and sold it for $2k elsewhere.

      • frank64 says:

        When looking for a car I ended up thinking that a new car was going to be cheaper in the long run. The markup on used cars is much more and it is easier to get a lemon that you can’t do anything about. With a new you can keep it longer and the warranty last longer. You can keep a new car longer, so there is less transaction costs including sales tax. My car so far is 11 years old and running fine. I will get at least a few more years out of it, and I paid it off about 8 years ago. The longer you keep the car the less the quick depreciation means, what matters is how much you spent over the life.

  12. Exceptional Vampire Does Not Sparkle says:

    *cough* macbooks & iPhones *cough*

  13. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I experienced this first hand! When my Escape had to have the transmission replaced, I first rented a car…so everyone thought I bought a brand new car. I got questions from all sorts of people. I saw your new car, did you get tired of your other one? Then a week later, when the dealership realized the work would take longer, they gave me a loaner…another new car.

    You wouldn’t believe the people who think it’s their business what car you drive.

    And BTW – if I could, I would still be driving my mid-90’s Taurus, like Mulder and Scully had on the X-Files. Loved that car.

    • JennyCupcakes misses her grandson says:

      I want to believe D:

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      Did you buy it solely because you saw it on The X-files? I’m not judging you if you did (says the woman that dresses like Scully every few years for Halloween… or to go to the movies…)

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        No – I bought it second hand because it was reliable, had front wheel drive, and got good gas milage. It was a 4 door, so plenty of room for my husband and our daughter, plus a nice roomy trunk for groceries. It was very comfortable, too. It just happened to be that type of Taurus. It was an awesome car. And a nice blue color. **sighs**

        • veritybrown says:

          Sounds just like the Taurus we had…until the transmission died in the middle of the street. It was cheaper to buy another (used) car than to have the tranny replaced on the Taurus. Ironically, when my Escort needed a new tranny, it was a mere fraction of the price of the one for the Taurus.

  14. comedian says:

    1) Enter internet frugality echo chamber
    2) Close door
    3) Hold on.

  15. nishioka says:

    > Bring home a shiny new ride and you can draw envy or scorn, and sometimes both at the same time. Frugal folks may think you’re an idiot for paying a new car premium rather than buying a comparable used car for far less. Buy something modest and others may feel bad for you, assuming that’s all you could afford.

    Jesus H Christ. Moral of this story: you can’t win no matter what you do, so buy whatever you want.

    • Sarahlara says:

      This is how I read it. Wasn’t planning on going to Tiffany before, but now….

    • GearheadGeek says:

      Am I supposed to care what other people think of my automotive purchases?

      I’m one of those guys friends and family call for advice when they’re thinking about buying a vehicle. I’ve only bought 3 new cars in the 31 years I’ve been driving, the rest have been used. With the exception of the last new one (my current daily driver, an ’05 Subaru Legacy GT wagon) the used ones have done as well as or better than the new ones.

      I do sometimes feel pity for people when I see their new cars. It’s generally not so much “Is that all they could afford?” or “Why’d they spend so much?” as “I hope they catch a clue in time to ditch that before the warranty runs out!”

  16. brandonsavage says:

    If you want the judgement of your coworkers and friends, take up aviation. Not only will they judge you for spending $5,000 – $10,000 to get your private pilot certificate (less than some of their vacations), but then when you suggest buying an aircraft you’re a “high roller” (never mind your airplane costs less than the $60,000 Porsche they financed last year). And never mind the fact that earning a pilot certificate requires you to learn about physics, weather, geography, navigation, and math, and don’t bother discussing the opportunities it opens up to expand your travel and business horizons; it’s always a “luxury” to fly yourself anywhere. Because you should always drive the five hours instead of fly the one.

    • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

      liKe a Baussss

    • pop top says:

      Wow. Where do you work that a $10k vacation and a $60k Porsche is less than what you spent on a pilot certificate (what) and a fucking private airplane (what)?

    • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

      Tastes like bitter.

      Also, who spends 10k on a vacation?! I can see spending 5k, maybe, in an extreme case, going to Europe kind of extreme.

    • ajaxd says:

      It seems you go a lot of flak (no pun intended) for taking this hobby. I’d be totally cool with that – do what you like.

    • huadpe says:

      To be fair, anyone with a $10,000 vacation and $60,000 porsche is a high roller, or up to his eyeballs in debt.

  17. shepd says:

    If you’re *too* cheap people will know you as “that cheap guy” at work.

    (I should know, I’ve been championed and trophied as the cheap guy. I’ve been almost unseated by a new arrival last year, but his car less than a decade old, so it might be a while before he officially wins!)

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      Sounds like a convention that Mr. Krabs attends every year.

      *has kids and has to watch spongebob sometimes.

      • Cat says:

        There’s no shame in watching SpongeBob.

        Better for you to watch it than the kids, really.

      • dolemite says:

        *Has* to watch Sponge Bob sometimes? You mean *get to* watch Sponge Bob sometimes. I don’t even have kids and I have most episodes memorized.

  18. georgi55 says:

    “rather than buying a comparable used car for far less.”

    Not in current market. Either buy brand new or under $5000 junker. Buying 3 year old 40K miles out of warranty car will only save you $2000~$3000. Not worth it.

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    So if you buy cheaper more economical things there’s more into it than living with-in or below your means. So such thing as practical?

  20. Anonymously says:

    My wife told me flat out that she didn’t want our wedding reception to look cheap compared to her cousin’s that happened about 6 months prior. It had nothing to do with celebrating – it was merely a competition.

  21. PunditGuy says:

    It’s hilarious that some people still think the 10 Commandments are the basis of our legal system, when the violation of the 10th commandment is the basis of our economic system.

  22. adrew says:

    What’s wrong with a Yaris? We love ours!

    • dolemite says:

      Too big. I want some of those micro cars they have in Europe! Something about 20% smaller than a Mazda 2!

  23. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    +1 for not giving a mad $%^^ WHAT others think about you and your spending.

  24. jp7570-1 says:

    The right watch in a business setting is a tricky proposition. Some go without a watch, using the clock in their phone as their timepiece. But older workers (i.e., bosses) see a watch as a sign of punctuality and professionalism, whether or not that really is true.

    Remember during Clinton’s first term when he took some criticism for wearing a relatively inexpensive digital watch (Casio, I think)? He eventually became a “watch guy” and now collects fairly expensive brands. But as an ex-President, he has that financial ability where many do not.

    The other side of the coin is wearing a large diameter (50 to 60mm) thick and expensive watch, which could be tens of thousands of dollars (even 6 figures and higher). I don’t know many that can afford that kind of luxury, but I did used to work for a guy that always wore his gold and diamond Rolex. He owned the firm and wanted to show how successful (the watch probably cost around $18K at that time). Some high-roller, the firm went out of business, due in part to his spending habits. (I bet the company “bought” his watch for him.)

  25. Kuri says:

    And if you save up for over a year and get a used car that doesn’t look like it’s falling apart you get judged as a welfare queen.

  26. SteveHolt says:

    My parents had the money to spend, and lots of friends we wanted to share the day with, so my wedding cost around $20,000. In my area, that’s below average. Still, it was a great time and people keep talking about how great it was, and what a classy event it was. I think it was the little things (the not so expensive little extras, the handmade touches) that went the distance. A little creativity goes a long way. We’ve been married for four months. SHUT UP WE MADE IT!

  27. SteveHolt says:

    Grad school vs all these other things… wow. School is an investment, where as fancy clothes and cars are not. I read what the article said about grad school, but I don’t think it should have been lumped in there. Do people really judge you on that? Often times its employers paying for grad school for its employees, or schools giving out pretty easy to get grants and scholarships.

  28. varro says:

    The amount of money spent on a wedding usually is inversely correlated to the length of the marriage.