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Your Wallet’s No 1 Enemy: Envy

I’ve got some good news – and some bad – about your money and your happiness. Before we get into it, think about what you spend your money on. Not your bills, but the things you choose to purchase for yourself.

I’ve got some good news – and some bad – about your money and your happiness.

Before we get into it, think about what you spend your money on. Not your bills, but the things you choose to purchase for yourself. Now think about why you buy what you do. Why you want what you want.

Now be honest with yourself.

How often do you spend money because you believe it will alter how other people perceive you?

If you can truthfully say never, please share your secret!

Otherwise you probably fall victim – at least once in a while – to that old trap of keeping up with the Joneses.

The bad news is that old habit of wanting what your friends is making you miserable.

A study by Harvard Professor Erzo Luttmer “Neighbors as Negatives” shows that people are less happy living among and socializing with wealthier people, and happier when their neighbors and peers have equal – or less – financial means.

Luttmer’s findings, while logical, are disturbing. In a nutshell, we’re happiest when we have demonstrably more than those around us.

The good news is learning to nip envy in the bud won’t only help your wallet and your happiness, it’s morally gratifying. After all, we’re talking about one of seven deadly sins here.

How to Beat Envy

If you let envy control you, not only will you go into debt chasing other people’s dreams that you incorrectly make your own, you’ll find yourself feeling unaccomplished, unhappy, even depressed. What’s worse, envy will take its toll on your relationships. You won’t be fun to be around and, if you envy close friends of family, they may begin to pick up on the fact you resent them.

Realize that envy is an emotion you choose to have, consciously or unconsciously.

Then, consciously commit yourself to defeat your envy. To do this: 

Reevaluate the root of your envy – your beliefs about what makes somebody else better (one’s belongings, friends, or accomplishments)

Count your blessings. Literally. Write down at least 75 blessings in your life. Then do it again, without repeating any one blessing.

Every time you’re talking to a friend or family member, subtlety mention a reason why you’re thankful to have him or her in your life.

Help others less fortunate than yourself. Volunteer.

Finally, decide what it is you want in life for yourself. Do not take into account what anybody else – not even your parents, best friend, or partner – would think. Then, take one step every day toward achieving that goal.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.