Envy is a Budget Killer

How to avoid falling into the envy trap

The Lion King

After a dinner with friends hearing about their Disney vacation, I went home and immediately began looking up travel agents, researching hotel rooms, and studying my calendar for a good week to make this trip. I am currently getting out of debt, and while a Disney vacation sounds like a blast, it is the last thing I should be considering based on my priorities. After a few days of “research” — longingly gazing at images of spa treatments and smiling families — I realized I had fallen into the envy trap.

The envy trap happens when you forget about your budget priorities and start living someone else’s dream. Envy isn’t just a heart issue. It can create real-life havoc on your budget. In my case, getting out of debt is my number one financial priority. A big family vacation is definitely more than a year away. I had to get back to being excited about my own goals.

Here are three ways to avoid the envy trap and remain on track with what you actually want.

1. Remember the WHY behind your goals

Going on a vacation right now would only put me further from my financial goals. To remember that, I had to go back to the reason I set my goals in the first place. For me, getting out of debt means peace of mind, future stability, and freedom. All of those things sound a lot better than a few days at a theme park.

After I dug deeper into my reasons for getting out of debt, the word “freedom” really began to resonate with me. Part of being free means getting to travel. I know that when I’m debt free, taking a trip — a trip I save up for and can actually afford — will be the first thing I do to celebrate. Ironically, taking a vacation now, while I have debt, will take me further away from the freedom of getting to travel all the time.

If you have never written the reasons behind your financial goals, take a few minutes to write down your “why.” Your own personal drive behind your goals will always be much more powerful than the urge to spend on the wrong things.

2. Remember that “not now” does not mean “not ever”

Saying “no” to a vacation now does not mean, “I can never ever take a vacation again.” Having the discipline to wait for a few fun things means they will be even more fun when I can take action at a later date. Traveling will feel more fun when I know I’m not putting myself further into debt.

Being able to delay gratification is the mark of a responsible grown-up. It may not feel fun in the moment, but every vacation I take when I’m out of debt will come guilt-free. That sounds like a much better vacation than any I would put on a credit card.

Write down everything you are tempted to buy right now. Then write an estimated purchase date beside each item or write each item in a calendar. Saving up for purchases will make you appreciate them a lot more and it gives you something fun to look forward to.

3. Stop following people on social media that make you feel less-than

While it may feel like EVERYONE on your Facebook feed is always taking cool vacations, remember that you are seeing the highlights of each person’s year. Everyone is not always on vacation. It just feels that way when you are looking at highlight photos of hundreds of different people every day.

However, there are some people or companies that may get under your skin more than others. Whether they’re doing all the things you want to be doing, or they annoy you with one too many hashtag-blessed posts, it may be time to unfollow people that are making you feel bad about your life.

If you have a hobby and you follow a lot of related brands, you may always be tempted to buy when a new, shiny thing is released. Unfollowing your favorite brands on social media will immediately help you reduce the temptation to spend money. I had to unsubscribe from airline emails because a “good deal” on a flight I could not afford is still a bad deal. Shopping for things I don’t need when I have debt is a waste of time and a goal killer.


Envy isn’t just a spirituality issue. Falling in the envy trap is a quick way to wreck your financial goals. Remember why you set your goals in the first place, plan ahead for fun purchases, and make sure your social media isn’t wrecking your budget.

Bethany Smith is a freelance writer focusing on courage, risk, and creativity. When she’s not writing, she’s teaching college English and planning future vacations. Follow her on Twitter at@PaperIsDue.