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Eliminating the Stealthy Financial Enemy

How many times has peer pressure motivated your hand to spend money when your heart wasn’t really in it? I’m not even talking about the perpetual race to keep up with the Joneses. You know, your friend got the latest tablet; therefore, you should have one too. Rather, I’m speaking of that other breed of peer pressure that is more subtle but every bit as destructive to your financial progress.

I happened to join my current team at work just as its managers were transitioning out. Naturally, there were farewell lunches and gifts, and even though my interaction with the outgoing supervisors had been minimal, a week in fact, I felt compelled to pitch in for their sendoff. Haven’t you ever been pressured to show respect for someone even if you barely knew them?

Why did I do it? I suppose, for a variety of reasons. I wanted to be a part of the new team. I did not want to be perceived as stingy. I did not want to come across as disrespectful to the supervisors. How many times have you done something for the sheer sake of not being the only person out?

Am I suggesting you isolate yourself from the social fabric of your office? Never. Team players make it infinitely easier to get through difficult times. Also, remember there’s a difference between frugal and cheapskate. Yet, I would caution us against the influence to partake of every function to prove one’s loyalty.

Looking back on my reasons for donating, the trend was self-evident. I was overly concerned with how my new colleagues would view the new guy. To their credit, my teammates were never pushy about people making contributions, but they didn’t really have to be persuasive. It was enough to know that everyone else in our office was pitching in. Still, it’s peer pressure I’d created for myself.

Now, we’re not talking about large sums of cash here. Altogether I maybe spent $30 in contribution toward a plaque here and some refreshments there during those first couple weeks, but now let’s put this into perspective. For the sake of camaraderie, I might later be talked into going out to lunch every other day because that’s where some of the cool kids hang out. I might be persuaded to kick in for random after work parties, and if one of my colleagues happens to be starring in a theater production, I might be tempted to buy tickets to show my support.

Over time, the small and seemingly innocent amounts add up to a significant dent in your income.

So, how do you go about overcoming this quiet strain of financial peer pressure?

  • Cook or bake something at home.
  • Prepare a meaningful card.
  • Stop by their office and directly express your gratitude for their work.
  • Pick and choose the contributions you want to make in honor of a special occasion.
  • Perhaps most importantly, identify the people for whom you are okay spending a little more on. There will always be a mentor or good friend for whom the gestures are worth it.

Fast forward several months into my new assignment. The group decided to go to lunch to celebrate a teammate’s birthday. This was a guy I’d tried on a few occasions to engage in conversation and usually came away with a whole lot of nothing to show for my efforts. I thought of it and then decided against spending money on the expensive restaurant that had been chosen for the occasion. And you know what? I felt good. I had absolutely no regrets. I wasn’t the only person not to participate, and so far as I know, my team’s collective opinion of me did not change. Or, at the very least, if certain colleagues disliked me, it was not on the basis of skipping a group lunch.

So, what about you? Am I over thinking this and running too much a risk of being a skunk at the picnic? I’d love to hear from you!

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My blog is a collection of advice I wish someone had shared with me when I was young and targets subjects like personal finance, careers, and relationships. It publishes Mondays with the occasional bonus article. Sign up to have fresh content delivered straight to your inbox, no SPAM!


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