If Rachel Cruze’s new book, “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” was available when I was engaged, I know it would have been the motivation and inspiration needed to plan a budget-savvy wedding.
Rachel’s book (which releases today) goes beyond the typical book about budgeting that covers staying out debt and planning your expenses.
Instead, Rachel thoughtfully discusses a budgeting challenge we all know too well but don’t often talk about: How comparing ourselves to others can fuel poor money habits.
I had a chance to preview Rachel’s book this summer and I was struck by how she practically and winsomely challenges our innate habit of comparing ourselves and how it can damage our budgets, relationships and well-being. She’s not afraid to write boldly about the challenges we all face in our quests for perfection and approval, but that we’re often too timid to articulate.
I had the opportunity to ask Rachel some questions about her new book and how her message of loving our lives (not someone else's!) relates to our weddings. I hope you benefit from her insight as much as I did!
AM: Comparison isn’t a problem unique to our generation. Nor is it new news that comparison fuels discontentment, which can lead to poor money habits. How has social media exacerbated comparison, especially when it comes to our weddings?
RC: Social media apps are like windows into other people’s lives. These apps make it easy for us to wish we were living someone else’s life, which can lead to discontentment. We have to remember that what you see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t reality – it’s a highlight reel. With weddings, it’s so easy to look through photos on Instagram and see so many options you didn’t even know were out there, which can cause you to spend more to measure up.
You write that “comparing ourselves to others is essentially a coping mechanism for our own insecurities.” What are some steps we can take to understand our insecurities?
It’s so easy to believe that we don’t or can’t measure up, so we project that onto others. Those insecurities prevent you from living the kind of life you truly want to live.
- Know your values. Decide what is really important to you and focus on those things.
- Realize and accept that everyone has different values and priorities. Don’t allow other people to define what is important to you.
- Learn to be content with what you have. Content people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they make the best of everything. Figure out ways to make the best of what you have.
- Fill your heart with gratitude. Write down two things you are grateful for every day and focus on those things.
I loved your witty description of “competitive parenting” and all of the questions you received about how you’re choosing to raise your daughter after her birth. “Has she walked? Oh, that’s the stroller you decided to go with?” In many ways, that’s exactly how I felt when talking about wedding planning with my engaged friends. “Are you have chicken dinner or steak for dinner? What are your flowers?” Why is it important to not engage this subtle competition?
Regardless of whether you are planning a wedding, preparing for a baby or just living your everyday life, it can seem impossible to avoid comparison. It doesn’t matter what you do, someone will always be doing more or better in every aspect of life. Engaging in that conversation can fuel comparisons and discontentment. It’s okay to talk with your friends and others about their weddings and what they’ve planned, but make sure it’s coming from the right place. And when you are secure and content, it’s easy to avoid letting those conversations bother you.
I know that when I was wedding planning, it was easy for me to think that my wedding was a time to splurge, and that I would buckle down and start implementing healthy habits after my wedding. While I stuck to my budget, I now wish that I had been more intentional about establishing good habits. How are weddings a prime time to hone in on healthy habits?
If you don’t have good money habits before planning your wedding, it’s a great time to start making healthy financial choices that can develop into habits. If you’ve never budgeted before, a wedding is a great opportunity to learn how to create and manage a written budget. If saving was never a priority for you, it likely will be necessary ahead of your big day. You’ll learn that you have to prioritize your wants and your needs. It can also help improve communication with your soon-to-be spouse, which will be critical once your marriage begins.
What would you say to a bride-to-be who wants her wedding to be the best (it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, right?), but will need to go into debt to create her dream wedding?
While a wedding is a once in a lifetime event, you still have to prioritize. Don’t go into debt for your wedding! Decide what is most important to you. If a certain band performing at your reception is the highest priority to you, you might have to make some sacrifices on catering or flowers. The best way to keep this all in check is to create a budget, specifying how much you will spend on each item, then stick to it! You don’t want to have to worry about paying off your wedding while celebrating your first anniversary.
Why is it tempting to act rich (spending above one’s means) when planning a wedding?
As we attend other people’s weddings or see photos on Pinterest, it is easy to dream big and want to go overboard when our turn comes. After all, it’s a once in a lifetime celebration! But acting like you’re wealthy – when you aren’t – is only going to lead you deeper into debt and take you away from where you want to be, financially. Every decision you make, whether it is to spend more for the designer gown or less on the food, will move you closer to either financial distress or financial success.
How can couples distinguish their needs from their wants when wedding planning? How is this good practice for life?
As a couple planning a wedding, you have to work together to separate your needs and wants. You will each have things that are important to you, so communication is important – both as you are planning your wedding and throughout the rest of your life. You have to talk through your priorities, listen to one another and evaluate the costs. The key is to prioritize your needs, while planning and saving for your wants.
How is wedding planning and budgeting the perfect opportunity for couples to begin understanding one another’s approach to finances?
If you haven’t already discussed money and financial priorities, now it the perfect time. This will provide you an opportunity to figure out each other’s values, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. In most couples, the old saying that opposites attract is true. Often you will have a planner and a partier. One will likely be the person who love to budget and plan, and the other is a bit more of a free spirit when it comes to spending money. Find out what each other values in life. You have to talk these things out, being completely honest with one another. The real key is communication.
There’s a tension between being at peace with your own life, and being comfortable with where someone else is heading. Wedding planning on a budget is a microcosm of this tension. Brides not only need to be at peace with their own budgets, but realize that others (whether a Pinterest wedding or a best friend who is engaged) have different budgets and goals. How can we cultivate contentment with our own limitations?
Know what you value! In today’s society, we let other people define our values and priorities. Remember that content people may not always have the best of everything, but they make the best of everything. This is definitely true when it comes to weddings. Be grateful for what you do have ahead of you – a lifetime of love with an amazing spouse. Contentment starts with this kind of gratitude. There isn’t room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude requires humility, and true humility is thinking of ourselves less often. It means not flaunting our successes or making a big deal of ourselves. Humble people are able to celebrate the successes of others, rather than feel threatened by it. It’s important to cheer each other on in their victories.
Rachel, thanks so much for taking time to share your thoughtful insight with BSB readers!
“Love Your Life, Not Theirs” is available here on Amazon.com. You can follow Rachel on Twitter and Instagram at @RachelCruze and online at rachelcruze.com, youtube.com/rachelcruze or facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.