To Change Your Financial Life, You May Have To Change Your Friends

by Ron Haynes

Your mom used to say it: you become like those you hang around. Dr. David McClelland of Harvard said it, too: people cannot change who they are unless they change their primary reference group. The Bible says it: bad company corrupts good morals. I’ve heard motivational speakers say it a different way: you’ll be the same person you are today except for two things, the books you read, and the people you meet. I would add one other thing that will change your life and your financial picture here in the 21st Century: the web sites you frequent.

We all know it’s true. We are profoundly influenced by the people with whom we spend the majority of our time. And now, in the Internet age, you spend a great deal of time with people you’ll never meet in person.

Empty WalletSo who are you spending time around? Whomever it is, that person can have a profound impact on your financial life for good or for bad. Friends, family, and co-workers may not have the same ideas on spending as you do. When you spend time with them, you can find yourself tempted to mimic their spending habits “just to keep up.” Your best defense against the spender is to go with them to places where you don’t spend money or where there isn’t a chance to spend a lot of money. Go hiking, go on a picnic, go bowling, go for a drive in the country, invite friends over for a potluck dinner. Find ways to enjoy life without the constant drain on your finances.

I’ve had to wean myself away from certain people who think that money comes in the form of plastic and that it’s just free for the taking. One day very soon, that plastic will turn into handcuffs and the days in the fun-house will be over.

It doesn’t just apply to personal finance either. The same principle can hold true at work, at social gatherings, or even family get-togethers: Does your attitude change when you’re around negative people who think the boss is out to get them? What about your attitude concerning your community or even toward other family members? Don’t let the negative attitudes of others infect you. The best way to combat this situation is to smile, nod gently, and either change the subject or excuse yourself to go somewhere else.

I’ve begun limiting my exposure to certain people because of their rampant negativity. In their eyes, nothing is right; no one understands them, everything they see is wrong, and the people in charge are just stupid. When I’m around these people, I find myself getting negative as well. I find myself worked up and agreeing with them. These people are very nice otherwise and can be fun to be around, but when they flip the negative switch, it’s almost more than I can take. I have to just walk away.

You might actually lose a friend over their out of control spending. If this is the case, realize that you weren’t important in that relationship at all, only the money was important, only the collection of things. You were interchangeable. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier, though. Though you should never give up hope on another person entirely, you don’t have to spend your limited amount of discretionary time with them either.

The second question: What web sites do you frequent on a regular basis? Sites that offer encouragement in the face of failures will always lift your spirits. Read this posting from Gather Little By Little, especially the comments. It took a lot of guts to admit some of his recent missteps but his readers encouraged him to dust himself off, get back on his horse, and get started again. THAT’S the encouragement we all need. Click through your feeds and bookmarks to ask yourself, “Do I get positive support by reading this site?” Trim accordingly.

Spending time on sites that promote complaining and disharmony will cause you to feel these negative emotions as well. I encourage everyone to stick with those sites that stimulate discussion without going negative. That is a rare trait in this world today. Everyone goes negative sometimes, but when it’s a way of life, move on for your own mental and emotional health.

Lastly, what rich, mental protein are you putting in your mind through reading books? Our minds need the inspiration that comes from printed material which causes us to think, to ponder, to explore within ourselves, to make positive changes, to shore up our weaknesses, and to capitalize on our strengths. Don’t waste your time on schemers, on get rich quick strategies, or on shady propositions that force you to compromise your ethics or core beliefs. If you value people, don’t engage in programs that force you to look at them as potential profit centers.

If your philosophy about your finances has changed but your friends haven’t or if they just aren’t on board with your newfound understanding about how your money works, you may have some serious choices to make. Don’t evaluate your friends on the basis of whether their beliefs identically match yours, but DO evaluate whether they are your true friends or if they only need you to validate their personal habits and motivations. Don’t judge them since their money should be spent the way they want. But you don’t have to participate and enable them either.

Prune away those web sites that don’t lift you up and give you ideas on how to improve your life. Does it really matter what politician did what to whom? Does it really matter what celebrity got arrested? Isn’t your time and mental well being more valuable than that?

Read books and articles that help you move more quickly toward your goals. Several personal finance writers have listed their favorite books. Check out Get Rich Slowly’s 25 best books about money, and The Simple Dollar’s 52 books, 52 weeks – A Buyer’s Guide. Check these out from your local library or buy them from the book seller of your choice, but get yourself started on a regular reading program soon. Your brain cells need the exercise!

Finally, choose your friends wisely. Don’t leave this to chance because who you are and who you will become will depend on your primary reference group. Chose wisely.
[tags]personal finance, life, money, friends, choices, books, Internet[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Glblguy From Gather Little by Little

Excellent article. Thanks for the linking to mine! Really enjoy reading your site Ron, keep my the great work!


Great ideas! I agree that you sometimes have to take action to change your friends if they’re making you negative too. I also love how you’ve applied this to the web – there are a few sites that I’m subscribed to that are really a waste of time, because I don’t get much value from their posts – I’d be better off finding new ones.


You seem to be on a roll Ron!

Great thoughts!

Some years ago, I learned through the reading of the book of all books, that my attitude in life made me the person I was, and that the words I spoke came directly out of that life.

Don’t get me wrong though.
It seems as a child, I was on the “up” side of life, not the down side.

Negative thoughts inevitably become negative words and then play out in life.
This affects every group, relationship, institution…..
be they personal, financial, or work related, and yes….every aspect of our being.

We are somewhat an open society on the web.
The words we type allow people to know who we are, to that degree.
You can read people here, the same as you can read people looking straight at them.
So being careful who we read, listen to, be with, or who our associates are, is of utmost importance.

Bad attitudes translate into bad decisions and bad finances and bad relations of all kinds,
and then poof….the same kinds of thoughts and deeds come back to you.

But on the other hand….:-)

Bright, uplifting attitudes effect the stock market and finances, and our spouse, and our children, and our boss….and….and….

Everything blossoms when we look on the positive side.
This is just common sense though.
Although not a new thing, but an old thought made fresh and with heart!

Thank you again! ;-)


Good afternoon Beth,

I also know what you mean about the wasting of time and energy going to some web-sites.
As you, I need to be careful too.
But I do have acquaintances and family members that go to certain web-sites and their attitude and bank book matches the sites they frequent.

Sort of odd….but it actually happens!

Ron, said that some sites promote complaining and disharmony.
He’s right….there does appear to be a lot of anger out there!

And Ron…..

Now on the stock market…..;-) Be blessed and prosper is all I can say!!!!! :-)


@ glbl
You’re welcome. Thanks for your relevant content and for being transparent. It really hit home with your readers.

I need some more of those uplifting words to raise the stock market! Can you help me out on that? :)

Thanks and welcome to The Wisdom Journal. I’m really glad you’re here.
If you don’t get value from certain feeds and bookmarks, delete ‘em. Your time is too precious to waste on things that don’t add value to your life.

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

I’m a big believer in what you have written about here. We become what we fill our lives with. It only makes sense. In addition, we need to do some honest self-evaluation to be certain that we are the kind of person that others should want to be around.

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