One of the hardest parts of being a new graduate with debt was seeing how my friends without any debt—or just those in no hurry to get out of debt—spent their money.
My circle represented a variety of ages, upbringings, and careers, which translated to a variety of incomes, spending habits, and debt levels. One of my best friends was a cash-strapped student, while another was driving a shiny new Lexus.
Consequently, I went from feeling ahead of the game to feeling like I was in last place, depending on whom I went for coffee with. I shouldn't have let this be the case, though—and neither should you.
You're The Only One Keeping Score
There seems to be a lot of pressure to accomplish certain milestones before turning 30: buy a car, get married, own your own home, achieve certain success in your career, etc.
While these are all worthy financial goals, they sometimes can make you feel trapped in an unnamed competition with your peers to see who will complete their imaginary life checklist first. When you focus on what everyone else does with their money, it's easy to feel like you're spending yours in all the wrong places. That's likely not the case.
Try To Take In The Whole Picture
Keep the right perspective when browsing someone's vacation album on Facebook or stepping into your friend's gorgeous new home.
If their parents paid for their education, they don't have the burden of student debt holding them back. If they entered the workforce before you, they've had more years to earn and save money. If they're in a long-term relationship, they might have a partner to split the bills with.
Everyone's circumstances are different, so it's a waste of time and effort to try to make your life fit someone else's.
You Can Have Anything, But Not Everything
If I'd had my way, I'd have gone out for dinner every day, driven a fast car, and flown first class to multiple destinations around the world. But having it all is unrealistic, so I prioritized what I wanted then, planned for what I want later, and gave up some of the things that don't realistically fit my lifestyle and income.
Doing the same can make the things you really want more attainable, because you won't waste any money on items that belong to someone else's wish list. It takes some practice, but breaking the habit of comparing yourself to everyone else will spare you a lot of wasted tears and dollars in the long run.
Keep The Main Thing "The Main Thing"
The most important thing is achieving your own goals—not keeping up with the Joneses. Ask yourself why you want the things that you do: Is it because someone else has it, or is it a genuine priority in your own life?
You shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to buy a home if it represents security or success to you. Just remember that needing granite countertops to match those in your neighbor's kitchen don't have to be part of the equation.