Spending Money to Impress Friends: Is There Ever a Benefit?

by TTMK on November 11, 2013 · 9 comments

spend_money_on_kitchen_remodelSpending money to buy nice things that look good is not a new concept.  It happens all the time, and perhaps there are some times it makes perfect sense.

When it comes to spending a lot of money to impress friends, that’s when it gets interesting.  Not because I think it’s a good idea, but instead because it’s fascinating how far some folks are willing to go to look good to other people.   Clearly, other people and their opinions can really dictate the spending patterns of many people.

This comes to mind as I recently heard about the ongoing saga of a friend of mine who’s desperately trying to avoid spending money on a kitchen remodel that his wife wants to do.  This has been going on for some time.  Frankly, I had been thinking that this was an example of a good time to compromise with your spouse on money as I’ve written before in my description of the situation.

When I say compromise, I meant he could have taken the approach that sometimes it’s better to be happy than “right”, and try to be open to spending some money on this remodel she wants.   Maybe they could meet in the middle, by cutting other expenses and maybe getting a mid-range kitchen update instead of a fancier one.   It’s smart for a guy to have a happy wife.

Well, apparently it isn’t quite that simple.  Since writing that last piece, I’ve some to find out that she doesn’t want any ordinary kitchen.  Instead, she wants a super nice, upscale kitchen.  Not just an updated one, but a brand new one with all the bells and whistles.

This can’t be cheap.  I searched for the average cost of kitchen remodels, and quickly found this article on Better Homes and Gardens which referenced some information that showed that the average remodel cost around $54,000.  However, it then stated that the cost of upscale remodels was about $108,000!

Think about that – $108,000 for a new kitchen.  That’s simply unfathomable to me.

According to him, she feels like it’s embarrassing for her to have people over with a kitchen that’s dated.  Their circle of friends is doing well financially, and the people she’s concerned about are actually her long-time friends.  I’ve met those friends of theirs a few times, and they seem nice.  They also seem well off and successful, and live in a very nice area.  He admits that they have kitchens and homes that are updated and better for entertaining.

This seems to really bother her, and he makes it sound like she feels like she’s missing something she should rightfully have based on where she is in her life.  Again, this is all from his perspective.

As I mentioned, I had previously written that I thought he should compromise.  That still sounds good in spirit, but I have some sticker shock at those prices, even as an innocent bystander.  Moreover, the notion of doing all this just to impress other people seems nutty.

So, while suggesting that continues to take an approach of teamwork and compromise, here are some things I think he can also bring up regarding why it makes no sense to spend money just to impress others:

  1. Opportunity cost.  Instead of spending $100k, maybe they could spend $40k on something new but not ostentatious.  That incremental $60k could be put to use in a variety of ways:
    • Paying down their existing mortgage
    • Saving for their kids’ future college expenses
    • Setting money aside for health or other emergencies
    • Helping parents with future financial expenses
    • Giving money to those in need
    • Taking 5 to 10 amazing family trips that their kids will remember forever
  2. No tangible benefit.  What is the ROI of this money spent?  Are these people going to help you make more money?  I doubt it.  This is just money spent to look good to others, with zero financial return.  Seems like a silly investment, if again the purpose is to impress them (or not look bad)
  3. What you have is likely good enough anyway.  Look, I’ve seen their kitchen and while it’s older and probably dated, it’s still nicer than what more than half of the people out there have.  It’s also in a bigger home that’s in a pricey area with nice schools, so it’s not like they’re suffering there.  It’s hard to feel like anyone who’s probably in the top 5% in terms of income or net worth is missing out on good things.
  4. True friends will like you regardless.  If someone doesn’t want to hang out with you because you don’t display material wealth at the same level that they do, then what does it say about them?  It’s not worth bothering to impress them.  Good friends aren’t going to turn on you for living modestly.

So, have I completely turned on my advice of being open to compromise?  No, I still think it’s good for people to respect each other enough to be willing to think of mutual happiness.  That being said, I now think that these are some considerations that could be brought up as reasons to not spend excessively to impress others.  Maybe this will get different thoughts flowing, and alleviate the need to compromise :)

What do you think?

My Questions for You

What do think of these reasons listed above, regarding why it can be a waste to spend to impress others?

Have you ever spent money to impress others?

What are your thoughts on this situation?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle November 11, 2013 at 11:20 am

The thing I always try to keep in perspective is that something that’s brand new, has the best features, and is the pinnacle of style will eventually not be brand new anymore, be replaced by items which have even better features, and will be overshadowed by whatever is in style next. Even if she gets her dream kitchen, how long will the pleasure she gets from it last? Probably not as long as she thinks.

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TTMK November 12, 2013 at 11:31 am

Great point MB, some people have an insatiable desire for new things. Placating her one time might not be a long-term solution.

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krantcents November 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I don’t think I ever did something to impress anyone, but my self. My friends probably would not be impressed anyway.

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TTMK November 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

That sounds good, like the friends are mature. Unless they’re super wealthy and wouldn’t be impressed for that reason, but I am going to assume that’s not what you meant.

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Little House November 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

I remember your first post and I think I was on the side of compromise. However, given this information and the potential cost of the kitchen remodel, I’d have to say she’s giving in to a “keeping up with the joneses” mentality. If her husband is really against it, I’m guessing he’d rather spend the money on something else (or maybe they don’t really have the money to spend and he doesn’t want her to know – finances are rarely shared openly with others.)

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TTMK November 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

Little House – you know, I think we see it the same way from post to post. One thing to add, I don’t think he wants to spend the money on something else – it’s most likely an interest in not spending due to having an eye on retirement.

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thepotatohead November 19, 2013 at 10:23 pm

My mom’s goldenrod stove was at one point the hip and popular choice for kitchen appliance colors….those days came and went fairly quickly. Whatever remodel she does, in a few years it will be dated anyways and associated with that particular period of time/fashion. I’m generally a fan of if it aint broke, don’t fix it. If the current kitchen is functional and in working order, I’m sure any true friend wouldn’t care that its a little dated.

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Simon @ Modest Money November 20, 2013 at 3:29 am

I can admit that for me the temptation is always there to splurge and impress but more often than not it has ended up backfiring – they might end up not getting impressed or they simply don’t care.
Honestly, if your friends are impressed by what you have or how much you spend, maybe its time to go back to the drawing board and find new ones.
Overall, money shouldn’t even feature in friendships!

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TTMK November 21, 2013 at 10:25 am

If friends value you for your success or money, they’re not pure friends. Maybe they’re still genuine in most ways, but the draw should be you – not money!

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