Is Financial Evangelism Ever Ok?

My parents and I have starkly different lifestyles and views on money.  They are, for the most part spenders and I am a saver. They go out to eat at least 5 times a week, a habit that I used to adopt and am recovering from. The one thing that bugs me is that my parents are the sort of spenders that buy things that they don’t need, simply because it’s on sale.  A couple years ago, I called home and my dad was so excited that they got a flat screen TV.

But you already have two TV’s”, I said.

I know. But this one is new, and it was 50% off!

I just don’t understand this sort of splurge. But it makes them happy.

Also, as many of you know, I love to travel. Aside from financial independence, traveling is my biggest motivator in my debt payoff journey.  My mom also wants to travel and we’ve talked many times about traveling together.  My mom is in her fifties and has never left the country. For the past five years, I’ve encouraged her to travel, to start saving, and to get a passport. Finally, two years ago, she made the first step and got a passport.  She still hasn’t gone anywhere yet!

A few years ago, when she did get her passport, we were out to dinner and I asked where she wanted to go and when. She said she wasn’t sure and that she didn’t have the money right now. Knowing how much they go out to eat and how much money she makes, I just didn’t understand. If I can afford to travel on a measly non-profit salary, why can’t you? So I pushed. I went on with my financial evangelism and proceeded to tell her that she should save more and go out less, and that she could afford it, if she really wanted to. Needless to say, she didn’t want to hear it and I made her pretty upset.  I regret ruining a night out with my family, but I am left wondering if financial evangelism is ever ok? I was expressing my thoughts, although perhaps not at the most opportune moment.  For those of us who have been converted to the gospel of personal finance, is it really our business to evangelize to non-believers? What do you do in situations like this? Keep your mouth shut? Since my incident with my mom, I’ve come across many situations with friends, where I desperately want to “save” them, talk to them about the power of saving, and frugality. However, I can’t do it. It’s not my place.  Personal finance is personal, so if people want to go out to eat everyday or buy fancy gadgets, it’s none of my business. If they can’t pay rent, pay their credit card, and are constantly over-drafting their account, that’s not my problem.

Is there a point where it should be my business, where it should be my problem?

Have you ever engaged in financial evangelism? If so, what was the result?

(By the way, my parents read my blog and this post is pre-approved 🙂 Also, I was inspired by the idea of financial evangelism from a recent post by Anna at Are Ya Gonna Eat That?)

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12 responses to “Is Financial Evangelism Ever Ok?

  1. I’ve been in this situation with my parents before but instead of eating out it’s cigarettes and beer that they spend so much on. It’s a lifestyle choice and nothing I say will make them want to change unless they want to. People don’t like change unless they’re trying to on their own free will. Just let them know you’ll be there if they ever change their mind. 🙂

  2. I tried to have a similar talk with my mom (not about finance, but about her unhealthy lifestyle), and it fell on deaf ears as well. I think the best way to approach it with someone you CARE about, is to say (in my mom’s case), “I know you’re going to do whatever you like, but I want you to know how much I care about you and how much it hurts me to see that you continue to smoke and not exercise after you’ve had two heart attacks. I just want you to know that I love you and if you’re ever open to talking more about it with me I’m here.” That’s about all I can say. The rest is up to them. Now if it’s a friend who is just not making the “best” choices, but still has food, water, shelter…I leave it alone. It’s none of my business what their choices are. Anyway, that’s my approach. PS my mom still lives an unhealthy way of life. Some people simply do not change no matter what the cost. I think that has a great deal to do with self-esteem and self-worth.

    • This is such a great and insightful comment! I love your response to someone you care about. Sometimes I have to realize that we all have our vices and our personal choices and sometimes I just need to let go. I agree about your friend stance as well! Keep my mouth zipped! Some people don’t want to change, aren’t ready to change, don’t know how to start or aren’t equipped with the tools. A person has to be really ready to make those personal changes and choices, especially if it means divorcing themselves from everything they have felt/thought/learned/lived for their whole lives.

  3. I offer my advice suggestively (like, “Why don’t you do X in order to achieve Y?”), but only when people ask and I agree people won’t take it unless they’re ready for a change. I had a similar situation with my mom, but her default is that she’s set in her ways and likes certain things which is why her spending won’t change. At that point, I just stay silent and listen, because it feels that’s all she wants at that point.

    • Oops, thought I responded to this! In my head, I did! I agree, people have to be ready for change and I like your tactic of giving advice. People do get set in their ways and are so stubborn to change. That is actually one of my fears, is that I will be so stubborn and get set in a lifestyle and fear change as I get older. Luckily, my lifestyle now has been pretty humbling and I know I can make a lot of situations work. I am eager to continue growing, changing and getting out of my comfort zone. I think it’s the only way to live, but i have to respect people who don’t feel the same way.

  4. I think you made the mistake of imposing your priorities on your mother. As someone who dislikes traveling, I could claim that you are wasting your money traveling as much as your mother is by dining out.

    At the end of the day, it is important to remember the only one rule about money. It is a tool to be used to further your priorities. For you that priority is traveling. You are willing to forgo other things to fund that goal. For your mother it is dining out. For one blogger I know, it is cars. She lives a very frugal lifestyle so she can afford to buy expensive cars.

    • Thanks for your insight! The thing is, it is not a priority for her, but it is something she is interested in doing. And that’s the thing….doing things you love, even if it’s new things you haven’t done before, have to be made a priority to do them. I agree that traveling is my priority and dining out may be hers, but I do hope that we can travel together at some point as I know that is something she wants to do. I am not in a place where I can buy her ticket yet. It’s all about perspective. I can see why some people who dislike traveling thinks it might be a waste of money. At the end of the day, I have to accept that everyone has different priorities and that (you are right), money is used to further those priorities. A part of me is selfish, because I love traveling so much and I want her to experience how awesome it can be for herself.

  5. My dad has often been a financial, “hot mess”. He readily admits this and is OK with my saying so. He even commented on my recent post about him and how he’s shaped my financial decisions (I don’t want to follow in his footsteps). For the most part I keep my mouth shut unless directly asked for advice. If they aren’t ready to change trying to “convert” them isn’t going to be effective.

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