You’re Not as Important as You Think and that’s Wonderful News for your Finances

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Recently I shared 7 lessons I learned from saving my first $50,000. Number 7 on the list was:

7lessonsLearned

I want to expand on this.

When I was in high school and my early years of college I thought that my peers were constantly analyzing what I was wearing, what I owned, and how I looked.

I avoided wearing the same pair of Nike’s two days in a row because I didn’t want my classmates thinking I only owned one pair. I stopped letting my mom cut my hair and started going to Sports Clips to get the perfect fade. I stopped shopping at the thrift store and started spending more time at the mall.

My ego was running rampant.

I was my own biggest fan of the Daily Zach Show. But I failed to realize I was the only fan. Nobody remotely cared about what I was wearing, how my hair looked, what backpack I owned, or how many pairs of Nike’s I kept in rotation each week. How do I know this? Because everyone was too busy focusing on their own daily show.

Nobody had the time or the energy to keep track of my life because they were too busy focusing on their own. Everyone was worried about their own clothing, hair, shoes and appearance. They were the stars of their own show and I was just some background character to all of them.

When I first had this realization I thought it was only applicable to college. Of course everyone from age 18-23 struggles with an inflated ego because we’re young and we think it’s all about us. But the more I have thought about it, the more I realize this behavior extends well into adulthood. 

Nice Truck Tires, John. I Didn’t Even Notice.

Many of the guys I work with talk about the trucks they own as if everyone around them is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about them. One guy I work with was recently telling me about the new tires he had put on his new 2018 I-Don’t-Want-to-Know-How-Much-It-Cost Truck as if I was a subscriber to John’s Lifestyle Magazine. Nice truck tires, John. But I wouldn’t have even noticed if you didn’t point them out.

Each time I log on Facebook I grimace when I see a new college graduate posting a picture of a new car they just bought “as a gift” to themselves for all their hard work. Not only did they just create plenty of more hard work for themselves to pay for that new car, but most of their friends and followers don’t care as much as they think. Everyone is too occupied thinking about their own new car they want to buy to stare at your car for more than seven seconds. 

I have the same reaction when I see someone I graduated with showing off their new engagement ring on Instagram. To them, posting a picture of their ring and receiving hundreds of likes is a great feeling…for about a day. Then the picture is lost in the sea of other Instagram photos and the spotlight is gone. The worst part is, most of the people who liked the photo only looked at it for about 12 seconds before scrolling on.

We’re Just Background Characters…but that’s Wonderful News

Most of us overestimate how important we are.

We’re the main character in our own lives but in every other person’s life we’re just a background character. We have an irrational belief that our house, our vehicles, our family, and our belongings are on constant display for the world. The truth is, nobody cares about the intricate details of our lives quite as much as we think. That might sound bleak but I think it’s a wonderful insight that has some amazing financial benefits

There is a tremendous sense of freedom that comes with the realization that most people are too busy with their own lives to care about ours. It means we have permission to only purchase stuff that adds value to our life and ignore how it appears from the outside looking in. It gives us permission to focus on what our life feels like and not what it looks like.

For me this personally means owning less stuff. It means owning way less clothing than I used to and reducing my shoe collection to four shoes instead of 20+. In fact, when my roommate and I moved into our apartment I was happy to take the smaller room (and pay less rent) because I didn’t need a walk-in closet for all of my shoes and clothing. I simply don’t need much stuff because I realize that there’s nobody to impress. Nobody has any idea how extensive my clothing or shoe collection is, nor do they care to know. I only buy things that add value to my life, which just happens to be very few things.

I drive a Honda Civic because it gets great gas mileage and is a fairly cheap car. I do have the money to go out and put a down-payment on a sports car, but I don’t have the urge to impress my coworkers or my social media following with my vehicle. Most of my coworkers and followers couldn’t care less about what car I drive, so I prefer to drive one that suits my needs. 

Saving Money is a Natural Side Effect

Recognizing that I’m not as important as I think means I can keep my ego at bay. It means I can save a ton of my income because I don’t feel the need to go out and buy new stuff to impress my peers. It means I focus on quality and usability when I spend money instead of appearance. I focus on things that make me feel great, whether or not they look great. This means a tiny wardrobe, a cheap car, nice headphones, a decent laptop, and a few shoes. I don’t need anything else. 

Once we realize we’re not so important, saving money is simply a side effect. There truly are only a few things each of us needs to live a high-quality life. Once we stop buying unnecessary stuff we don’t need just to impress others, we find that there’s plenty of money to be saved (and invested).

Recognize that you’re a background character. Eliminate your ego. Focus on feeling, not appearance. You’ll find that your bank account and your happiness will both swell.


My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out 🙂

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12 Replies to “You’re Not as Important as You Think and that’s Wonderful News for your Finances”

  1. This seems to align well with stealth wealth too! I always chuckle when I am working or blogging from a coffee shop and someone asks where I go to college… The jeans and t-shirt must throw them off! I’m actually a married working mom with a high salary, but I don’t look like it or dress it, I’m in the background and I love it! 🙂 This is another great way to look at stealth wealth and the millionaire next door concept.

    1. That’s hilarious that people think you’re in college, stealth wealth is seriously the best. It’s all about being humble – if you’re okay with not being flashy and trying to garner attention through buying stuff, saving money becomes incredibly easy and life in general becomes less stressful.

  2. This is one of the best posts and THE BEST lesson you have shared in my opinion Zach!!! Many others have stated to not keep up with the jones’s and to ignore what others think but, you have articled these concepts in a way that made everything finally click for me personally.

    Once again, thank you!

  3. Nobody really cares. And this is why we should care about ourselves and our future. I like the everyone is a background character concept. I’ve gotten rid of so many good conditioned clothes this year purely because I just don’t wear them and can get rid of equally the same amount again. But I want to save some for next year for another tax deduction too 🙂

  4. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at ignoring what other people think, and you are right, it does cost money. As much as I claim that the reason I like having nice things is personal, a lot of it does stem from societal pressure.
    This post was a good reminder that most people aren’t at all concerned about what you’re wearing, or driving, or eating…they’re wrapped up inside their own heads. Thanks for that 🙂

    1. It can be hard to truly know whether you’re buying something because it interests you or because you’re subtly trying to impress others until you sit down and think about your motives for buying. It’s nice to remember that most people don’t care about what you own as much as you think 🙂

  5. I travel all over the country. I must look poor because I have had 4 meals that someone else tried to pay for. I was standing in line to pay for some food at the grocery store and some tried to pay my bill. I thanked them but said I’ll be ok. I’m worth 3m but live on $50000 a year. I laugh inside. There are some grate people out there.

  6. Agree wholeheartedly. I’ll be posting shortly on why I think taking control of our finances is mostly about improving how we feel, though we tend to focus on the money angle not our emotions. Though I still need to remind myself to worry less about what other people think…Great post, thanks!

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