125. Too Expensive?

125. Too Expensive?

We make a lot of judgments but many people are not aware that they are doing it. One of the areas that we can easily judge prematurely is the area of “spending”.

We are pretty generous to ourselves. It is because we know “why” we buy certain things (whether that “why” is valid or not) and that “why” serves as a standard by which we judge the appropriateness of our purchase. So when we buy something that is considered pricey, we often call it an “investment”. But when someone else buys something they consider pricey, we say “too expensive!” without knowing “why” that person did it. In other words, we might be making a false moral judgment based on our limited perspective and unagreed standard.

“Expensive” simply means costing “a lot of money”. But what is considered a lot of money for one can be a fraction of cost for someone else. For example, Ferrari can be expensive for most of the people but not for millionaires. It is based on the “ratio” of spending and income. How do we know a car purchase is expensive or not? Are all luxurious cars too expensive? A good rule of thumb is, if the value of the car is more than half of one year salary of the purchaser, it is considered “too expensive”. How about a house? Generally, if the mortgage borrowed to buy the house is more than two years salary (some say three) of the purchaser, that is considered “too expensive”. The point is, “too expensive” is not an absolute judgment we can make without knowing someone’s income, which we hardly know of.

Another information we often don’t have is how much that person gives. A person might spend a lot for himself but he might also give a lot in donations.

I’m not suggesting that we should use money recklessly if we earn a lot of money. In fact, Christians are to be faithful managers of God’s resources, primarily money. But when we are making comments about how “expensive” others’ purchase is, we need to be aware of our own assumption that might be flawed and uninformed.

That is why the best person to judge whether a certain purchase is expensive or not is the purchaser himself/herself. That is why making comments about others purchase when we don’t know enough about that person’s income and giving history is not only premature but can be hypocritical. Because criticizing others’ spending can make you look more frugal and modest than you actually are. So before you call something “too expensive”, ask if that might be true for the other person. If not, it might be better to not say anything at all.