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‘Stop Buying Avocado Toast’ and 3 Other Pieces of Toxic Financial Advice

A tired man rubbing his eyes and sitting at his desk at work.

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It’s time to kick these financial guilt trips to the curb.

Key points

  • Toxic financial advice shames the listener instead of helping them.
  • Other examples include buying a home instead of continuing to rent and sacrificing hobbies so you can work more.
  • It’s better to ignore these so-called tips and find healthier ways to improve your finances.

In 2017, Australian multimillionaire Tim Gurner blessed the internet with advice that quickly went viral. He explained that when starting as a real estate investor, he wasn’t “buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each.”

It was your typical out-of-touch financial “advice” from someone born on third base who thought they’d hit a home run. Gurner spoke about how he worked around the clock and saved every penny. That was apparently the key to his success, not the $34,000 his grandfather gave him to buy a property when he was 19.

This kind of financial shaming disguised as advice is sadly all too common. It’s more about making people feel guilty than actually helping them. If you’ve run into any of the following toxic ideas about money, the best thing you can do is ignore them.

1. Don’t buy lattes — or anything else that brings the slightest bit of joy

Before avocado toast, the stereotypical example of excessive spending was the latte. We’ve probably all heard about how much money we could save if we made our coffees and lattes at home. But really, this tip has been repeated ad nauseum with many examples of what you shouldn’t buy. Lattes, iPhones, and designer clothes get mentioned often, and the list goes on.

The annoying thing about this advice is how it implies that spending money on yourself is wrong. That couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the whole points of earning money is to have a good quality of life. The key is spending what you can afford.

It’s true you don’t want to overspend, but the solution isn’t depriving yourself of everything. Instead, set aside a certain amount of disposable income every month to use as fun money and spend on whatever you want. And if you want to buy something big, like a new phone or a vacation, save up over time so you don’t need to go into debt for it.

2. Get rid of fun habits so you can be a productivity machine

This one is a favorite in the hustle bro culture, where every moment must be devoted to maximizing your productivity. Supposed success gurus will explain how those two hours you spent watching Netflix is time you could’ve used for learning a new skill or working on a business.

Just like there shouldn’t be any shame in how you spend your money, there also shouldn’t be any shame in how you spend your free time. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy work-life balance.

Working all the time isn’t the only way to get ahead. You can still be successful while having hobbies and other things that bring you happiness. In fact, you’re less likely to burn out when you maintain interests outside of your work.

3. Stop throwing money away on rent and buy a home ASAP

Even though this is the most Boomer advice ever, I’ve heard it from people of all ages. They explain how you’re paying your landlord’s mortgage and throwing away money by renting. You could use that same rent money to pay a mortgage, and then you’re building home equity. Simple, right?

Definitely not. This advice glosses over the challenges of owning a home, like all the extra home ownership expenses. You’re not simply swapping out rent for a mortgage. You’re paying property taxes and maintenance, and you’re responsible for scheduling repairs anytime something breaks. It’s a huge commitment, and there are plenty of horror stories about regretting a first house purchase.

That’s not to say buying a home is a bad idea. Homeownership and renting both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s all about finding the option that best fits you and your current lifestyle.

Personal finance isn’t something that should make you feel guilty or embarrassed. All that’s really important is that you’re saving and investing regularly to build financial security. Everything else, from how you use your money to what you do in your free time, is up to you.

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