Are You Being Guilted Into Spending Money?

Are You Being Guilted Into Spending Money

There are many emotions that cause us to spend money.  We spend money when we’re happy.  We spend money when we’re sad.   We spend money out of fear.  We spend money without thinking at all.

But are you being guilted into spending money?

---------- Continues after advertisement ----------

The idea of being guilted into spending money entered my mind as my Facebook feed flooded with folks doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  For those of you who live under a rock and may not know about this, here’s the concept: People dump buckets of ice water on their heads on video, post the video to social media and nominate three other people to do the same, in an effort to raise awareness for ALS (the debilitating neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS charity or do both.

Now I know that ALS is an awful, horrible disease.  And it has been amazing to see this challenge raise tens of millions of dollars to support battling ALS.  But I can’t help but wonder how many folks felt pressured into donating.  How many donated because they were afraid if they didn’t their friends on social media would think less of them?  How many of them knew anything about ALS before they dumped a bucket of ice water on their heads?  How many felt bad if they didn’t have the money to donate?

There are other more innocent ways of guilting people into spending money. Case in point:  The 400+ folks who paid it forward at a Starbucks in Florida.  Each customer in the drive-thru paid for the coffee for the person behind them.  What started out as a random act of kindness, morphed into a crazy-long chain of somewhat coerced consumerism, until one man broke the chain and refused to pay.  It’s not a a random act of kindness if the barista is asking you to do it.  When you reach that stage, buying coffee for the person behind you in line is no longer being done out of kindness. It’s being done out of guilt.

School fundraisers are another guilt trip.  It’s hard to say “No” to a kid peddling overpriced wrapping paper and trinkets.  After all, who doesn’t care about education?  Well… if we spent half as much time pushing our elected officials to properly support education as we do making our kids sell all this junk we don’t need, then maybe we wouldn’t have to make our kids the peddlers of consumer guilt.

I won’t be doing the ice bucket challenge.  Or any other challenge like this on social media.  It’s not because I don’t care about a particular cause.  It’s not because I’m an insensitive jerk.  It’s because I just don’t have the funds to donate to every single cause.  I have a family to take care.  I have bills to pay.  And because of that, I have a budget for donating to causes and I carefully select what organizations to support based on that budget and what causes are most important to me.

I’m tired of the only way we can raise awareness for causes is by throwing vast amounts of money and drawing attention to ourselves with ridiculous gimmicks on social media.

How about we all start challenging each other to really learn about these causes?  How about we challenge each other to volunteer to help support these causes?  How about we use our time to lobby our communities to really make a difference?

It’s fine if you want to dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate to ALS.  It’s fine to support school fundraisers.  It’s fine to pay it forward in the Starbucks drive-thru if you’re so inclined.

But just make sure you are doing those things because you truly want to and can afford to, not because you would feel guilty if you didn’t.

About Christina Brown

Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.


  1. Lisa M says

    My standard answer is, “No thank you. We contribute through our church.” It helps to make that rule. That way, no guilt!

  2. says

    I’m so glad you posted this! If they nominate me to get ice bucketed, I will simply say no. I always refused to let my son participate in the school fundraisers. Instead, he did chores around the neighborhood and donated the money to his teacher for whatever was needed for HIS class. It’s a well known fact that the schools sometimes get less than 10% of the money from fundraisers, so I just said no to that foolishness. As for the Starbucks thing, after I found out that the barista was guilting people into paying it forward, I said BRAVO! to the man who said no.

  3. Kim says

    Loved your post. I also think the Ice Bucket Challenge has been so successful because people like the “selfie” aspect of it. We will be starting our “Giving Campaign” at work in September. A month-long begging session designed to guilt you into handing over your money to charitable organizations. What ever happened to quietly putting your donation in the collection plate or writing a check to whatever organization you want to support.

    We’ve literally dropped off several truckloads of goods at our local Goodwill this year and had the Salvation Army pick up appliances. When is Enough Enough?

    I dislike this about as much as those emails that say to forward to five people or something bad will happen to you. Yuck.

  4. says

    I think people are definitely succumbed into buying or donating money for people and or organizations. I saw the other day on the news that about 400 people did a good deed and paid for each others coffee and that one guy didn’t. A large amount of the news stations were talking about how one person in a white jeep decided not to pay it forward and were making him feel guilty. It’s such a shame that people have to feel guilt tripped into doing good deeds. The best kind of deeds are ones that aren’t acknowledged or bragged about.

  5. tanja says

    I dislike giving to the fundraisers that the schools have, after all, I have three girls that come around asking for money. If I decide that I would like to donate a few dollars, I just give a couple of dollars, instead of buying something for x-amount of dollars and then they only get a certain amount of dollars. I also dislike it, when elementary school age kids are in school sports and are being guilted into clothing that isn’t required for the sport, just so their team looks alike while they wait around the gym. Not some money I am willing to spend, even if some of the other parents frown upon me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *