When it comes to spending money, there are some things most of us never question: groceries, rent, transportation. The things that are essential to our everyday lives and functionality are a given. But when it comes to spending money on ourselves, guilt kicks in.
In my own experience, spending money on things that are non-essential is much more difficult than anything else. I've had times where even buying a take-out coffee will send me into a guilt spiral.
But it's important to spend money on yourself to reward ourselves and to feel good. And it is important to challenge the guilt associated with spending money on yourself.
Below we discuss how to spend money on yourself without guilt. But before we dive into our key tips, let's talk about "why" you feel guilty when you spend money!
Reasons why you feel guilty when you spend money on yourself
The first step in knowing how to spend money on yourself without the guilt is knowing why you feel so hesitant to do so in the first place. Scott Rick, an associate professor at the Michigan Ross School of Business, researches spenders and savers.
He considers their inclination toward either habit based on emotional causes. His research shows that due to the stress of being overly concerned with spending money on yourself, people who compulsively save are often less happy.
There are a plethora of reasons why spending money on yourself might be difficult. But the following are just some worth considering:
A scarcity mindset is when you are so focused on what you don’t have that you’re unable to think about what you do have. You feel like you never have enough or that there is simply not enough to go around.
A scarcity mindset does have its benefits at times. For example, it may help you feel more determined to achieve specific financial goals. But it also creates a sort of financial tunnel vision.
So it's important to shift to having an abundance mindset to help counteract this type of thinking!
If you have traumatic experiences related to financial struggles this may prevent you from feeling safe or comfortable spending money. Financial trauma expert Galan Buckwalter says financial trauma is characterized as a dysfunctional reaction to chronic financial stress.
Examples of financial trauma include losing your job, growing up poor, or any experience where your expenses are more than your income for a period of time.
Acknowledging your trauma and speaking your truth is a great first step in overcoming this debilitating feeling.
Lack of confidence in yourself
If you lack confidence and trust in yourself (and your financial management skills) you may not be able to dive into doing things for yourself.
When you don't believe that YOU are an essential worth spending money on, or are constantly battling with yourself about the right ways to manage money, spending guilt is bound to build up.
When I'm feeling unconfident, I find self-reflection through journaling helps me center myself and prioritize my own wellness. In turn, this has helped me come to terms with times when spending money on myself is the right choice.
Along with journaling, increasing engagement in financial literacy to better understand the ins and outs of navigating your finances can help reduce spending guilt. Your financial knowledge is power.
With that being said, let's dive into how to spend money on yourself without the guilt!
How to spend money on yourself without the guilt: 7 Key tips
The following are just some of the ways that make spending money on yourself a little bit easier!
1. Prioritize yourself by adding self-care spending into your budget
Try to remember that self-care is essential! Your financial wellness is dependent on your personal wellness (as well as intertwined with it). In fact, a recent study showed that financial stress is the number one stressor in the U.S.
Not to mention pre-existing struggles with mental health can have an impact on your ability to manage money. This is all the more reason to factor self-care into your budget.
Factoring spending on self-care into your budget — whether it be a post-work pick-me-up snack or an extra deposit into your emergency fund — can help ease the anxiety of spending on things that may seem frivolous at the moment but actually support your wellbeing.
Plus, self-care is not all about food and shelter. Allocating some of your budget to fun spending is important too and can have a positive impact on your mental health.
2. Spend with intention
Spending money on yourself with intent means avoiding frivolity and prioritizing wants and needs. This can make those guilty feelings a lot less prominent.
Neglecting the urge to spend on impulse has been a positive experience for me when it comes to reducing spending guilt.
And of course, needs are one thing, but wants can be harder to justify. If you’re purchasing a “want” ask yourself a couple of questions like “How long will this purchase serve me?” and “What can this purchase do for me right now?”
If the pros are abundant and cons are lacking, go for it!
3. Invest in your future self
In my opinion, the ultimate form of caring for yourself is looking out for your future. You could register for school/courses, start contributing to a savings account, or sign up for therapy or counseling. There are many ways to spend money on yourself that set you up for future success.
The great thing about investing in your future self is that you won't regret it. Better yet, your future self will thank you!
4. Donate to a cause you care about
While this may not be a direct form of spending on yourself, it’s a way to be intentional with your money. Making a conscious effort to support causes you care about ultimately adds up to living the life you want to live.
And frankly, it's good practice for learning how to spend money on yourself without technically spending money on yourself.
When I factored in a portion of my budget to cover making donations to causes I care about, I found I was able to feel less guilty spending on other things. Knowing I was also contributing to things that matter to me really helped.
5. Spend money on experiences
Spending money on experiences can be very fulfilling. Consider spending money on trips, concerts, or days out with loved ones.
Almost every single one of my most precious memories is tied to experiences either on my own or with loved ones.
The intangible nature of experiences holds a lot of value and can be a great motivator to spend some money on yourself!
6. Buy things that make you feel good
It's as simple as that: buy things that make you feel good because they make you feel good. Spending money on yourself is more than okay. As long as you don’t overspend, you SHOULD spend money on yourself!
Life can be such a whirlwind and treating yourself is something worth doing amidst it all. Whether it be a new book, a face mask, or a massage, if it makes you feel good it's already proving its worth.
7. Shift your mindset
Remember a scarcity mindset can make you feel guilty when you spend money. So, learning how to shift your mindset is the key to spending without the guilt. The easiest way to work on your mindset is with positive affirmations.
For instance, instead of saying "I don't have enough money" say "I have more than enough money for all of my needs AND wants!"
Using positive financial affirmations can help you go from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset!
You can spend money on yourself without feeling guilty!
So, yes, you can spend money on yourself without feeling guilty. It's certainly not a one-step process. Especially when there are financial thought patterns and expectations deemed "good" already engrained in our society.
But you can challenge the guilt surrounding buying yourself a $7 coffee now and then. You can see how it feels for you, and chances are it won't break the bank. But you will get a chance to treat yourself and feel good.