After working several hours a day, the last thing we should feel is guilt when we spend our hard-earned money. Check out these 5 steps you can take to practice guilt-free spending, without hurting your wallet.
We’ve all been there. Feeling guilt each time we swipe another card at a store. Being hit with a wave of simultaneous excitement and guilt after putting a last minute, discounted flight ticket on your credit card. This is guilt-filled spending.
Let’s be clear: feeling some guilt after spending isn’t always a bad thing. Perhaps it’s because we know we might be sacrificing our goals, are spending outside of our budget, or are simply spending money we don’t have. Regardless, managing our guilt when it comes to spending and money is important to healing our relationship with money. Money should not be something we avoid.
Whether you’ve instantly regretted your purchase, or have loved your purchase but feel guilty over the impact it had on your wallet, you should not feel guilty when you spend your money. This is money that has been hard-earned. Read on for our five tips to start your journey towards guilt-free spending, without sacrificing your financial goals.
1. Find A Budget That Works For You
First on our list is one of the foundations to your financial planning: budgeting. Budgets are not designed to restrict. Rather, they are designed to help you understand and evaluate your relationship with money. They should help you reach your goals, not make you feel like you are overly restricted.
The mainstream understanding of a budget is similar to the zero-based budget, which assigns each dollar a “job.” If that feels too overwhelming, you have other budgeting options, such as the 50/30/20 budget, the envelope system, or a “pay yourself first” budget.
A budget is flexible. The budget that worked for you last year might not work for you next year. Maybe one month your categories looked one way, but your immediate priorities have shifted. Maybe last year you had more time to dedicate to budgeting, but this year you want something more automatic (think: apps like Cleo).
For a budget to work for you, it has to be trial and error. Once you have identified a budget that works for you, you need to trust that you have created your budget to meet all your needs, desires, and goals.
2. Put Your Values First
Putting your values first will help your budget feel less restrictive and more aligned with your goals and lifestyle. It can also help ensure you practice guilt-free spending.
Value-based spending is when you spend according to what fuels you. Questions to help you identify your values for this sort of planning include:
- What makes you happy?
- What do you want to experience more of?
- When do you feel most excited?
- What sort of change do you want to help create?
- What drains you of energy and/or joy?
You’ll notice that the key is to identify what sorts of experiences—or possible expenses— bring more happiness into your life. This is different than impulse spending, which feels good in the moment but lacks the planning and reflection we are prompting you to go through with value-based spending.
3. Create Sinking Funds
A practical way of implementing value-based spending practices is through creating sinking funds. Sinking funds are savings buckets that you create based on goals or priorities you have. What sets them apart from traditional savings goals are that you contribute a certain amount at a fixed schedule, based on how long you have to reach your goal. Some of the sinking funds our team members have include: personal getaways, post-Corona pendejadas, fine dining, and Christmas.
Your sinking funds can be for specific purposes, like a Christmas sinking fund. Or they can be for expenses that come up periodically, like personal getaways. Your sinking funds should reflect your values and shorter-term goals.
Say you love traveling, and are tired of feeling guilty every time you impulsively buy a flight ticket you can’t really afford. By implementing some value-based practices into your money, you can prioritize traveling. The next time you see an affordable ticket or hotel listing, you can purchase guilt-free because you will have been saving periodically for this exact moment.
4. Budget “Fun Money”
Our first three tips require some reflection and planning. In reality, we know we cannot always predict our spending patterns, cravings, desires. But even for this, there are steps we can take to make sure this “uncontrolled” spending doesn’t break our wallets.
“Fun money” is an amount of money for very flexible spending—you’ll know how much this is after you’ve covered your necessary expenses and all of your savings goals. Fun money is still planned, but under the assumption that you know you cannot plan for everything.
The next time you’re feeling exhausted after an annoying day at work, you won’t feel guilty for spending money on ordering from your favorite restaurant—you can use some of your “fun money.”
5. Pause More
One of our favorite financial independence content creators, Conpoint, is big on pausing in between purchases. On her Instagram stories, you can routinely find what she’s been eyeing or what trend has been nagging at her attention. She writes all of these items down in a list. Some might be bigger purchases, like a designer bag, while some might be small, like a specific top. As this list grows, Connie goes through the items she’s listed, crossing off items that she no longer wants and reflecting on her reasons for putting others on the list initially. Not only does this help with the immediate need to pause, but, over time, it can also bring greater awareness to which of your desires are strongest and routinely show up (which might inspire a sinking fund!)
While building a list is one way to exercise more pausing and reflection in your spending, it is only one way. Other examples could be taking a lap around the store, carrying the item with you until you’re ready to line up, implementing a 24 hour rule for purchases above a certain amount. Your options are endless. Through this practice, you minimize the immediate guilt that might follow a big-ticket, “YOLO” purchase and practice more guilt-free spending.
What about sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday? By planning your holiday shopping ahead of time, you can build yourself the space to participate on the sales without experiencing buyer’s remorse (or credit card debt!) after your shopping.
The Bottom Line
YOLO spending, while it can feel good in the moment, is not sustainable and can continue the vicious cycle of guilt-filled spending.
You have earned your money. You should feel entitled to spend it on things that make you happy, without sacrificing your financial needs and goals.
Our Favorite Money-Saving Resources:
Ibotta – get paid real money on your everyday purchases. Download the free app to receive offers and earn real cash back in stores and online.
Cleo – a free budgeting app that serves as a sassy Siri for your finances.