Guestpost by Tawnya Redding
We all understand the concept of wants vs. needs and that we should prioritize our needs before spending money on the things we want.
We also know that most financial pundits will harp on the necessity of living within our means, even if it means sacrificing almost all of our wants.
While it is true that living within your means is a critical step on the road to financial independence and building wealth, it’s also true that everyone deserves a little enjoyment once in a while. No matter your money goals, it’s important to live your life and indulge in the things that make you happy.
After all, you only live once.
Whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to cover your expenses, or cutting all unnecessary expenses to reach your financial goals faster, it’s important to build a little guilt-free spending into your life.
The following paragraphs will discuss why you need that balance in your life, along with 5 tips for guilt-free spending on the things you want.
Have a Balance
Live your life or clamp down and reach your money goals as quickly as possible? While it’s easy to go all-in on one or the other, the most fulfilling option is to have a balance.
Yes, you want to make sure you have your money basics covered, but you also need to enjoy your life. Even if you have little disposable income, we all need those little moments of joy. Otherwise, what’s the point?
On the one hand, you want to be protected from financial hardship as much as possible. No matter how much you make, your health, or any number of other factors, unexpected hardships can befall all of us, and you want to try and buffer yourself as much as possible. This is the argument for prioritizing financial goals.
On the other hand, you must take care of yourself, both mentally and physically, so that you can enjoy your life. If you only focus on financials and neglect your health, you may not be in shape to enjoy your life once you reach your goals.
Plus, you just never know. As much as we hate to think about it, there are many things outside our control that could greatly impact you and prevent you from living your best life. For example, you could become ill, be involved in a life-changing accident, or need to care for a family member.
All of the above is to say, while we do encourage you to work toward financial goals, it’s also important to enjoy your life along the way. Therefore, you need to have a certain amount of guilt-free spending built into your life so that you enjoy the journey.
5 Tips for Guilt-Free Spending on the Things You Want
So, how do you actually let go and ensure some guilt-free spending in your life?
Here are 5 tips to help you earmark some of your hard-earned money for the things that matter to you so that you can enjoy them guilt-free.
- Evaluate What Matters to You
The first thing you need to do to ensure guilt-free spending on the things you want is to consider what really matters to you?
Too many times, we’ve had a tough day or are in a hurry, and we make emotional purchases based on convenience or impulse. While those purchases might give us a quick boost, if they aren’t things we really value, then we may find ourselves regretting the purchase later on.
One way to help combat that emotional spending is to really consider what kinds of things matter to you and increase your life satisfaction. Is it a coffee every couple of days, a meal out once a week, or something larger that you may need to save up for?
Ideally, you’d have a list of small things and larger things that really help boost your mood and overall satisfaction with life. Then, once you have that list, you can intentionally build some of those things into your week so that you already know what you’ll do to combat the days that get you down.
This way, instead of impulsively spending on those rough days, you’ll have a bank of intentional mood boosters at your disposal that you know will give you more than just a quick pick-me-up.
You’ll also find it easier to spend guilt-free when you know these things matter to you.
- Pay Yourself First
We all need to spend on things that improve our lives, but we also need to make sure we have the basics covered.
That’s why one of the best tips for guilt-free spending is to pay yourself first. No, this doesn’t mean splurging on wants but rather making sure you’ve prioritized your financial goals before anything else.
Paying yourself first refers to allocating money toward investments and savings BEFORE you pay your monthly bills or engage in any discretionary spending. This money is typically set up so that it is automatically transferred upon receiving your paycheck so that you don’t have a chance to spend it.
Automatically sending money to savings or investment goals each month ensures that you’re taking care of the basics before anything else. That way, any money left over after paying your bills is extra for you to do with what you will, including guilt-free spending.
[Jonathan: One of the best effortless ways to balance today’s guilty pleasures with my future self´s financial security]
- Build Yourself into Your Budget
Having a budget helps tell your money where to go instead of you wondering where it went.
Of course, you need to make sure all your necessities are covered every month but designating yourself as one of your budget categories is a great way to engage in guilt-free spending.
Once you’ve paid yourself and have taken care of bills and debts, make sure that you budget some fun money for yourself. You can break it down into various categories like entertainment or clothing or simply allocate a lump sum to “fun money” to spend on whatever you want.
However you choose to allocate your discretionary spending, building yourself into your budget will help ensure guilt-free spending because you’ll know that your needs are already taken care of and that this money is earmarked for fun.
- Separate Your Spending Money
Breaking your budget into categories helps you delineate where you want your money to go on paper, but some may need actual physical separation to feel guilt-free about their spending.
Thus, another tip to help facilitate guilt-free spending is to separate your spending money into another account.
Whether you utilize a savings account at your main bank, open up a separate account at another financial institution, use cash, or take advantage of the digital “buckets” offered by some institutions, it’s helpful to have a separate account just for fun spending.
Having that separate account gives you a definite amount that you have for fun spending, and you can then choose to use that money however you want without feeling guilty that you’re taking away from other money goals or needs.
Simply pay yourself first, your necessary bills, and then whatever is leftover can be transferred to your separate fun money account for guilt-free spending on whatever you want.
[Jonathan: This is actually how I do it, as I tell in this podcast episode 🙂]
- Save on Fun
All of the above tips help you set a system for guilt-free spending, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to save money wherever you can.
Once you’ve designated the things that matter most to you and that you’ll typically be spending your fun money on, you can begin to look for ways to save on those expenditures. Take advantage of coupons, loyalty programs, rewards credit cards, travel hacking, and any other way you can save money on the things that make you happy.
There are two benefits to saving on fun. First, the money you save can then be spent on even more fun activities, and second, you’ll feel even less guilty about enjoying yourself because you’re still practicing frugality wherever you can.
Especially for those super disciplined, financially independence-chasing, frugal people, saving money wherever you can on fun activities will help you reward yourself more often without feeling like you’re taking away from your ultimate financial goals.
Just because you’re pursuing money goals doesn’t mean you still can’t live your best life.
Everybody needs some fun in their life, but it can be hard to spend money without feeling guilty at times, especially if you’re in debt or trying to reach other goals as soon as possible.
While it may be tempting just to put your nose to the grind indefinitely, it’s important to balance out your hard work with some wants once in a while.
Guilt-free spending is possible, but it has to be intentional. Evaluate what matters to you, pay yourself first, build yourself into your budget, separate your spending money, and find savings on your fun wherever you can.
Use these tips for guilt-free spending to ensure some joy on your way to meeting your financial goals.
About the Author
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night. She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer. Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.
I would like to thank Tawnya once again for giving us her tips on guilt-free spending and particularly tip number 5: You can also save on fun and be frugal about it! This one is an excellent addition to the tips provided in our podcast episode on guilt-free spending!
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