It’s okay to spend money. No, really, it’s okay.
In a world where you are taught to consume less, pinch your pennies, and budget carefully, I am here to tell you spending can be rewarding and freeing.
I’m not saying blindly spend on anything you want. That won’t lead to good results.
What I am saying is that it is best to figure out what brings you and those you care about joy, and spend money with passion. Don’t hold back.
I’ve previously written about spending lavishly, but given the fact that it feels the world is opening up, travel is more expensive, and prices are higher than normal, it’s worth exploring again why you should not feel guilty about spending. Of course, this assumes you already have your finances in order.
Let’s explore a few ideas about how you could spend.
Spend on Travel
You don’t have to spend on travel, but I’ve never met anybody who has regretted traveling. Not once have I heard someone say, “I hated that trip. It was a waste of money.”
In fact, it’s usually the opposite. I hear, “Oh, there were tough parts. The flight was delayed, and that wasn’t great, but when we arrived, we had such a great time.” I’ve also heard, “It wasn’t my favorite vacation, but it was still good to go away and be with my kids.”
If you are thinking about booking a trip and something is holding you back, what is it? Why have you not booked it?
I’ve been hesitant to book travel before. The flight is $200 more than I anticipated. The room I wanted is no longer available. The weather is not ideal this time of year. It’s a tough time of year to get away from work. Someone is sick in my family. I could spend it on something else.
Excuses. There will always be excuses.
And every time I travel, it’s worth it. It did not matter if it was a weekend camping with friends or a two week trip in Croatia – I enjoyed it.
I know it’s tough right now. Rental cars are going for $100+ a day in some places. Some people are renting U-Hauls to get around instead. Hotel prices are up. Flights are more expensive. If you don’t see the value in booking something right now, you don’t see the value. You can save it for another time, but also consider what you are giving up.
It’s one less vacation with family. It’s one less life experience. It’s a potentially missed opportunity to relax and unwind from an incredibly stressful year and a half. It’s hard to put a price on that.
If you do not want to fight supply and demand issues with rental cars and flights, consider a road trip. Yes, the national parks are extremely busy this time of year, but go a little off the beaten path. Go somewhere you normally wouldn’t go. Even if you hate it and have the worst time in the world, you’ll have a laughable memory and a great story to tell for the rest of your life.
Isn’t that part of the fun of traveling? Telling your stories – good and bad.
Buy Your Time Back
We all get 24 hours in a day. We all get 52 weeks in a year. Some of us get a few months of life while others get over 100 years. You are not promised the next week, let alone the next day. You get one life to live.
That’s why I love your life in weeks.
It’s a slap in the face to make you realize how little time you have on this earth.
I am surprised by how few people buy their time back. You do this by outsourcing tasks – often things you don’t enjoy doing.
Most of us do it occasionally with food. You can make every meal at home for the rest of your life if you want, but many go out to eat occasionally. That is potentially buying your time back. Although a good meal can be prepared in 30 minutes, a more elaborate meal with clean-up can take well over an hour.
Take-out food might take 15 minutes if it is close by. If that meal would have taken an hour to make, you now have 45 minutes back to do with as you please. That’s buying back your time.
You can buy back your time in many ways. Instead of cleaning, you can hire a house cleaner. Instead of gardening, you can hire a landscaper. Instead of responding to emails, you can hire a virtual assistant. Instead of writing a book, you can hire a ghostwriter. Instead of watching your child constantly, you can hire a nanny.
The possibilities are endless.
I am a huge fan of buying back your time if you have the resources. I absolutely hate deep cleaning. The first time I paid for someone to clean my house, I was hesitant. It felt like an expensive luxury (and yes, it’s a huge privilege), but it was well worth it. Afterward, I felt disappointed I had not started doing it sooner. It freed an incredible amount of time and energy for me.
After a year and a half of COVID restrictions, you may be ready to treat yourself. Don’t feel guilty about spending the money. Hire a house cleaner. Find something that has been on your to-do list, draining your mental energy, and pay someone to do it. It’s okay to buy back your time and enjoy an extra hour doing something you love.
Spend on Relaxation
How do you like to relax?
If you enjoy massages, get a massage. If you like live music, go to a performance. If you unwind from yoga, go to a yoga class.
The key is to spend money on experiences. Studies show it’s linked to greater happiness. It’s even better if you can enjoy it with someone.
When you pay for the experience in advance, not only do you get the satisfaction of anticipating the event, you get a shared experience you can enjoy while it is happening, but a memory you can reflect on in the future. It’s much better than buying a material possession.
Material purchases tend to provide a big hit of happiness at first, but quickly wane over time. The happiness created by experiential purchases will also decline over time, but it’s less of a drop than a material purchase.
Material purchases are like eating a really wonderful dessert. You get this huge sugar high where you feel good temporarily, but then it quickly crashes. Experiential purchases are like a good, well-balanced meal. You’ll feel good while eating and the pleasant feeling will fade over time, but it’s a more gradual decline.
Many of the ways people relax were less accessible during the pandemic. Now that businesses are opening up and it’s looking safer, don’t be afraid to spend extra on relaxation. If you are always running around and never taking a moment for yourself, you may become burned out.
If you need an economic reason to do it, rather than your emotional well being, spending a small amount of money on relaxation may be cheaper in the long run than the emotional drain of not relaxing. If you are emotionally drained, you may be less creative, find it harder to focus, and be less productive, which can lead to less income, less fulfilling relationships, and cause larger issues down the road. All of this impacts your finances.
Spend on Charity
Unfortunately, the pandemic widened the wealth gap. On the whole, people with resources and wealth before the pandemic have more than ever. People without resources and wealth before the pandemic are worse off.
For many, contributing to charity is an action they can take to give away some of what they have earned through the recession.
I’ve talked with many people who feel guilty they are unaffected financially by the pandemic. There are millions of tenants behind on rent payments. Many lost their jobs during the scariest moments of the pandemic. Charities have been hard at work throughout the pandemic helping combat food insecurity, housing issues, and the list goes on. They can almost always use additional funding to reach more people.
Research has shown giving, whether to others in the form of gifts or to organizations like nonprofits, increases happiness and well-being. It’s odd to say, but people like spending on others. People feel thankful for what they have given more than what they have.
What’s even better is that giving is contagious. Has someone ever bought your coffee while waiting in line? If so, you may have been tempted to pay it forward to the next person or done a kind act later.
For most people, it’s easier to give if you already know someone who gave. How many times has someone said, “I donated $10 to charity this morning”, and you think to yourself, ‘Hmmm, maybe I should make a donation, too.’ Whether it’s peer pressure or wanting to be part of a larger mission, people often give when their friends and support network give. It does not diminish the psychological benefits associated with giving.
If you are feeling blessed and charity is something you want to support, consider giving extra right now. Like spending on traveling, I’ve never met anybody who regretted giving money to charity.
Summary – Final Thoughts
I dislike that most of the internet has a prescriptive approach to spending. How many times have you read an article that tells you to cut coffee, never buy a boat, always buy used cars, refrain from buying drinks at dinner, make your meals at home, and a bunch of other tips on how to cut expenses?
I’ll tell you: too many times.
Each person is unique. You wouldn’t go to a doctor and have them make a general prescription if you were ill. They would take the time to determine what is wrong with you and prescribe the best course of action.
You should do the same for spending. You should figure out what works best for you given your resources. If a daily coffee brings you immense satisfaction and you are willing to spend less in other areas, go for it!
Don’t feel guilty about spending.
If you are looking for ways to increase your satisfaction with how you spend, consider a few categories most people never regret. As I’ve said, I’ve never met anybody who regretted spending money on travel. The anticipation prior to the trip is exciting. The actual trip is enjoyable, and even if it is not, the memory you create after usually finds and focuses on the good in the trip.
If travel is not your thing, try buying your time back. Buying your time back can come in many forms: restaurants, house cleaners, and handy people. There are very few things you can’t outsource nowadays.
Also, don’t forget to treat yourself. Find time to relax, unwind, and spend on experiences that support you.
Lastly, consider a one-time or recurring donation to charity. There are a variety of causes to support, and while it may feel selfless, don’t forget about the psychological benefits you’ll experience.
Although over spending is bad, prioritizing how you spend and doing it to live a richer life is not something that should cause guilt. Don’t feel guilty about spending. Enjoy life.