4 Things I Do to Feel Less Guilty About Spending Money

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 13, 2021

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Spending money on ourselves isn't always easy. Here's what I do to avoid feeling bad about it.

Key points

  • Some people have a difficult time spending money on themselves.
  • I take a number of key steps to spend on myself without guilt or regret.

Some people have no problem spending money on themselves, whether it's to buy clothing, order takeout, or indulge a specific hobby. I'm not one of those people.

For some reason, I tend to feel ridiculously guilty about spending money on things I want but don't need. To be clear, I don't feel bad spending on things that benefit my family as a whole, like a better TV or a vacation we enjoy together. Rather, it's purchases that are specific to me that don't always sit right. There's often a part of me that wonders "What could this money be doing for my kids or family instead?"

Through the years, though, I've come up with ways to be able to enjoy my earnings without intense feelings of guilt. Here are a few tactics that work for me.

1. Giving myself a monthly allowance

There's money allocated in my household budget that serves as a monthly allowance for both me and my husband. That way, we can each buy the things we want without having to consult the other or worry about upsetting the other.

Sticking to that allowance helps me spend more easily because I know that threshold is a number my spouse and I settled on together. Plus, I know that it's a modest amount given our total income and expenses.

2. Boosting my earnings whenever opportunities arise

As a freelance writer, I can often pick up extra work and boost my earnings in the process. And while that does require sacrifice, like having to work late at night or on weekends when I'd rather be relaxing, the fact that I jump at that option often makes it easier for me to spend. The way I see it, that way, I'm really only spending my extra income, which wouldn't be there in the first place had I not pushed myself to do more.

3. Maintaining a healthy emergency fund

Part of the reason I feel bad about spending on myself is that I'm often worried about financial emergencies. And my logic is that every dollar I spend on something I can enjoy is money we won't have if our car breaks down, our heating system goes kaput, or another large expense pops up.

Thankfully, though, my family has a robust emergency fund, and having those cash reserves makes it easier to spend money on occasion. While most people are advised to keep three to six months' worth of essential bills in savings, I actually have closer to a year's worth, which helps me spend more freely and gives me peace of mind.

4. Automating my retirement savings

Before I spend any money, a portion of my earnings is sent automatically into my retirement plan. That enables me to stay on track with my long-term savings goals. And because I know those are being met, it's easier for me to indulge from time to time.

Each year, retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s come with a maximum allowable contribution. I've been hitting that max for years, which helps me feel better about spending on myself.

There are times when I think it's silly that I feel guilty about spending money when I've worked hard to earn it. Maybe it's a parent thing -- I didn't always feel this way, but my views changed once I had children. Either way, I do recognize that spending some amount of money on yourself is healthy and normal -- even if it leads to underlying feelings of guilt to deal with.

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