I often read about people who overindulge and get into debt but rarely see stories about individuals who struggle to buy things they need or want. For years I wrestled with an inability to part with money. No matter how much I earned, I never wanted to buy anything for myself.
It took me forever to decide on a purchase. I wasted hours comparing prices and searching for valid coupon codes. Then I’d walk away, deciding whatever I wanted cost too much.
If I did summon the courage to spend money on myself, I immediately felt bad about it. Sometimes I canceled the order. Other times I felt guilty and remorseful.
“Maybe it will be cheaper next week, I rationalized. “Maybe I don’t need this thing.”
Why Do I Feel Bad When I Spend Money on Myself?
While it’s important to be careful with money, I began to overthink every purchase. I was frustrated by my actions and behaviors but completely unable to change them.
One day, I added a set of colorful dishes to my shopping cart. I didn’t need them, but I liked the way they sparkled in the lights.
As I held them in my hands, I pictured the food I could serve: delicious desserts, salads, and appetizers, but my feet stuck to the floor. I hesitated, unable to walk towards the register.
“Would I regret this purchase?” I wondered. “Did they cost too much? Would they grow dusty and unused?”
I placed the dishes back on the shelf, walked through a couple of aisles, then returned and put them back in my cart again. I did this multiple times, weighing the decision and cost over and over again. Eventually, I walked out of the store empty-handed.
I wasn’t broke, but I couldn’t convince myself to spend.
How to Spend Money On Yourself
How do you spend money on yourself? It was a question that plagued me. Everyone else could spend their money so freely. They ordered expensive meals in restaurants and bought new clothes regularly.
They didn’t decide what to eat based on the price of a dish or wear the same shirts to work each day.
I wanted to go out to dinner without weighing the cost of every meal or buy a ticket to a museum on a whim. I dreamed of eating an ice cream cone as I walked along the harbor or taking a ride on a merry-go-round just because I wanted to spin.
Why couldn’t I? Why did I feel bad when I bought things for myself? I never struggled to purchase gifts for my husband or my children. Why did I hate spending money on myself?
If I wanted to spend money on myself, I needed to remove money blocks and construct a positive relationship with spending. The trouble is, I wasn’t sure how to change.
One day, after another empty-handed trip to the store, I decided it was time to break the spell my mind had over money.
If you’ve ever wondered how to spend money on yourself, I’m here to help. After years of refusing to buy things, I came up with a plan to spend without feeling bad or guilty about it. Here are the steps I tried:
Spend Money on Yourself by Making a Plan for Your Money
Begin by reviewing your finances regularly. Get a clear picture of how much you earn and spend on necessities each month. Without an idea of where your money goes, you can’t know how much extra you have to spend on things you desire.
I always felt bad for spending money on myself because I worried about neglecting other aspects of my finances. If I bought something, would we lack money when we needed it?
A budget can help you see where your money flows. With the numbers in hand, it’s easier to believe that a few purchases here and there won’t drastically alter your life plan.
If your budget feels tight, it may be time to cut unnecessary expenses. Grab a red marker and your most recent credit card bill. See how much money is silently draining from your pockets. What purchases bring you joy? Which leave you feeling blah or indifferent? Cut out the unnecessary stuff that doesn’t leave a long-lasting positive impression. Then use that money to buy something you love.
Make Yourself a Priority
Sometimes we prioritize ourselves below everything and everyone else. I would pay for household items, buy things for my husband, and ensure my kids had what they needed. Then let my desires drop to the bottom of the priority list.
A budget can help you allocate money to all of the above. You can simultaneously set aside a portion of your income for your kids, house, spouse, and yourself.
Once you pay for your obligations, you shouldn’t feel guilty spending money. A budget helps you visualize the truth. You aren’t taking away from anyone by fulfilling your needs too.
When you look over your income and expenses or review your budget, you’ll feel more confident in your decision to spend. When everything else is taken care of, it’s time to save some fun money and use it for enjoyment.
Spending Money on Yourself Is Not a Waste
After you review your budget, you might still be hesitant to spend. I knew how much money I could spend and still felt bad when buying something new.
Eventually, I figured out why. Many of my purchases were wasteful. That set of colorful dishes I wanted would’ve looked amazing on my dining room table, but we never hosted events or holidays.
We drive to my parents’ house for Christmas and my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving. Our get-togethers consist of backyard barbeques with paper plates and wheelbarrows full of beer and ice. We don’t host parties that require fancy dishes. Buying them would’ve been a complete waste of money.
If you want to spend money on yourself without feeling bad or guilty, think about purchases that you will use. If I wear sweats every day, I shouldn’t buy a closet full of work clothes. Similarly, if I hate exercising indoors, I shouldn’t sign up for a gym membership.
What to Spend Money On
Don’t spend money to achieve a buyer’s high. Try to purchase objects, experiences, and activities that will continue to be useful or provide long-lasting memories. A giant stack of unnecessary stuff adds clutter to your home. The goal is to spend in a way that betters your life.
Ask yourself if you need this item. What benefit it will provide to your life and whether it will be a good purchase over the long haul. If you don’t need it and it doesn’t provide value, then rethink your purchase. Eventually, you can spend without guilt, but in the beginning, it helps to focus on a goal of looking back and feeling pleased with your purchase.
Don’t be afraid to mess up a little bit as you figure out how to spend money on yourself. Maybe you buy something today that you don’t care about tomorrow. When that happens, reflect on the purchase. Keep a joy journal and revisit it to see if you still feel joy when thinking about the item or experience you purchased. Use that to guide future purchases.
Try to focus on the difference between spending money and wasting it. You are not wasting money when you spend it in a way that improves your life or brings you joy. Focus on making purchases that you will use. Ideally, search for new experiences, activities, and objects that will give your life a boost. How can you do that?
Spend Money to Feel Better About Yourself
Begin by considering every dollar an investment in yourself. I invest money in the stock market and pay contractors to improve my house. I invest in my children’s education and my friends’ businesses. If you can invest in other ways, why can’t you invest in yourself?
What can you buy that will help you improve, learn, and grow? Do you want to learn a new skill? Can you find classes, books, or online courses to discover new passions?
Before you buy something new, ask yourself how it can improve your health or happiness. Do you want to learn a new language, start a new hobby, or reduce your stress?
Does your life feel a little off balance? Do you feel like your life isn’t going as planned? Perhaps a life coach or therapist can guide you into a better direction or a positive state of mind.
What would make you feel better? For some of us, that might be meditation classes or yoga. For others, it’s exploring new locations or making new friends.
While making your list, don’t ignore the little things that can make your life better. What could you buy that would make your life more efficient? Would you like a remote starter for your car? An espresso machine so you can brew delicious coffee every morning?
Do you need containers to organize breakfast cereals or boxes to hold your kids’ socks and shoes? Would new plants bring a sense of peace to your space? Would a small waterfall create a sense of zen?
Do you want pretty flowers for your dining room table or an herb garden where you can pick basil before making pizza?
If you find it challenging to spend money on yourself, focus on ways to help you feel better about yourself or your surroundings.
Spend Money to Feel Proud
What is your greatest dream? If you could do anything to make your life better or more meaningful, what would it be? Before spending money, figure out what you want to accomplish.
If you’ve talked about writing a book, go out and buy special journals to write down the details of your life or take an online writing course. If you’ve always wanted to play the piano, buy a fancy keyboard.
What would make you feel proud? Would you feel good if you could keep up with your kids? Do you want to swim two laps without stopping or run a mile without getting out of breath?
Would it feel good to learn to prepare gourmet meals for your friends and family or learn to decorate cakes for your kids’ birthdays? What if you could learn to paint or crochet blankets for baby showers?
I had a friend who wanted to complete all of the crossword puzzles in the New York Times, so he bought subscriptions to newspapers and magazines along with an app to expand his vocabulary.
There is an endless list of possibilities.
Spend Money Where You Spend Your Time
To eliminate concerns about wasting money, think carefully about how you spend your time. What can you buy to improve your quality of life?
Where do you spend the most time each day? If you spend it exercising, consider buying a home gym or paying for a personal trainer. If you spend it cooking, buy yourself new cookware, cutlery, or cooking classes.
Learn to be true to yourself. Let go of the person you think you should be. If you don’t entertain, don’t buy fancy dishes and silverware. If you don’t enjoy cooking, don’t purchase cutlery and cookware you’ll never use.
Don’t think about what you “should be” doing with your time. Instead, look honestly at the minutes on the clock and discover what you enjoy. Then focus your purchases on those activities and experiences.
My ninety-four-year-old grandmother was an incredible human being, but she hated to spend money on herself. When she reached her nineties, she spent a lot of time watching television.
When I suggested buying a new TV, she balked at the idea, and when I recommended paying for high-definition programming to improve clarity and receive more channels, she resisted.
If you spend most of your time in front of a television, it’s time to upgrade your experience. Eventually, we purchased a new TV for her, but she refused to buy one for herself.
Spend Money to Gain Time
You can spend money where you spend time or spend money to free up your time. Not sure where to begin? Think about chores you don’t like or time-consuming tasks that aren’t enjoyable.
Can you pay someone to clean your house, build your website or mow your grass? Would you prefer to have someone shop for your groceries or cook dinner for you one night a week?
These may be big-ticket items, but there are smaller ways to save time too. Crockpots, robot vacuums, and pressure cookers can reduce the time it takes to cook and clean. In the grocery store, prepared foods can reduce preparation time too.
Financial freedom sounds glorious, but time freedom is the true goal. Find ways to limit the amount of time spent on one aspect of your life, and you can free up time for people and activities you genuinely enjoy.
Spend Money On Things That Make You Feel Good
What makes you feel good? Is it relaxing in a warm bath, running a mile, or reading a book you can’t put down?
If you want to spend money on yourself, search for purchases that make you feel vibrant, healthy, energized, and invigorated.
If you feel stuck in a negative headspace, search for therapy, meditation classes, or life coaches that can help you.
Do you want to feel better in your skin? Then spend money on a gym membership, if you’ll use it, or a new bike to ride around the block. You can never go wrong spending money to improve your health.
Don’t let others judge your purchases. A friend of mine hated her gray hair but didn’t want to spend the money to dye it. Every morning she looked in the mirror, feeling old and grumpy about it.
She felt vain about her desire until one year when her mom agreed to pay for an expensive cut and color. She walked out of that salon feeling like a whole different person and has colored her hair ever since.
Don’t discount your options because others might not appreciate them the same way that you do. I’ve embraced my gray hair, but that doesn’t mean you need to do the same.
Many of us feel good when we look good. Spending money on hair care and clothing can boost your confidence. The goal isn’t to cram your closet full of clothes. It’s to find quality pieces that help you feel good about yourself.
If you feel good when you look good, then spend money on clothes, a haircut, or a day at the salon.
Spend Money as a Reward
If you still struggle to spend money on yourself, create a series of rewards. Do you want to quit drinking soda, meditate every evening, or get more exercise each day? If so, set a goal and attach a financial incentive to it.
Let’s say you want to take a walk around the block every evening after dinner. If you meet that goal, give yourself a $20 spending allowance or put $15 towards a future purchase of your choice.
You can set goals for anything that makes you feel better about your body, house, job, or life. Maybe you set a goal to be more social. You decide to call your elderly uncle twice a month to check in and reach out to friends once a week to say hello.
Once you complete those tasks, you can throw $10 towards a future financial goal. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on yourself. Reward yourself with small treats after achieving other life goals.
Use the purchase as a reward for your hard work and an incentive to continue.
Remember, financial goals aren’t the only ones that matter. Focus on a wide variety of objectives, not just those that involve money.
Spend Money on Joy
I often worried that spending money now meant I wouldn’t have enough for later. What would your future self say about your inability to spend? The future version of yourself doesn’t want you to wait forever to enjoy your life. They want you to forge a better life plan today.
I spent so much time contemplating long-term plans that I continually pushed out present-day objectives. Will this purchase prevent me from retiring? Will it push our goal of living mortgage-free? I wanted to max out my emergency fund, retirement accounts, health savings accounts and ensure we had plenty of money.
Every time you hesitate, ask yourself, “Will you regret living stingy?”
Spend Money on Yourself by Asking Others to Help You
If you are still stuck, ask for help from loved ones. My husband knows I struggle to spend money, so he encourages me not to worry. He’ll tell me to put away the coupons and click buy.
If you’re feeling bad or guilty about spending money on yourself, talk to someone you trust. Discuss your desired purchase and ask for input. Sometimes it helps to have someone say, “you have no reason to feel bad.”
We use accountability partners to help us exercise or eat healthy. Similarly, you can ask a partner to help you spend money on yourself every once in a while.
If that feels strange, ask a friend to join you. Sign up for a writing course or a pickleball class together. Having fun with someone makes it easier to spend too.
Shared experiences help us forge new memories. When you hesitate to pay for an activity, think about death for a moment. Then flash ahead to the future. When you are ninety years old, what events would you like to think back on? Will you regret not taking a trip, turning down the chance to see your favorite band in concert, or enjoying time with friends?
Spend Money on Yourself to Be a Role Model to Your Children
If you have young children, remember that they watch how you interact with money. Explain the importance of setting aside fun money. Strive to become a role model for using your money in joyful ways.
Stay-at-home moms often struggle to spend money on themselves. Live frugally, but don’t become obsessed with denying your needs. Instead, let your children see that you value yourself and reward yourself from time to time. Don’t let them think you have to sacrifice everything for other people.
If you form a healthy relationship with money, your children will grow up with a healthy mindset. Demonstrate a well-balanced budgeting perspective. We earn money so we can spend it. If we spend within our budget, we can bring joy to our lives.
Create a Daily Mantra
If you’ve read through this post and you’re still struggling to spend money on yourself, I want you to try one last thing.
Create a mantra and repeat it daily. Say, “I am worthy of spending money on myself.” Look at yourself in the mirror when you say it and place sticky notes all over the house if necessary. Keep repeating this until you believe it.
If you feel bad about spending, stop, pause, and dig into the reason behind that emotion. If you are hiding money from your spouse, lying about purchases, or living well beyond your means, the feeling is justifiable, but otherwise, it’s not.
It’s a reaction to the money blocks and limiting beliefs we formulated in childhood. Did you grow up without money? Did someone shame you, or do you need money to quell your anxieties and fears? Find help to work through the issues from your past, then repeat your mantra and permit yourself to buy new things.
If all else fails, remember that a giant pot of money is not the ultimate goal. We experience a limited time on this earth. What matters is not the total amount of money you have but the relationships and experiences you share.
If your goal is only to save, then you’ve lost sight of all the other goals you once held in your life. Think about your childhood dreams, reflect on your biggest wishes, and remind yourself that death comes to all of us.
You don’t have to spend enormous amounts of money to experience the joy of spending, but don’t permit the accumulation of wealth to outweigh your other desires. Money is a tool meant to better our lives.
As I age, I spend a lot of time reflecting on the moments of my life. The experiences, events, and moments that string together. Most of those memories didn’t require tons of money to enjoy them.
It’s important to live with less and recognize that we can live our best lives without a lot of money. But it’s also essential to focus on the value that money can provide. Is that better health, more intellectual stimulation, strong friendships, or new experiences? You get to decide!