How to Spend Money Without Feeling Guilty

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Okay, cause here it goes. My husband and I spend a ridiculous amount of money each month. I mean a r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s amount. And you know what? I spend that money without feeling guilty about it.

You want to know something else? I don’t use a calculator to determine my savings rate. In fact, I have NEVER calculated my savings rate. Not once. NEVER.

I know it’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t I want to know exactly how much I save each month? Well, quite honestly, I know I spend a lot and I don’t feel guilty about the choices I make.

This isn’t a matter of ignorance is bliss. This is a matter of options. I know where my money goes and quite frankly I am unwilling to change my ways.

Here are just a few ways my family and I spend an insane amount each month:

Location Related Expenses

My family and I live in a high cost area. I didn’t choose to live here, (my mom gave birth to me in this state), but for the time being I am choosing to stay. Why? My extended family lives here.

I know that I could move to a cheaper state and spend half as much money to live, but my husband and I are both super close to our families. Up until my mom got sick my children visited with each set of grandparents once a week. When my grandmother was alive she also visited weekly.

Because of this arrangement my children have an incredibly strong bond with all four of their grandparents and at one point their great-grandmother too. Our siblings also live in the same state and my children are close to them too.

When I read about geoarbitrage I think that sounds great. Move to a cheaper state or country and spend less to live. Most people would say, “yes sign me up!” But moving isn’t in the cards for us now.

In fact, as our parents age it seems less likely that we will move elsewhere. When my mom fell ill I was able to visit her six times a month, sometimes more. I know my in-person visits lifted her spirits in ways that Skype and FaceTime wouldn’t. For the time being I am willing to spend more to stay close to those we love.

Education Expenses

When we purchased our house in 2001 I gave absolutely no thought to the quality of the schools around us. For the record, I was twenty-two at the time. In fact, we didn’t have children until ten years after we moved in.

Unfortunately, we lack high quality schools in our area. The elementary school is a 5 out of 10. The middle school is a 4 and the high school a 3.

Despite the low rankings I kept an open mind about our local, public elementary school and visited multiple times before my first child was old enough for kindergarten. I attended yearly open houses and asked other parents in the area about their experiences there.

Over time I noticed a trend. The parents of girls said the school was “okay.” Not great, not awful, but manageable. The parents of boys told me horrible stories of children who didn’t want to go to school and came home crying almost daily.

Private School Expenses

After hearing similar stories from three completely unrelated families my husband and I found ourselves faced with a dilemma. Where should we send our children to school? We broke down our options as follows:

1) We could stay where we were, try the local school and hope for the best. 2) Stay in our house that is nearly paid off, but foot the bill for private school. 3) Move to a different county within the state with more expensive homes, but better schools.

Of course, schools weren’t the only consideration. The county we live in is closest to my husband’s work. Choosing a county further out in the state would double my husband’s commute time. Homes in better school districts closer to our current location cost $200,000+ more than our current home.

Ultimately, we decided to stay in our current house and pay for private school. The good news: we have roughly six months left on our mortgage. The bad news: we spend $20,000 per child per year for private school.

Medical Expenses

I’ve had my fair share of medical anomalies throughout my forty+ years on this Earth. As a result I visit a massage therapist weekly and happily pay her to ease my pain. The cost is roughly $400 per month.

In previous years I spent three times that amount for alternative therapies not covered by insurance. I also willingly paid for fertility treatments when the need arose.

Recently we also forked over a load of cash for Invisalign and for the start of my son’s ortho-work. Combined that totaled over $13,000 this year alone.

I throw my monthly gym membership into this medical category too. If I don’t workout I’m forced to live in pain. I could squeeze an elliptical machine and other equipment into my house, but I really don’t have the room for it now. Plus, I prefer to use the gym and I’m willing to spend more to go there.

Charitable Contributions & Alma Mater Expenses

My husband and I met in college and generously donate money back to our alma mater each year. Thanks to our contributions the university is now $130,000 richer than it was before we graduated.

We also buy season tickets to basketball and football games each year. It’s a tradition we started right after college and have continued ever since. We consider dropping this from our budget from time to time, but haven’t yet.

Our total is just over $4,000 per year, which equates to $1,000 per family member! I read J.D.’s recent post about giving up season tickets. I know mathematically it doesn’t make sense, but I’ll still buy them anyway. I do try to sell tickets to the games we don’t attend.

Second Home Expenses

Way back in 2005, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven, my husband and I purchased a second home. Owning a second home is ridiculously expensive. In addition to the mortgage, property taxes and utilities we always have a laundry list of upgrades and maintenance projects to complete.

If you thought owning one home was expensive imagine doubling your costs by purchasing a second one. We used to rent our house all summer, but now that our children are older we can’t pop down so easily during the school year.

So this summer we blocked out the entire month of August for ourselves. We work on projects and spend time with our kids in a place we love. That means we have an incredible time at the beach, but earn about half as much rent as we used to!

Spending Money Without Guilt

I don’t feel any guilt about the choices my family and I make. Our salaries have always covered our expenses and provided more than enough money to fully fund our retirement accounts and still save a bit extra.

Could we travel hack and visit other places for much less than owning a second home? Of course. Could we move and visit family less frequently? Without a shadow of a doubt. Could we contribute less to our alma mater? Yup!

But I wouldn’t change the way we do things. We have enough money to make these choices, so we do. Does this mean we have less in our bank accounts? You bet your bottom dollar it does, but guess what, I don’t care!

As shocking as it sounds my goal is not and has never been to live on as little money as possible. Our choices may be more expensive than those others make and that’s just fine with me.

My husband and I are incredibly fortunate to choose these options in life. If you can live on less I’m genuinely happy for you, but for now I am unwilling to cut these expenses out of my life.

If life is a contest to see who can can save the biggest proportion of their income my husband and I will most definitely lose. And guess what? I’m totally fine with that.

10 thoughts on “How to Spend Money Without Feeling Guilty”

  1. I think learning how to spend without guilt is so important. It’s actually proven harder for me that to stop spending frivolously. I definitely overcorrected. I think you can easily look at your spending and say it’s in line with your values. If you value it and you can afford it, no guilt needed, right?

    • I totally agree with that. When I was unaware of my spending patterns it was easy to buy what I wanted without any thought, but once I began to track and save it became much more difficult to consciously decide where and when to spend. Defining values isn’t always easy and I’ve found they can change dramatically over time. For example, in my youth I might have moved elsewhere. Now at 40 years old with 70+ year old parents my thinking has changed.

  2. Spending without guilt is actually a focus in our household right now. When I originally discovered the concept of financial independence, I went ALL IN. I am such a goal-oriented person that I very easily get caught up in my path towards achievement. This meant that initially I was so incredibly reluctant to spend money on anything, even a relatively cheap dinner out. When I did spend money, I felt overwhelmingly guilty. However, my fiance and I had a good long talk about this recently and we’re taking steps to let go of a lot of that guilt. We’re constantly checking in with each other about where our priorities lie, and what types of purchases will bring us true happiness. As long we we know a certain expense will undoubtedly contribute to our happiness, we’re not going to worry about the shame or guilt associated with buying it. It sounds like you and you family have figured out exactly what brings you the most happiness, and there should be no guilt in living a beautiful and happy life!

    • Oh my goodness the path to financial independence definitely comes littered with guilt! If you don’t believe me check out this prior post! Here is a post from 2013 where I am talking about the exact same expense, (paying for massages), and feeling the guilt: It’s great that you and your fiancé are getting on the same page about your purchases and priorities. Marriage makes financial goals a whole lot harder to achieve. If you were single you might buy something without a second thought. After you get married you might stop to think, hmmm how does this impact our finances as a couple? It gets much more tricky and I’m so happy that you are already discussing these topics together! It’s great to have money in the bank, but we must also find a beautiful, happy life along the way to FI! Thanks for the comment!

  3. All that makes sense for someone trapped in a terribly expensive place. Except for a second house in your 2o’s. That makes no sense to me, you didn’t explain that one very much. How does that make sense for one month in the summer vs.renting a cabin?

    • Oh Steve you ask a very good question. How did we come to own a second home in our 20s? I actually searched my blog for answers to that question, but it seems I’ve never written about it before. At least I couldn’t find the blog post if I have. In 2005 a series of medical blunders landed me in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism. ( At the time the doctors had absolutely no idea why I had gotten a clot in my lungs and what that meant for the rest of my life. My husband and I always wanted to buy a beach house. We had no idea if I would live or die, so we decided to buy a second home while I was still well enough to enjoy it. Our initial plan was actually to quit our jobs and stay there for a year on the salary we saved. In our 20 year old wisdom we decided my husband could sell the house if I died. Thankfully I didn’t and we still own it fourteen years later! Had I not gotten sick we never would have purchased it or at least we would have purchased it many years later!

  4. I’ve been thinking about something similar recently. Our expenses have gone up significantly since buying a house and having kids. Probably 3x as much as we spent in our renting/pre-kid days! But we also have been saving since then and make good incomes now. So we don’t really think much about our spending. There are the big monthly expenses that don’t really change, and then we just kind of assume it will all work out. We’re not saving as aggressively as we were back in the day, but we’ve hit a good rhythm of what is “normal” for us.

    • Kids threw everything out of whack for us. As a 20 year old with out children I definitely thought “I could live off of nothing.” As a 40 year old with kids I’m like holy crap how much have we spent on kids stuff 😉 I’m all for aggressive spending when the time of life is right or necessary, but for right now I don’t have the urgency or pressure to watch every dollar and I want my values to align with my spending. As long as that happens I feel like it will primarily work out. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I haven’t yet achieved the ability to spend without guilt, though I don’t name my feelings about it “guilt” exactly. I’ll call it that for simplicity’s sake. It might come easier if a few things were different, but I do know we are spending with purpose and that’s a start!

    Not that I didn’t spend with purpose before but I used to seriously doubt that any of my spending was “justified”, no matter how critical or basic the item. I mean, I used to eat one meal a day because money was so tight. Stepping away from that mentality took time and I imagine that “without guilt/negative feelings about it” will come with time and growth as well.

    • My financial situation was never as dire as yours has been and I can only imagine the complex emotions you’ve felt throughout your financial journey. After writing this post I went back through my archives and searched for other posts about guilt. It’s funny, because I wrote one about spending on massages just a few years ago and how bad I felt about it. It’s amazing how far I’ve come and how much my thoughts have changed over time. I am so grateful that I began this blog so long ago so I can look back through my story and I am ever so thankful that you convinced me to start writing so I can continue into the next chapter!


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