It’s a funny thing about money. Some of us have no problem spending every penny we earn, while others have strict rules about how they spend and save money.
In the world of personal finance, I’ve come across a lot of bloggers (and even more “commenters,” individuals without a website who comment on personal finance posts) who are amazing at saving money. They are great at budgeting, they keep track of every dollar, where it goes, how it’s invested. They build up huge emergency funds – which, by and large, they never have to use – and many of them contribute the maximum amounts to their tax-exempt retirement accounts. They pay down debt while refusing to take on new debt. In short, they lead exemplary lives from a financial point of view.
Except for one thing: they don’t know how to spend money.
And this is a problem.
This isn’t a problem unique to personal finance bloggers and those who read these sites. It’s a pretty universal problem, as illustrated by an old Fidelity commercial that shows a husband and wife following that ubiquitous green line as they learn how to spend money in their retirement years. We spend years learning how to save money, invest money, budget money – but, except for the spendthrifts among us – do we ever really get comfortable spending it?
I’ll admit, sometimes I have issues here too.
For example, my wife Lauren and I are finally taking our honeymoon this month. Back in September, when I asked you how much we should spend on this trip, we’d already started saving for it. In fact, by the time we arrive, we’ll already have enough money to pay for it in full. But, despite our solid budgeting, despite the fact that we’ve earmarked this money for this specific purpose from the very first penny, it’s still hard to actually hand over the cash – or check, or credit card, etc.
Here’s another example: a friend of mine has been saving up for a new car for literally years. Each month, he funnels a portion of his paycheck into his designated “new car” account. He’s almost reached his goal…and yet, now he’s starting to waffle. He’s making excuses (“I don’t really need a new car; my old clunker gets me where I need to go” – this is a fallacy, as his car has more starts and stops than Lindsay Lohan’s movie career), trying to come up with a reason – any reason – why maybe he shouldn’t spend the money on something he not only needs but wants. It’s not that he’s suddenly decided he doesn’t want that new car; rather, he’s getting gun shy about pulling the trigger on such a big purchase.
I can understand that; I can sympathize with that. I know that it can be almost painful to spend money, even if you’ve spent a lot of time budgeting to spend it for exactly that purpose.
But here’s the thing – if you’re going to make the effort to save all that money, shouldn’t you at least feel good about spending it? Shouldn’t you bask in that sense of accomplishment (“I saved for X, and I reached my goal!”) instead of feeling guilty as you make the big purchase?
Do you ever feel guilty making a purchase, even if you’ve budgeted to spend that money in a specific way?