How I Learned to Appreciate Spending My Money
Written by Jakub Hrapko

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Spending money used to make me miserable, and I'm not talking about expenses like rent, gas, or groceries. It was the hard-earned money I was spending on things that (I thought) I wanted that was making me miserable.

I realized I had fallen into the same trap as many of my peers: I was buying things I didn't need, for pleasures that didn't last, to impress people who didn't care. Spending had become a source of guilt for me. The money I had worked so hard to earn was ultimately being wasted.

Money Itself Has a Clear, Fixed Value. The Things I Spent it On Did Not.

An item's value isn't just a matter of what the price tag says. By changing the way I looked at money – and the things it could afford me – I managed to get more value out of both. It starts and ends with the individual, so what works for me may not work for you. But here's how I managed to make spending (and in turn, saving) more satisfying.

A Shift in Perspective

Here are some of the ways I went about changing my attitude toward spending:

1. Treating Money as the Means Rather than the End. I'd become so focused on saving – or rather, not losing – money that it became the be-all-and-end-all for me. Saving money needs to be a priority, but I had reached a point where I was saving well enough to have spending money that I wouldn't let go of. Nowadays I make a point to remind myself that money is meant to be earned – but not necessarily kept indefinitely.

2. Wants and Needs Overlap. I was only allowing myself to spend money on things that I "couldn't do without", and I took this too far. Even when I bought a good book or a movie – things I genuinely love – I'd sit there not fully allowing myself to enjoy it because I felt I didn't "need" to. That money could've gone elsewhere. Well, life doesn't need to be purely about survival, right? I took a page out of my professors' books and turned to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which helped me identify some higher-level needs – such as hobbies and interests – that are required to truly be happy.

3. Staying Honest and True to Myself. Once I allowed myself "permission" to spend, I narrowed down what was worth it to me. I had to find what I truly found rewarding. I can be a pretty impulsive person, so what worked well for me was distinguishing between pleasure and satisfaction. Spending eighty dollars on some new books and a movie ticket felt like money well spent, because I got a lot out of those things, even long after the purchase date. But if I spent that on a video game instead – one that would just sit on my shelf after a week – I'd feel like the money was wasted.

4. Finding the Right Balance. With too much self-discipline, I ended up policing myself. But letting myself indulge freely would not have worked either. As with all things in life, it's about balance. Nowadays I keep myself in check by treating my spending as a reward for my hard work. 

In the end, the main lesson for me was that spending doesn't have to be negative. I also learned things are never as black and white as they may seem. Using isn't the same as losing, and treating yourself isn't the same as spoiling yourself. By finding a way to reconcile my spending habits with my savings ones, I found that both became much more gratifying.

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