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.