How to Avoid Guilt for Spending Money, Even When You're Saving

Justin Bananagus
by Justin Bananagus

We all feel guilt for spending money when trying to save and reach our financial goals, whether financial independence or retiring early.

When trying so hard to save money, you can feel guilty just by spending a little bit here and there on everyday pleasures - fun money. I'm especially bad about this because even with something as small as buying a treat on the weekend, I feel guilty about it.

Tracking spending

I have a yearly personal budget to stay on track with my goals and not feel so guilty about spending money here and there.

Last year we kept a spreadsheet to track every single personal expense that we made so that every month we could see exactly what we spent and how much we spent on those things.

That way, we could build an understanding of our habits and our interests and what our spending patterns were over time. I've got a spreadsheet for both of us.

Before I show you the spreadsheets from last year to give you an idea of how we spent all of our money, I have two piles of things that are characteristic of us as spenders and our personalities.

My fun purchases

First, I'll go over my pile. This year I bought a pencil case because I had planned to build a whole bag of stuff I would take to work and do during lunchtime.

Similarly, I bought a grip for my iPad pencil. Super expensive and useless little grip, but I wanted it, and it's part of my personal budget.

So far, my significant expense this year is little ear pods and a little case for them. I tend to buy tech stuff with my fun money.

Do you feel guilty for spending money?

This is kind of embarrassing because I haven't even opened these. The other thing I spend my money on is video games, both new and thrifted. We've been getting back into book reading in the last couple of years, and that's a big chunk of how we spend our time.

So this year, I bought three through six of the Dune books and a Twilight book that I thrifted last year for like $2. I also have a Japanese workbook that I bought this year. So that's the stuff that I bought with fun money.

My wife's fun money purchases

Now for my wife's pile so you can get an idea of the things she spends her money on.

We've got some yarn here because she likes doing crafty stuff. She likes themed shirts. She also has a skirt or a dress and some makeup. She bought things from Etsy, like a little frog creature and a tiny snail from Etsy. There are also earrings and a pin.

We spend a good amount of money on books. She bought many books digitally because she reads books on Kindle. Also in her pile is a premium plush, a pink dragon from a company called Jellycat.

Surely stuff like this couldn't encompass a full $1,200 each last year and this year $800.So where's the rest of the money going?

Reviewing my spreadsheet

Now we're going to look at the spreadsheet. Okay, so we'll do mine first. I was pretty good. I had $56 left over last year of my $1,200.

How we spend "fun" money

Going down the list, I see the following things I bought with my fun money: card sleeves, playing cards, flowers, video games, beer, snacks, travel, food, treats at work, snacks at work, depression treats, drink treats, Dairy Queen treats, pizza, a video game, and fast food. That was my whole year of fun spending money.

I spent a ton of money on food, treats, and snacks, especially at work. I'll probably spend a lot less this year because work is now at home. I spent most of my money on big purchases, like video games or electronics. Outside of that, it was overwhelmingly food.

Reviewing my wife's spreadsheet

She's got clothes, items from Hobby Lobby, ice cream, makeup, clothes, pizza, shakes, plush toys, and Dairy Queen treats - it just repeats.

At the end of last year, we looked at the data, but we didn't go back and say how much we spent on food out of our $1,200. This is not grocery money. It's eating out and buying snacks here and there or a drink or a novelty here and there.

So you can see we spent a ton of our money on it because food is such an important part of our lives. Outside of that, occasionally, we need to acquire possessions.

The reason for personal budgets

The point is that personal budgets allow us to have some money, so we don't feel completely restricted. I think there's a human need to have experiences; whether getting a treat or driving to a different locale to have a mini vacation, it will always cost you something.

How to avoid guilt for spending money

The personal budgets allow us to have those experiences and still feel like we're living during this time of trying to save heavily. When you're trying to save between 60% and 70% of your take-home income after taxes, usually, there's very little left.

Setting aside money to have experiences or buy treats allows you to feel like you're not deprived during this time. That helps me escape the guilt of spending money, even though it's still there.

When I bought the AirPods, I debated this for four months. Finally, when the new year rolled over, and I had the income, I debated it for another month and said, okay, I'll give it a go.

So get away from that guilt and find ways to live during this time of trying to save heavily for your financial goals.

How to avoid guilt for spending money

I hope sharing my purchases helped you feel less guilty about your fun money spending. Share in the comments below the strategies you use with a personal budget to ensure you feel like you're still living during these times.

Remember, you can still have fun while saving for your goals.

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