Money Myth Number 7: The only way to be good with money is to always spend as little as possible
We’ve all received this message. Spending money? Never a good idea, according to most money experts. When was the last time you saw a heading, “10 ways to spend money that will make you happy.”? No. It’s all “15 ways to penny-pinch your way to misery” or “How I paid off my mortgage in record time by only ever eating the left-overs from my workmates’ lunches.”
OK, I’m exaggerating. But it is true that most of the information we receive about money gives the implicit message that spending it is always wrong.
Just before you now run off, feeling justified in spending whatever you want whenever you want: I am NOT giving you permission to do that. Debt is something that will enslave you, keep you working in a job you might hate, taking you away from the people and places you love, because you owe too much money to do anything but work.
Financial freedom is something we’d all love, and you won’t get that from spending mindlessly.
But before you take the opposite tack, and refuse to spend anything other than the minimum, consider:
- Do you feel empowered by your decision to save money, or deprived by it? If saving money makes you feel resourceful, creative and happy with the end result, then that’s awesome – great decision! But if refusing to spend makes you feel poor, unworthy or miserable, that’s awful. Those decisions need reviewing.
- Are you really hurting yourself financially with this purchase? Maybe you can afford it. To know that you can, you need to be connected to the big picture: your money, your values, and of the kind of life you want to live.
- What is it costing you to save money? We all have only three things to spend: time, energy and money. We can to some extent compensate for the lack of one of those things by spending the other two. The thing is, spending time and energy to save money can take you away from your loved ones in just the same way that financial debt can.
- Is refusing to spend hurting your relationships with other people? Not those “other people” on the internet, who will never be happy with anything you do, but other people who actually matter to you?
- Are you being mindful about and connected to your money, or has spending as little as possible become something you think about all the time? People in overwhelming financial debt often describe obsessively working out how they can keep afloat. Sometimes the urge to save as much as possible can lead to an obsessive thoughts as well - thoughts with a different slant, but still not conducive to calm and happiness.
- Do you feel like you have the right balance for you? Balance between looking after yourself today and doing something that your future self will thank you for? Balance between not wasting money on things you don’t care about, and spending money on people, things and experiences that make life worth living?
If you get the balance right saving money and living frugally can be life-enhancing. It can mean you have that ideal amount of money – “enough”. You can get out of the consumerist rat-race and into real connections with other people; you're able to spend your time doing the things that are meaningful to you.
But not spending money isn’t automatically a virtue. It can hurt you and damage relationships in the same way that too much debt can.
Money Truth: It’s not always wrong spend money