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Should You Feel Guilty About Spending Money?

By Casey Slide

guilty womanIt’s funny how people have different emotions when it comes to spending money. Some feel excited and enjoy spending their hard-earned money, and others don’t like spending at all. Some even feel guilty almost every time they buy something. Perhaps you also experience this most unwelcome emotion when you make a purchase.

Is it okay to feel guilty for spending money? How can you avoid that nagging feeling? Guilt can be an emotional indicator that you’ve done something wrong or it can be a sign that you’re being too hard on yourself. Here are some hints to figure out if the guilt is warranted or not.

When You Should Feel Guilty About Spending Money

In the following instances, guilt can be a good thing. It’s essentially your conscience motivating you to change your ways and do what’s right in order to lose the guilty feeling.

1. You Break a Promise
Let’s say that you and your significant other agreed not to make any purchases this month, but you go out and buy a new pair of shoes anyway. Or perhaps you agreed not to buy a television until Black Friday, but you just can’t wait any longer.

If you said you weren’t going to spend money, then stick to your word. How can someone trust you if you go back on your word? Even worse, how can you trust yourself?

2. You Told Your Spouse Not to
I have to admit that I am guilty of this one. Just last month, I told my husband not to spend any money eating out because we were way over budget in that category. But what did I do the next day? I went through a drive-thru because I was starving, and I felt guilty for it – and not just because of the high number of calories I consumed. Luckily, I have a forgiving husband!

3. You Are Already Over Budget
If you allow yourself $50 of fun money each month, go and enjoy it. But once you hit that limit, practice self-control and wait until next month to buy yourself a new pair of shoes or whatever else it is that catches your eye. You are only cheating yourself and your household by indulging through overspending.

4. It’s Not Your Money
I’m not talking about stolen money. Instead, you may feel guilty if you did not actively contribute to the money you are spending (i.e. common with income inequality in marriage). This doesn’t have to mean earning it outright. You can contribute by taking on household cleaning chores, watching the kids, running errands, or sometimes just by being an open ear and a smiling face to your family members. But if you’re a couch potato living and not actively contributing to your household at all, your guilt is warranted.

5. You Live an Overly Indulgent Lifestyle
There is nothing wrong with indulging yourself once in a while. But when your entire lifestyle becomes indulgent, you are missing out on giving to others and saving for your future. Ask yourself if you are being wasteful or reckless with your money.

For example, if you know you succumb to almost every impulse buy, consider how else you can spend your money. Then, introduce some discipline into your spending habits and think about what else you’d like to do with the money whenever an impulse buy presents itself.

6. You Lie About Spending Money
If you spent money when you said you wouldn’t, or you spent money when you told your spouse not to, or you spent money when you were already over budget, and then lied about it, you’re probably feeling doubly guilty. Although guilt is not the only reason why people lie about spending money, it is one of the main culprits.

7. It Puts You In Debt
If you are debt-free, why would you ever put yourself back in it? If you are in debt, why would you dig the hole any deeper? This is just like using money that is not yours because it belongs to the bank, a credit card company, or a friend. Get yourself out of debt, save up some money, and then reward yourself with small splurges to avoid frugal fatigue.

That is the correct order to properly handle your finances, not the reverse. Otherwise, you’ll pay for it in the form of interest charges, potential late fees, and, quite likely, a lower credit score.

man feeling guilty

When You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Spending Money

If your budget is tight, it can be difficult to justify even the smallest expenses. Here are some instances to help you identify when you need to let the guilt go.

1. It Was Budgeted
Let’s say you budget $50 a month to buy whatever you want and you see a pair of shoes you absolutely love. No, you weren’t looking to buy shoes that day, nor do you have any reason to buy them, other than the fact that they caught your eye. But as long as they are under $50, you shouldn’t feel guilty for buying them. You made a conscious decision beforehand that it is okay to spend $50 on yourself every month.

2.You Saved Up for It
You put in extra hours at the office, you worked a couple of side jobs, you stayed within budget, and now you finally have enough money to buy that iPad. Go for it because you quite literally earned it. If a big bill hits you at the same time, don’t feel guilty for buying what you earned, as long as you have other means to pay for the bill. No new toy or gadget is worth going into debt over.

3. When You’re Well-Prepared
Pay yourself first by putting money in a retirement fund, such as a 401k or Roth IRA. Then, make sure you have a sizeable emergency fund that can sustain your family for six to twelve months if you lose your income. If you’re well-prepared, then you’ll have your reward later. So don’t feel guilty if you reward yourself a little now too.

4. When You Share the Wealth
I believe firmly in giving of oneself, either monetarily or in service, to others. If you are giving time, money, or material goods regularly to those in need, you are living a life of stewardship. By putting others before yourself, you are already showing that you have a selfless nature about you. Buying something for yourself does not take that fact away.

5. When You Need It
Like many moms out there, my post-baby body is not exactly what my pre-baby body was, and my clothes just don’t fit like they used to. But unless you are a growing teenage boy, buying clothes tends to fall in the “want” category instead of the “need” category.

But our need to clothe ourselves properly is just that, a need. There is no reason to feel guilty about fulfilling that need. If you think you need something, be honest with yourself and determine if it’s truly a need. How well can you function without it or will you stretch yourself unreasonably by purchasing it? After considering this, I bought myself a new wardrobe and did not feel guilty.

6. When You Are Living a Frugal Lifestyle
When you live in a modest-sized home and drive an older car, you have more flexibility to pay for the things you want, such as nights dining out. When you consider what sort of lifestyle you want, remember that the frugal one will allow you to save more, give more, and have more money to indulge with every once in a while without feeling guilty.

7. When It Is a Gift
Many people make a habit of spending gift money on stuff they need. If you get a gift card to Target or Amazon, don’t feel guilty about buying something for yourself to enjoy, instead of dog food, a new trashcan, or something else you need for your household. The giver of the gift wanted you to have fun with the money, so don’t disappoint them. And whatever you do, don’t use gift money to pay for your bills unless that was the intention of the gift or you’ll otherwise go into debt.

Final Word

How do you avoid feeling guilty about spending money? The answer is simple: by managing your money wisely. Make a budget, stick to it, and live a frugal lifestyle, but allow yourself some flexibility and freedom to have fun. Most importantly, be honest with how you contribute to your household, and reward yourself accordingly.

Do you ever feel guilty for spending money? How do you deal with it?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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Comments

  • Steve

    Publix does not increase the price of products when advertising buy one get one free. They receive credits on the extra item that they give away to balance out their inventory. They however use buy one get one free to draw customers to the store to create impuse buys and to promote slow moving or new products. That is a marketing tactic used by most retail food stores. Don’t be afraid of the buy one get one free items, but be aware of your impulse buys. That’s where all your money goes.

  • author

    Thanks for the tip, Steve. I feel like I’ve seen some of the products be higher priced, when it’s buy 1, get 1 free, but I’ve been wrong before. You’re point makes sense, though.

  • Steve

    What you may have seen was , the items in question were an Advantage Buy. If you look at the shelf tag, and it says Advantage Buy, the item will have been reduced. Publix changes shelf tags every week, so yes, the price may have gone up before it was buy one get one free. I should have thought of that before I sent you my first reply. “sorry” Your point made sense too.

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