How Do I Stop Obsessing About Spending Money?

By: KristiLyn Wilkinson, Empowering Financial Wellness Program Manager

September 14, 2021

man thinking about money

If you have ever felt guilt around the way you spend or save money, you are not alone. Society has attached a lot of guilt and shame to the money decisions that we make. Unfortunately, too many people associate their NET WORTH with their SELF-WORTH. They are not the same, so in case no one has told you lately, your worth as an individual has nothing to do with the way you manage your money. That being said, money is still a big part of our lives and can impact it in so many ways. There are definitely some things you can do to have a better relationship with money and to not let it have such a strong hold on your emotional well-being.  

The first step is to identify your values and goals. What is important to YOU. If you are in a committed relationship it is also important for your spouse or partner to identify what is important to them and your relationship as a whole. Please note this is not thinking about what is important to your neighbor, your parents, your children, your friends, etc. Too many people spend money based on what is important to other people in their life. Maybe you experience a little FOMO (fear of missing out), so you spend money on things that don’t matter to you. Most people experience guilt and shame around money when there is a disconnect between what they WANT to do with their money and what they are actually DOING with their money. Let me say that again. Guilt and shame around money comes when you are NOT spending it according to your values and goals. Now we have circled back to why it is important to identify what you really want out of life. Once you identify what is important to you, it is a matter of putting systems in place to help you accomplish those goals. When you give yourself permission to spend money on what is important to you, and you spend it in an intentional way that enriches your life, you will find that a lot of the guilt of spending money is gone. 

Many people perceive that budgeting and getting organized with their finances will require them to sacrifice and give up everything they enjoy in life. In fact, it does the opposite. Think of a spending plan as putting boundaries around where and when you will spend your money. Boundaries are so important. We need them in all areas of our lives. Money is no different. If you set up healthy boundaries around when and how you spend money that can erase a lot of the guilt. It’s important for everyone to be saving and investing for retirement, have an emergency fund, adequate insurance, etc. Outside of those things, if you value travel and experiences, it’s ok to spend your money on travel. Maybe you want to live in your dream house one day. Life is a balancing act of saving and preparing for your future and enjoying life today. Giving yourself permission to spend money on what really matters to you will give you the most bang for your buck emotionally and financially. 

Another important thing to consider is your money personality. We all have one. Our habits and attitudes are shaped by our life experiences. If you have extreme anxiety around spending money because you highly value financial security and worry about not having enough in the future, it is a very helpful exercise to write out your money story, or the experiences you have had in life with money. Identify where those scripts and ideas come from. Did you experience times in childhood when you didn’t know where your next meal would come from? Did your family spend money like it was going out of style and you lived paycheck to paycheck? All of these things can impact your current feelings and spending habits. Once you identify those money scripts, you can choose to create new ones and set healthy boundaries around the way you want to spend and save your money going forward. 

The last piece of advice I have is to give yourself some grace. NO ONE spends or saves their money perfectly all the time. We all make purchases or money decisions that we regret. Congratulations, you are human. Learning from that decision is important, but placing judgement and being hard on yourself isn’t likely to help you not make that mistake in the future. More likely than not, beating yourself up will just make you feel worse about yourself and then you might go spend more money to make yourself feel can see where this is going right? Financial problems are usually behavior problems. If there is a behavior that is constantly messing up your financial plans, identify the behavior and make plans to change it. Don’t waste time making yourself feel bad. Money can actually buy you happiness if you are spending it on the right things! Here’s to a future of happy saving and spending!