Spending money is a necessary evil for all of us.
Unlike going on a diet where we just say ‘we won’t eat chocolate’ or ‘we won’t have takeaway’, there are still things – legitimate things – we need to spend money on.
If I took all the unnecessary spending out of my week, I’d still need to pay for parking, I’d still have to buy groceries and occasionally, I’d need a haircut or a Doctor’s visit.
We can’t just not spend money; it happens.
Determining when it is OK to spend money
So if we can’t stop spending completely, we need to determine when we’re OK to spend, when we are not OK to spend, and why we do it.
Surprisingly, while I’d spent the last decade worrying about money, I’d never actually spent any time figuring out why I was spending it. I especially didn’t think about why I was spending money that wasn’t mine.
As any good child does, I decided to theorise that it was my parent’s fault that I was so messed up with money. I remember both Mum and Dad working most of my life, we had enough to get by but we weren’t rich. We didn’t have trendy stuff but we never went hungry, never missed a school excursion, always played sport and got shuttled to and from training sessions and games. We had enough.
I approached my darling Dad (who will be in South America when this is published) for his insights. I asked simply: what is your approach to money? I reminded him that “wait for the kids to move out” was not an appropriate response, even though that was probably exactly when his finances improved.
His approach was pretty simple: “spend to live and enjoy living, have savings to cover unforeseen events, buy what is necessary and does the job and holidays (and he’s been on a lot in the last few years) are methodically planned and saved for so they don’t compromise the first two.”
How very sensible. (And yes, he is definitely my real father.)
So I then told my Dad that I was trying to figure out what my attitude towards money was like when I was little. Surely that sensible approach of his rubbed off on me? Nope:
“When you lost a tooth one time you got a 20c piece. “That’s not much money” you said. So I swapped it for four 5c pieces and you were happy.”
Now, while that anecdote confirms that I was in fact adorable and that the Tooth Fairy has really been hit by inflation in the last 20 years, it said something very stark to me. Not only was I clueless but from a young age, I was interested in having lots of stuff and not too concerned with the value of stuff. WHOA.
That is something that has continued into my adult life. I want stuff, I like stuff, I need stuff so I spend money to get stuff. Why else would I have spent so much money on credit cards buying stuff I can’t even identify? I love stuff.
And that stuff serves a psychological need. I don’t need to go into it too deeply here, but a kid that lacks confidence about who they are, looks for other ways to prove their worth. Having stuff.
But there are literally hundreds of reasons why you might be spending (that don’t need to be as deep as that) and you need to get to the bottom of it or you can easily spiral out of control.
You might need to take a closer look if:
- You spend because you’re bored. (Window shopping is not a cure for boredom!)
- You spend because you can’t resist temptation. (Turn off all those sale email subscriptions and tell the eBay phone app not to make a noise.)
- You spend because you’re trying to keep up with everyone else (this is a trap…you have no idea what their debt levels look like!).
- You spend because you feel deprived if you go a day without buying something.
- You spend because you can’t say no – to yourself or others.
- You spend out of guilt – you missed an event or forgot to do something you promised to do so you buy “sorry” presents you can’t afford.
- You spend out of habit or on autopilot.
- You don’t remember the transactions on your bank statements.
- You get buyer’s remorse, a LOT.
- You have multiple items at home that you bought and they still have the tags on. Or you have 3 of the same thing that you forgot you bought!
It’s important that when you do spend money – and it’s a necessity of life – that you are absolutely aware of why you’re spending that money. If the answer is anything other than “because I actually need it, I can afford it and I will not regret this tomorrow” RUN.
What are your reasons for spending money?
Do you find yourself simply looking for ways to spend? Some people simply feel the need to spend all the way down to whatever balance they have available.