My default money mindset, as you all know, is to save. I’ve always been good at saving and at controlling my spending, but I’ve always sucked at spending. I have always had the opposite unhealthy relationship with spending in comparison to most personal finance bloggers.
While I was in college, I was ridiculously cheap. As you know, I graduated from college with a net worth of $32,000. I did this partially by saving a lot of my income from internships and my parents paying for my expenses on academic terms. But I also did this by being ridiculously cheap:
I hardly ever drank alcohol.
I never really went out with my friends more than once a month and sometimes, once an academic term.
I would only go home if my parents would pay for it.
I didn’t let myself buy clothes (basically, I just stayed away from the malls) and hated paying the $7-10 to get my jeans altered to be the right length. Since bras were expensive, I bought as few as possible, though then I had to replace them more often.
I ate a TON of pasta with cheap tomato sauce, cheap soups, and other cheap food like pancake mix. (I was too cheap to buy eggs and the pancake mix was way easier.)
I didn’t really go on any trips, except when my parents paid.
I refused to pay for cabs when I could just wait in the cold for a bit for the bus or trudge through snow to get to the grocery store.
I thought that paying $30 for yoga classes for the academic term was expensive, so I didn’t do it. In my current city, that would probably only buy me two yoga classes.
I didn’t drink coffee. (I still don’t.)
I stopped getting my eyebrows waxed.
Some of the above might not sound that crazy. Maybe I picked the wrong examples. But I would chastise myself in my head if I spent money. I never cut myself or anything, but I would get really mad at myself. I made myself feel like I had no money, even though my only calendar year with a loss in my net worth was the year I started college, by about $8. Every other year saw an increase in my net worth. One year in college, my net worth even went up almost $15,000 thanks to a high-paying internship, more than doubling.
Now, a few years post-college, I have a much healthier relationship with spending.
I am so glad my parents forced me to spend my entire relocation bonus on brand-new furniture. I have a really awesome bedroom set, mattress, and really awesome sheets. Who knew that buying a $200 comforter and 500 thread count sheets would make you sleep better than buying only a $10 fitted sheet from Wal-Mart that starts to fall apart after a few months?
Some people say that budgets are terrible and constricting. Not for me. My spending plan is freeing. It allows me to spend $20 including a small tip to get my eyebrows waxed every month because $20 of my paycheck was allocated to that. It allows me to buy only designer jeans and to travel.
I am also glad that I bought a brand-new car. I didn’t buy a luxury car. I spent about $20,000 on my car. But I’m glad I bought it instead of sticking with a car sharing program. It makes me far happier.
Paying myself first, the saving method I used up until I started my first full-time job, was unhealthy for me. Now I pay myself first by allowing myself to spend whatever I want, within the confines of my spending plan. And then the rest goes to savings. Direct depositing money into my checking account instead of transferring it from savings makes it far easier for me to spend it.
Now, I let myself spend in a way that makes me happier. I try to save money on the things that don’t make me happier to spend on, like getting my hair cut more than 2-3 times a year. But honestly? I just go to someone at the salon where my eyebrow lady works. That’s easier. And I don’t really notice the extra $20-40 that that costs a few times a year.
Having a high income makes it easier to not guilt trip myself about spending money. I think that that is one of the many reasons in which I’m glad I took the job offer I had instead of applying to grad schools. I don’t know how my relationship with spending money would be now if I had scrimped for no good reason for another few years as a student.
Readers, how do you spend to make yourself happy? Did you ever have an unhealthy relationship with spending like I did?