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Spender’s Guilt

Amy, a BFS newsletter subscriber, left an excellent question in this month’s comment section that spoke to me…it’s a problem that I have too.

I find that even though we are meeting all of our savings and retirement goals, I still feel guilty about spending $250 a month on going out to eat. That averages out to 8% of our net income. Should I feel guilty?

No, I don’t think either one of us should feel guilty about spending our own money the way we choose.  So why do we?  I think one of the negatives of being a conscious spender is that you become too conscious of all spending.  It’s been brought to my attention that I may be a little too money-centric at times.

Spending vs Saving

Money and Me

Even my frugal mom was worried at one point in my life that I didn’t know the difference between being frugal and being cheap.  Frugality is spending less or nothing on non-priorities, buying quality that lasts on the important things to us, and saving/investing the extra.  Being cheap means spending as little as possible on everything to hoard the rest.  The stuff doesn’t last that way and you rarely get to really enjoy the things you really want.

That lesson wasn’t an issue for me.  My problem is that I seem to value my future self more than my current one.  Every time I look at our spending for the month and things like restaurants suck up a little more than intended, I think about what we could have done with that money instead.  Then I have to remind myself that we pay our bills, we save for our golden years, so it’s okay to spend for fun now too.

Breaking a Core Belief

I’m going to do it.  I am going to break a personal finance blogger commandment.  Here I go…

Lifestyle inflation is okay.

Yep, I said it.  It’s okay to spend more than you absolutely have to.  We all have different priorities.  Mr. Money Mustache spends a minimum so he can stay early retired.  He also can use his wealth to renovate his new home.  The building of that wealth took sacrifice but now he can choose how to live.

Please note that I am pointing out that living paycheck to paycheck is NOT good.  But lifestyle inflation after you can cover the rest and your future is completely up to you.  I do still have my own financial line, lol.  Padding is just a good idea since it gives you options.

There are no set rules on how you have to live.  I want to enjoy my present as much as my future.  I don’t need to spend everything we make to do that, but I will stop overthinking every $200 that pops up because I have pets.  I won’t shoot myself for eating out to spend more time with friends or because we simply want to stay in without cooking.  I am consciously choosing to only worry about hitting our goals before spending any extra.

If that ends up meaning that I work for 15-20 more years instead of just 10, that’s okay.  We will not have any regrets.  We don’t mind working now that we’ve found something fulfilling.  And our older selves that can’t work will still be covered.  That is how we have chosen to spend.

Back to the Original Question

Amy, do you honestly think the $250 a month on eating out is well spent?  Do you enjoy it?  Does it make your month $250 better?  If so, then I’d stop feeling guilty.  It’s a conscious choice.  If you feel that you rather have that $250 for travel, savings, or anything else, then you should consciously change how you are spending it now.  You won’t feel guilt once you decide whether you are happy or not with your choice.  Prioritize and spend based on that.

How about you?  How do you need to spend or save to live without regret?

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8 comments to Spender’s Guilt

  • I love eating out because I want to avoid cooking and dishes. I cannot afford $250 per month for this activity because that is just too large a portion of my budget.

    I have debt and very little savings but if the reader is paying all of her bills and saving then go for it. It would be the same for someone who hires a cleaning lady or buys a lot of shoes. As long as you are working toward your future spend what you can afford to without shame.

  • christie

    Part of having a budget is knowing that it is okay to spend in different categories. You don’t have to worry that spending the money is going to cause a problem next month. Everyone should spend something on what they love and makes them happy.

  • Currently we’re paying off credit card debt we incurred from home renovations. We don’t want to regret not paying it off as soon as we could. We’re putting off vacations and other small luxuries for now but that works for us.

  • retired

    I like my own cooking. When we eat out we eat at quality places, so it’s a bit more expensive. Usually we do not eat out . I find frozen chicken breast, salmon peices, hamburger, steaks, cornis hens, and a few steaks can be thawed, cooked, and eaten faster than eating out or delivery. For those nights no one wants to cook, I put on the rice maker, pull out packaged vegies, nuke a breast with favorite flavoring…presto dinner in less than 30 minutes. Use disposable plates for serving and eating, rinse off silverware, wash cooking plates, leave rice cooker warming rice. Finished.
    We splurge on hobbies, tech, and gifts. Its fun. Saved for 21 years, no worries now. I feel guilty about the stuff taking up space. We have collected a lot.
    Be careful about rationalizing your spending though, better to have too much surplus than use credit. Spending money on something that causes health problems, that is fleeting; well, maybe you should think twice about that. Especially if its cheaper and healthier to do without.

  • Being frugal is often like a steam pressure valve. You have to monitor it, and yes you have to let off some pressure once in a while. If you don’t, the system might work for awhile, but just like the pressure will cause the system to burst, the same thing can happen and you’ll end up taking the risk of going completely nuts when the pressure gets too much.

  • Kim

    I also struggle with this. I think impulse buys are almost always bad, but if you consider your purchase and do find it adds value to your life, then it’s a good purchase. As for eating out, we probably do that more now than we have in a while, but it’s a good family time. When we were in debt, we used to eat out all the time, but it was mainly more for convenience because we were working so much to support our overkill lifestyle, and it did not add value at all back then. It all depends on your situation.

  • @jane savers, I agree. We didn’t start splurging until we started making more a year or two after college.

    @Christie, right!

    @Raquel, that’s smart! Good priority!

    @retired, we actually were able to cut back on eating out because we started to enjoy cooking, but now we spend about the same as we did before…it happens when you cook better food and for friends. ;-)

    @Money Beagle, lol, that happened to me a couple of years ago.

    @Kim, it’s good you know when to splurge and when not to now. :-)

  • I think the concept of spending based on your core values was the biggest lesson I took away after reading “Your Money Or Your Life”.

    The concept caused me some serious thought and I spent several weeks analyzing my spending and comparing it to the happiness it brought me.

    And while I still don’t feel I’m 100% in line with my values, I’m far closer than I was and far happier with where my money is going – especially now I’m not spending money on seemingly endless debt repayments :-)