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.
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?