Most personal finance advice is focused on spending less and saving more. The financial gurus love to target the overspenders and those who are living beyond their means. While saving and frugality are central tenants to a successful financial plan, there’s another side to the personal finance coin.
I’m talking about the super savers. The people who are hyper-focused on making money and socking it away for a rainy day. The frugal fundamentalists who go to extreme lengths just to save a buck. You probably know someone like this or maybe I’m describing you.
Being overly frugal and tight with your money isn’t necessarily a good thing. How much fun can life really be if you aren’t willing to part with some of your money to live that life? These obsessive savers are the ones who are hunkered down living in a money prison of their own creation instead of getting out and enjoying the world around them.
Healthy personal finance is about balance
A healthy life is about balance. It’s okay to enjoy a piece of cake as long as you’re also eating your vegetables. It’s okay to have a few lazy evenings curled up watching an endless stream of Netflix but you can’t do this every day.
The same is true for your finances.
You shouldn’t stop yourself from spending money once you’ve taken care of your bills, savings, and investments. Money isn’t meant to be hoarded. You don’t want to leave this earth with a full bank account and a life devoid of pleasure and experiences. You don’t want to cling to every dollar when you could be sharing your wealth and giving to the people or the charities you believe in.
And giving at death doesn’t count. You’re dead. You’re not doing anything much less giving. Besides, it’s much more fulfilling to give with warm hands than cold ones.
Money is a tool to maximize living a meaningful and fun life.
You should aim to strike a healthy balance between spending on today while also saving for tomorrow. Too often people put things off until later and miss the opportunity to live now.
“I’ll travel when I’m retired.”
“I’ll stop working so hard when I have three years of savings in my emergency fund.”
“I’ll start taking care of myself and treating myself when the house is paid off.”
No, no, no.
Stop waiting and start now. You never know how your life will change or what surprises are around the corner. What if you’d put off traveling until you were retired only to retire during a global pandemic that resulted in closed borders and grounded planes?
Give yourself permission to enjoy your money now and in the future. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Find your financial balance.
How to escape your money prison and find financial balance
If the thought of spending money makes you feel anxious, you are probably an (obsessive) oversaver. And, you are likely living in a money prison. A frugal fortress that has you trapped even if it doesn’t feel like it.
If you’re ready to escape your money prison and start enjoying your money now instead of saving for the future, here are some simple strategies.
- Discover your “Why.” Why do you feel the need to save so much money or refuse to spend it even when you know you have enough? Many people suffer from a scarcity mindset and it’s often passed down from generation to generation. If your parents or their parents grew up in extreme poverty or financial uncertainty, they can pass along their money habits and behaviors. Even if you are financially secure, you might still feel like you have to hold on to every cent because this is what you were taught.
- Make spending mandatory. This might sound counterintuitive to all of the other money advice you’ve ever read but hear me out. If you suffer from excessive frugality and it pains you to spend money then you need to give yourself permission to spend. Set aside a certain amount of money each month and spend it on something that makes you happy. Treat yourself to a meal from your favorite restaurant, get your hair done, or give to your favorite charity.
- Practice values-based spending. Values-based spending is when you consciously spend on the things that are most important to you. It’s about aligning your finances with what you value most. Since it’s difficult for people who are extremely frugal or have a scarcity mentality to spend, a values-based strategy can be a good way to dip your toes into the spending pool. This is because you are unlikely to regret making a purchase based on your values.
It’s time to start enjoying your life
Don’t live your life as a (miserable) miser. You’re not taking your money to the grave.
This isn’t an invitation to be irresponsible and senseless with your spending but instead a reminder to find your financial balance. Save for the future, have an appropriate retirement nest egg, but also remember to live your life and enjoy it today.