Treat Yo’ Self! It sounds fun and easy, right?! But for every Tom and Donna who can spend without a second thought (on a planned, specific day so there’s a layer of responsibility), there’s a Ben who has trouble giving himself a treat.
Joe Davis, president and wealth advisor at Stonebriar Wealth Management, told Money Scoop: “Spending money should feel good. It should be a reward for your hard work—a testament to what you’ve done.”
But if you’ve put in the hours and saved enough cash to purchase something, you may experience guilt, fear, or worry. Why can it often feel so bad to take the plunge and buy what you want—even when you have the means to do so?
Don’t fret. There are things you can do before and after a purchase to get the most emotional bang for your buck.
Before the purchase
If you were anything like me as a kid and liked doing personality quizzes at sleepovers, I have a little present for you. 🎁 You can fill out this personality test to discover your unconscious money beliefs, otherwise known as your Money Script.
The Klontz Money Script Inventory–II (the actual name of the quiz) was developed by financial psychologists (and father-son duo) Ted and Brad Klontz. It’s based on pioneering work that they did with Rick Kahler, a certified financial therapist and founder of Kahler Financial Group.
“Brad, Ted, and I developed Money Scripts. That’s one of the first things I think we ever [did],” said Kahler when speaking with Money Scoop.
There are four main types: air signs, water signs, fire signs—wait, wait, wait. That’s not right. The categories are: Money Status, Money Worship, Money Avoidance, and Money Vigilance. In actuality, most people exhibit a bit of each category, even if the behaviors seem contradictory.
- Money Status: These personalities make it rain money to look wealthy (whether that’s true or not) and equate net worth with self-worth.
- Money Worship: These folks are most likely to try to use money to solve their problems and buy happiness.
- Money Avoidance: We all know people like this who see money as a bad thing and shun budgets.
- Money Vigilance: People with this temperament are usually good savers and see money as a form of security that needs to be preserved.
Out of the four options, Money Vigilance sounds the best, right? Not quite—because all have weaknesses, too.
“We get comfortable looking at our statements, our accounts, the values, and the numbers,” said Davis. That comfort can backfire if it gets extreme and an individual stops spending money. In fact, it can also negatively affect interpersonal relationships and health.
If you have issues enjoying your money, you may be Money Vigilant. “Those folks tend to be very frugal. They tend to suffer from anxiety and are often unable to spend money,” said Kahler.
Once you know your Money Script, you’ll need to do some soul-searching to figure out how it formed.
“Oftentimes, there can be some trauma around it. And the trauma doesn’t have to be huge; it can be little things that happened over and over and over,” said Kahler.
Where you got your money from also impacts what you do with it. If you feel like you don’t deserve the money you received, or if it came from a source you deem immoral (let’s say), you’re less likely to spend it on fun stuff for yourself. So to get more pleasure from your purchases, it helps to do something you’re proud of as you earn that cash.
Budgeting for F.U.N. can also help. Make a list of what you want, why it matters to you, and give yourself time to think about it.
“Ask yourself: How is this purchase going to bring meaning to my life?” said Kahler. “I would argue we cannot find meaning in life without money. Because money touches everything that we do. It can foster connectivity, compassion, curiosity, creativity, and things of that nature.”
“That’s why we earn money—so we can lead a life of fulfillment. It’s much more difficult to lead a fulfilling life if we’re just working hard all day, every day,” said Davis.
And don’t limit yourself to just physical items.
“Some research will say that spending money on experiences is more impactful than spending money on things,” said Kahler.
When you’re ready to spend, do check in with yourself about how you’re feeling, too. (Here are some ideas if you’re struggling to find the vocab for your emotions.)
“When we develop EQ (emotional intelligence), then our money decisions get much better,” said Kahler.
After the purchase
The homework you did beforehand should make spending money easier. But Money Scripts run deep. What do you do if you still feel bad about letting go of your cash?
“Even if you do all your due diligence and you still [have] buyer’s remorse, that’s very normal,” said Davis. “Sometimes the buyer’s remorse is purely about saying goodbye to the money you’ve saved.” And he knows from experience.
“I joined a country club. I thought about it for years and I did all my research,” said Davis. But letting go of that much money was tough and led to some self-doubt.
“I had immediate buyer’s remorse. I thought to myself, ‘Do I want to be this country club person?’” said Davis.
But the uncertainty faded fast. “As time went on, I got to meet some really, really great people. I expanded my professional and social network with people who live in my community. And it’ll be great for the kids because they have summer camps. So, I started to think about it and a switch flickered back on. I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place, and it exceeded [my] expectations in the end,” said Davis.