Five Tips for Spending with a Smile

and Without Guilt

Today, women do 85% of spending in the US, and control more money than ever before. Sometimes those purchases can be for essentials, and at other times we just want to treat ourselves to something enjoyable. While spending our money on items distinctly in the “wants” category can feel good at times, in some cases it can inspire feelings of guilt for the buyer.

Certainly, staying in touch with your budget day-to-day is essential to a lifetime of financial health, but everyone deserves to splurge every now and then.

In my new book Women With Money: The Judgment-Free Guide To Creating The Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful (And, Yes, Rich) Life You Deserve, I tackle the issue of feeling bad about the occasional indulgence — and how to overcome it. Here are some tips on how to shop in a way that’ll leave you with a smile on your face.

Spend on Experiences
How often have you bought an item of clothing, eager to wear it out, only for that excitement to dissipate after a couple weeks? How about that big painting you splurged on for the living room — does it feel like a bit much now? While sometimes items of clothing, technology or accessories will continue to thrill as much as they did when you first bought them, statistically speaking, the new is going to wear off. But it’s not that way with all purchases. Spending money on experiences — like a Broadway show, or a nice vacation — tends to have longer-lasting positive effects. Why? When you experience an event, you make memories, which allow you to go back and revisit that original burst of happiness you felt in the moment.

… Or on Things You Experience
It’s not just events that make memories — you can spend money on a thing and still make that purchase experiential. For example, an item you buy can be used to create an unforgettable experience. Buying a skiing outfit, for instance, so you could take that skiing trip with your friends, can be a part of that. Or a stand-up paddleboard for yourself and your loved one can allow you to spend hours making memories together while out on the water. The only hitch is that you actually have to use the thing you purchase. If you’ve ever bought an exercise bike that has turned into a clothes hanger, or a Vitamix collecting dust on the shelf, you know exactly what we’re talking about.

The Occasional Spending Pick-Me-Up Is Okay, Just Don’t Overdo It
Don’t underestimate the power of “retail therapy.” You, as most of us do, probably have good days and bad days. Some that leave you feeling high and other that stress you out and bring you down. In case of the latter, spending can act like Xanax. Many people choose not to indulge, even when something is within their budget, as it can cause cognitive dissonance — a feeling of disappointment from spending money in a way that doesn’t line up with a fixed image of themselves. If you recognize yourself here, journaling can help you decrease the dissonance. Write down everything you buy, then refer to it a week or so after and estimate how you feel about a purchase in hindsight. Are you glad you made it? Another helpful tactic is visualisation. Before buying something, imagine where you’d put it when you got home. What would you wear it with? What about two months from now?

Buy Time
Another proven method of joyous spending is buying time. You can acquire more money but you cannot — even if you’re hugely successful — acquire more time. However, you can hire out tasks that you don’t find particularly cheerful. You can pay other people to do them for you. One specific thing that we know makes for a more satisfying trade-off is a shorter commute. You may benefit from giving up a larger home (shorter commute = higher real estate prices) for a shorter work trip. Alternatively, a lower-paying job that’s much closer to your current residence can also do the trick.

Spend on Others
One more way in which spending can bring happiness is when you do it for others. The technical term for this is prosocial spending. Studies around this phenomena found that the amount you spend doesn’t really matter — in other words, it truly is the thought that counts. One thing to keep in mind here is that whether you’re giving to a charity or to a person, the happiness boost is bigger when you feel as if giving is a choice as opposed to an obligation. So if you’re forced to contribute to an office gift for a person you don’t really like, you probably won’t feel a rush of positive feelings. Meanwhile, if you’re gifting a person you love, get ready for the warm fuzzies.

With Megi Meskhi

Jean Chatzky

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