Wednesday, June 24

Spending: Frustration and irrational guilt

Photo by J.W. Dill

I have a chance to buy some items for one of my hobbies. At about one-third of the normal price. These are things I already wanted to get -- and will, inevitably. It's just a matter of when. Also, there's the fact that Tim now gets $30 a month for his own mad money.

So why do I feel guilty at the thought of spending the money?

Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, I'm already frustrated about our slow progress on debt. In addition, we're now looking at a move to Arizona, which will bring with it moving expenses plus the need for a down payment on a car. Taking away another $30 a month won't make a huge difference to either effort. But it's the principle of the thing.

There's also the feeling that we've got enough "stuff." I would like, in the long run, to pare down our belongings. While these acquisitions will be small and I already have storage space for them, once again it's the principle of the thing. Acquiring more things seems to run counter to that new resolution.

So all this is bouncing around in my head. What lingers, though, is frustration. Why can't things just be easier? Why can't we just have at least one of us earn something approaching a normal salary? Why can't I grant myself the same liberties I give to Tim? (In case you're wondering, the answers are: No one said life would be easy/easy isn't interesting; because we both have health problems, and I need to accept it and stop wishing for things to run counter to reality; because I have a ridiculously overactive guilt complex.)

I know plenty of PF bloggers grant themselves some mad money -- even while paying down debt. I've always said that you have to budget for at least some small things. Otherwise, you'll go mad with deprivation and will probably overspend to appease your resentment.

So why can't I take my own advice? I'm sure part of it is my Type-A personality. We expect perfection from ourselves, even as we cut other people slack. Part of it is also this desire for our debt reduction to hurry up already. It's hard to do anything that takes away from that overall goal. Even though you could argue that it's more dangerous for me not to have any discretionary spending.

I am betting that a lot of people in the middle of debt reduction have this internal struggle. It's just heightened by our limited funds. (Though, if I may be somewhat gender biased for a moment, I am willing to bet that more women than men have this problem. It seems to me that, especially in matters of money, men simply don't have as much guilt about spending.)

In the end, I think I will spend, even though it will be a struggle. It will be good for me. Perhaps one of the few times that a PF blogger has said that spending on a "want" could be a good growth experience.

But I've been working for a long time on being nicer to myself. I spent so many years demanding a perfection from myself that I could never achieve. I spent several years putting myself down rather than admitting that things were a factor of my disability. Saying things like, "I'm too lazy to do X" rather than, "I'm too tired." That habit took forever to break.

So my new method is to picture a friend in the same situation. What would I tell her? I'd tell her that $30 a month was well worth her sanity in the long run. I'd tell her that she was being ridiculous for feeling guilty at all. After all, it's good to be concerned about spending, but not to the point of obsession or deprivation.

Even through the guilt (and frustration over the guilt) I know this is the right move for me. So I guess I hope that more women unnecessarily ridden by guilt will learn to be nicer to themselves and to share their own triumphs over these emotions.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Abby, I know EXACTLY what you mean about tryng to simplify your "stuff". I just took a bunch of stuff to Goodwill (ok, let's be honest, I just piled a few boxes of stuff for Stick to take to Goodwill!) and looking at a pile of clothes I don't wear and books I'll never read again made me so mad, like it was a pile of money I DIDN'T SAVE FOR SOMETHING GOOD! Gah! Hopefully I can remember that lesson and reduce our shopping even more.

June 24, 2009 at 6:59 AM

Blogger Shevy said...

I *totally* relate to this. I posted tonight about how I got paid for an extra project I took on at work and spent most of it immediately on an eye exam and new glasses (the old ones have been broken for 3 months and I'm still wearing them 'cuz I'm blind without them).

But I feel so guilty! Arrggh! I *needed* them. I haven't had new glasses for several years. These ones are missing one arm. I'll look so much better. But I feel so guilty! I have debts I should be paying down.

June 25, 2009 at 4:11 AM

Blogger Ms. MoneyChat said...

Abby ... you are spot on with your advice to self: $30 a month is well worth your sanity in the long run. It's ridiculous to feel guilty at all. After all, it's good to be concerned about spending, but not to the point of obsession or deprivation.

Great advice Abby;-)

June 25, 2009 at 1:24 PM

Blogger Revanche said...

We're very much alike on that front: I have yet to give myself mad money. Of late, obviously, I've spent outside of the budget anyway, but in general I don't buy that "you deserve it" line because it's so deeply ingrained that I shouldn't spend on wants at all.

It's funny, what we would prescribe for a friend somehow seems too good for ourselves, isn't that odd?

Good on you for working on that.

June 29, 2009 at 6:43 PM


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