Frugality can go too far, and can lead to a scarcity mindset. Instead, I argue that it’s okay to spend money on things you love.
My Twitter feed is a full of financial folks with names like*:
I’m Crazy Cheap
The Frugal Femme
Live on Nothing
Family of Frugality
Guy on a Tiny Budget
Wealth Through Restraint
Retire By 16
* Not all of these are real names. Or even any of them.
And I get it. The allure of the FIRE movement and being able to retire early in life is infectious. “If I can live on $200 a month, then I can retire in five years, before I even turn 30!“
But this also leads to a kind of performative money martyrdom. And for what? So you can live on nothing, retire and…continue to live on nothing?
I think we need to shift the conversation, and start talking about what you love to spend money on.
Table of Contents
A list of things people love to spend money on
Here are things I know that people love to spend money on:
- Dining out. A nice meal, maybe on a riverside terrace. A glass of wine, or maybe a bottle or two. The chef’s latest creation. Whether you like fine dining or just heading to the bistro, dining out is definitely one of the most common targets of joyous spending.
- Travel. Ahh, travel. The frissons of excitement that comes with stepping out of door into a whole new and different world. Wandering the streets of a foreign city, wondering what will be around the next corner? Who will you meet? What will you see? Who can resist this?
- Electronics. There is always a new gadget coming out. The latest iPhone, or whatever else Apple decides to invent into the world. An larger TV with an even more crystal clear display. The best sound. The best gear. From your watch to the weather station on your house, there is always something new to experience.
- Cars/trucks. Anything with a motor can bring joy to the most kid-like adult. Even a jet ski out on the water is the epitome of excitement. A bigger engine, most powerful acceleration, many live for those moments on the open road.
- Beauty. I’ve walked the aisles of Ulta and Sephora, and I know that there is a galaxy of opportunities here. The possibilities for changing how you look and pampering yourself are endless.
- Clothes. Just like beauty, there are infinite possibilities here. They say that “clothes make the person”, and so with new, different, and exciting clothes, you can be whoever you want. And who wouldn’t want to turn heads and stop traffic?
There is nothing wrong with any of this
I want you to stand up and repeat after me:
There is nothing wrong with loving to spend money on anything.
It doesn’t make you shallow. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a bad decision maker.
You are fine.
A scarcity mindset is the problem
We have a dangerous focus on frugality in our culture, and I believe it’s counter-productive.
To spend as little as possible is to live in a scarcity mindset. It’s like we’re saying, “I am stuck with what I have so I need to make the best of it by doing as little as possible.” Is that really our truth?
What about those $100,000 ideas that are around you? Would you need to be so frugal if you believed there were greater opportunities?
I also believe this focus on hyper-frugality is missing the point. Spending less isn’t the point. Spending on what you love (and not on what you don’t) is the point.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all for wanton, conspicuous consumption. But there’s got to be a balance here.
Minimalism is for suckers. What about sensibilism?
Maximize your opportunity
Now, it’s all nice to say that it’s fine to spend lavishly on the things and experiences that you love, but that doesn’t help if you can’t actually do it.
So with this, we can reframe all those good financial habits (that sound like your dentist telling you to floss more often) into this:
How can you spend more on what you love?
Maybe it’s spending less in some places. Maybe it’s keeping track of your expenses so money doesn’t fly out the window. Maybe it’s asking your boss for a raise. Maybe it’s looking for a higher paying job. Maybe it’s starting a side-business.
Maybe it’s all of those.
But before you get too deep in the cult of financial martyrdom, ask yourself this: instead of trying to subsist with less, what would you have to do in order to get what you want instead, so that you didn’t have to live without?