We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy happiness, right? While this is generally true (once your basic needs are met) there is also no denying that your money choices have a big impact on your quality of life.
In fact, I would argue that mindful spending is a powerful tool that you can leverage to create a life you love.
Now before you run away—this isn’t a post about being frugal or budgeting! And I’m definitely not going to tell you how you should spend your money.
However, I am going to encourage you to take an honest look at your expenses and to question if your spending reflects your values and priorities.
Keep reading to learn more about how mindful spending helps you live a life you love.
(For some reason, there was a mixup on Pinterest and a ton of people are coming to this post looking for my post on Simple Eating — you can find it here. Sorry for any confusion!)
WHAT IS MINDFUL SPENDING?
First of all, I want to make one thing clear: how you decide to spend (or not spend) your money is a very personal decision.
I actually hate being told how to spend mine, so please know that the intent of this post is not to preach or pass judgement on what you buy or how much you spend.
But I would like to encourage you to consider this:
- Is your spending in line with your values and priorities?
- Do your purchases bring you joy or add value to your life?
- How do you really make decisions about what to spend your money on?
Mindful spending is about using money in a way that reflects what matters most to YOU.
This might sound simple but the truth is that many of us make decisions about what we can or can’t afford based on habit, social acceptability, and our aspirational lives—instead of our actual budgets.
Let’s take a closer look at this.
HOW DO WE JUDGE AFFORDABILITY?
Something you may or may not know about me is that I LOVE to travel. I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life travelling and often for extended periods of time.
When people find out, the most common question I’m asked is how can I afford to travel so much. I’m frequently told, “I would love to travel like you, but I could never afford it.”
The funny thing is, most of my other big purchases (of equal or greater monetary value) are never questioned or commented upon in the same way.
For example, in 2008, I bought a mid-priced secondhand sedan. It was nothing fancy but the total interest over the term of the loan was more than I had spent in 10 months while travelling the year before.
Isn’t that interesting? I know a lot of people who have taken out car loans and wasted money on interest but no one ever asks how they can afford it.
Now obviously, I’m overly simplifying things and there are clearly reasons why someone might find it easier to get a car loan than to travel for 10 months.
But I’m not talking about practicality, I’m talking about affordability. It was clear to me that a lot of people feel that going on an extended holiday is unaffordable but that financing a car is—even though the actual cost was similar.
So if it’s not all about numbers, what else are we using to make decisions about affordability?
- Habit. We spend (or don’t spend) because it is what we’ve always done.
- Society. We spend (or don’t spend) because it’s what our family, friends and peers do.
- Our Aspirations. We spend (or don’t spend) like the person we want to be. (If you’ve ever felt a strange desire to shop for workout gear or kitchen appliances after a Pinterest session, you know exactly what I mean!)
THE PROBLEM WITH OUR SPENDING
The problem with this is that our spending ends up out of alignment with our values and priorities. Instead of using your money as a tool to help you live a life you love, you’re wasting it on things that don’t matter to you.
For example, let’s say that right now you’re in a really busy season of life. You’re working a lot, you’ve got a long commute, and you’re struggling to keep up with everything on your plate.
There are things you could do to make life easier—like hiring a cleaner. This would save you time and energy, both of which are in short supply right now!
Still, you tell yourself you can’t afford it and besides, it’s too self-indulgent.
Instead, you deal with stress by going to Target. You fill your cart with cheap t-shirts from the clearance rack, some new towels that caught your eye, and who knows what else. It’s OK, you deserve it and shopping at Target is cheap!
You end up spending $60 on random stuff … the same price as hiring a house cleaner for two hours.
Now, there is nothing wrong with spending $60 on random stuff at Target—if that is what YOU really want most right now.
But is it?
Or would hiring a cleaner and buying yourself two hours of your life back mean more?
What does a life you love really look like? Is it a home full of discount t-shirts? Or is it having more time to spend with family, read a good book or even to take a much-needed nap!
START BY AUDITING YOUR EXPENSES
To be clear, I know that not everyone can really afford a cleaner—but if you have any room in your budget for discretionary spending, then it’s worth taking an honest look at your choices.
You might need to spend less, you might need to spend more, or you might just need to rearrange your spending to better reflect your values and priorities.
You can start doing this by tracking your expenses for a few weeks or, if you buy most things on your credit or debit card, by printing out your statements.
Next, go through line by line and ask yourself, “How did this purchases help me live a life I love?”
Keep in mind that this isn’t about passing judgement on your purchases. I might be a minimalist, but if you’re a passionate record collector like my husband, then do it!
Or if you genuinely love getting your nails done each week, then there is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Are you getting your nails done because it makes you feel good? Or because you’re worried about what other people think?
In addition, be mindful of your priorities too. You might love getting your nails done but your real dream is to go on an overseas trip. Be careful you’re not trading away what you want most for what you want now.
RELATED POST: How Minimalism Helped Me Become Debt Free
SPEND ON A LIFE YOU LOVE
Once you’ve audited your expenses, the next step to mindful spending is to think about how you can use your money to your advantage.
How could you spend money to create a life you love?
- What if you gave up cable and saved up for a motorcycle?
- What if you stopped getting takeaway coffees and hired a personal trainer?
- What if you stopped going out for Friday night drinks so you could afford a monthly massage?
- What if you moved to a smaller house so you could afford to work part-time?
As you can see, it’s not about being frugal. All of these things—a motorcycle, a personal trainer, massages, working less—are generally considered luxuries and “un-affordable” …
… but how about we redefine affordability.
Can you really afford NOT to spend your hard-earned money on things that support your values and dreams?
Again, the scale and impact of your purchases will vary depending on your situation. I get that some people are struggling just to pay for the necessities—but if you’re past that point, then make sure that your mindset about money isn’t holding you back from living a life you love.
There are no right or wrong answers, but I hope this post encourages you to take a moment and think honestly about what you can and can’t afford.
Can you change your spending to bring you closer to a life you love? Let me know in the comments! x