Ramit Sethi, the author of one of my best personal finance books I Will Teach You To Be Rich shared an interesting money spending story on Twitter the other day. He’s been talking to people who are almost retiring and people aged 65+ who are retired.
He’s been asking them what they plan to do with all the money they have saved for retirement. A majority of them say “I’ll save more.” They don’t know how they will spend money they’ve stacked for years, money they’ve earned through blood, sweat and tears.
Ramit also has a fantasy. Something that is never taught by personal finance gurus and I’m yet to read a book that addresses it: teaching people how to spend money. Say what???
He tweeted that he’s looking for rich people (at this point, he lost me) to take around New York for 2 days to teach them stuff such as ‘where to get the perfect suit and why people eat at certain restaurants.’
Guess how many people responded? Keep in mind that he has almost 200K followers on Twitter. Only one person responded. When Ramit reached out, the guy backed off!
Ramit says these people just like a lot of us, have learnt three financial skills:
- How to save money.
- How to worry about money.
- Creating financial anxiety within ourselves.
Raise your hand if you felt attacked. I felt like he pointed out these three things to spite me.
Fear of spending money
Since I already wrote an awesome piece addressing negative money emotions and how to get over them, I was aware that fear of money is a common money script that messes up a lot of people’s lives. What I didn’t know was that it affects so many people, even the ultra-wealthy and retirees. So I went digging…
The fear of spending money or the fear of money, in general, has a name! Chrometophobia.
People who have this money phobia exhibit symptoms such as:
- Hesitance to spend money even on basic needs
- Avoiding activities that bring joy such as visiting family and friends
- Counting their money or checking their bank account balance every day
- Depressive thoughts.
Some people get physically ill due to worrying about money. You need the help of a mental health professional if you have such symptoms.
For those who don’t possess such symptoms but still constantly worry about money and have financial anxiety like myself, spending money is often accompanied by feelings of guilt. This is referred to as buyer’s remorse. It’s that feeling of regret you experience after making a purchase.
As Ramit teaches ‘spending money is a skill’ that we need to learn. One of the ways that I’m teaching myself how to not feel guilty about spending money is celebrating when I accomplish a goal however small. I have an amount of money that I spend on ‘fun and eating out’ every month.
What to spend money on
Before we dive into a list of what to spend money on, I have to remind you that the first step is always to have a financial plan. Having a plan, a financial roadmap that is aligned with your life goals will significantly reduce your feelings of guilt when you chop that money!
The quality of your life matters. Everyone deserves to live a dignified life. This life is not a rehearsal, you have just this one life. Life is for the living!
Purchases you shouldn’t feel guilty about
A few years ago, a friend, a man, shared that he was seeing a therapist. Since I knew that he comes from a financially well-off family, my first reaction was confusion. What could possibly be wrong with his life yet he’s never gone a day without food, never been sent home from school for lack of fees, has never had to wear hand-me-downs?
He shared that after breaking up with his girlfriend that he loved deeply and considered her to be the love of his life, he had tried everything possible to cope with the heartbreak but he couldn’t move on.
For several months, he didn’t attend his classes at the university which led him to fail most of them. He avoided his parents, especially his mom whom he has a very close relationship with. He gained loads of weight as he mostly ate junk food. He was depressed and harboured a lot of anger yet he’s a jovial person. On most nights, he cried himself to sleep.
Realizing that his life was on a downhill trend, he googled for contacts of therapists close to his home. After narrowing down on one and ensuring that the therapist signed a non-disclosure agreement, he started his sessions.
I remember him telling me that he would tear the therapy session receipts into tiny pieces and dispose of them in garbage bins before he got home. He didn’t want anyone to know or even suspect that he was seeing a therapist.
He shared, with a lot of pride, that the therapist helped him get his life back on track and he stopped being cynical about women and love.
I have never been prouder of a friend than I was that day! I told him that I was proud of him for having had the courage to seek help.
Another friend that I’m proud of…
While researching on purchases we shouldn’t feel guilty about, I asked yet another friend who is going through therapy why he feels seeing a therapist is a wise way to spend money. Would he advise other people to do the same?
This is what he had to say…
“We live in an age where people chase clout at whatever expense to just keep up with the ‘kings’. So people compare their life progress with others older or younger than them and end up trying to keep up. The fake display of success on social media has so many people believing that is real-life and some imagine they have to get there at whatever cost. Thus the cycle of debt and the irrational expenditure.
With this comes anxiety that you have not achieved certain goals at a certain age and the get rich quick facade starts coming in you. In short, you create a cycle of messes because to start with you failing to acknowledge who you are, where you are and what you are about. You got sucked in a comparison cycle. You got sucked in spending modes to impress images that don’t actually matter in real life. You try to create a story that people will believe only to realize you are lying to yourself and to your finances. You are making no progress in life. You are spending on things that don’t matter tomorrow. Thus the anxiety and possible depression if your income streams go down and you have no way to impress your supposed online supporters that you call ‘fam’.
You need to start getting yourself back on track, to realize what it is that triggers you, what your impulses are because in the end, in the process of ignoring your underlying issues, you will try a lot of temporary fixes only to realize you are hungry for more. It’s like a pill that keeps making you ill. You create addictions to cover up your messes, those that you don’t want to deal with, to help you forget the mess you are in. Thus impulsive spending behaviour. You stop thinking about tomorrow and you say YOLO.
Therapy helps you come to terms with yourself in a nonjudgmental way. You speak to someone because you want to understand why you are acting like that around other people and you start helping yourself learn to impress you, learn to say no, learn to be courageous to walk away if it calls for it, learn to take control of your mental inclinations and your habits.
I am better off saying a lot of nos nowadays. I am better at not trying to impress anyone. I don’t spend on what will not add value to me tomorrow. I exercise more and I eat healthier…I spend time with retrospection and have learnt to know control.”
And now to my story…
I’m yet to see a therapist though I do know that I have gone through some life situations, such as a time I was robbed at gunpoint which left me shaken to date, that require me to see one. Therapists in Dubai are hella expensive, I cannot afford it at the moment. This is one of the reasons I’m putting in the hours in my hustles so that I can afford one soon.
When I do sign up for therapy, I’ll come back here and report my findings.
I also use relaxing essential oils for stress and anxiety when I want to fully relax or when I’m meditating. I use an oil burner and tea light candles to burn the oils as inhaling them for a while gives the best relaxation.
You can also get the Pure Aroma Essential Oils on Jumia.
Please note that this is not a replacement for therapy but this is how I’m taking care of my mental health at the moment before I can get to a financial position to afford therapy.
Therapy should not be associated with shame, and if you can afford to see the most expensive therapist there is, do it. Give yourself permission to live your best life free from trauma.
2. Books and online subscriptions that you actually read/use.
A friend asked me how I manage to read 30+ books in a year. I told her that my identity is tied to how much I read. If I don’t read, I feel off-balance, like something is missing in my life.
Reading to me is like breathing, I just can’t live without it. The to-read list keeps getting longer and I keep panicking that I don’t have time to read all my babies!
Reading works your brain muscles, which is a way to exercise your brain just like the way you exercise the other parts of your body. Books help you learn to have more nuanced conversations, provide wisdom to help you navigate this sometimes complex world, help you find the meaning of your life, and skyrockets your confidence…
It’s mandatory that you keep your brain engaged as you grow older. This habit can prevent and delay the onset of dementia and balance impairment. Generally, continuous learning improves your health.
Books are portable happiness!
I pay for Medium subscription because I believe in supporting writers. The platform is valuable to me. I read more than 3 stories in a month which is the limit for a free subscription. At some point, I got tired of reading in incognito mode.
If you’re looking to up your reading game this year, here is what you should definitely start with:
Best Books of 2020 and What to Read in 2021
3. Laptop or whichever tool makes your work life easier
How many hours do you spend working on your laptop in a day?
I’m on my laptop for more than 10 hours a day. As soon as I finish my 9 to 5 job, I hop on here to write these articles and other activities to make sure this blog is running smoothly.
If you spend that much time on your laptop, then the last thing you need is a slow machine. It becomes a pain, a complete waste of time and hinders your productivity. Our laptops are our livelihoods.
A laptop is something you should definitely budget for to get the best you can afford, and you shouldn’t feel guilty. The return on investment for this one item will be seen in the quality of work that you produce and your efficiency at work.
This is a lesson I learnt the hard way as I’m the type of person who will wait until the machine has completely broken down before I replace it even though I’m suffering due to the slow speed.
4. A good mattress
Old mattresses are unhygienic. When you sweat at night, the sweat accumulates in the mattress which leads to the build-up of mold. Mold leads to spores which cause some health issues such as allergies.
An overly worn-out mattress will have you waking up with backaches and sore joints. A bad mattress will lead to terrible sleep which also contributes to body pain.
If I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep, I will be dysfunctional, groggy, moody and clumsy all day.
I’ll also be overly distracted at work, and will check the clock and my phone multiple times wishing for time to pass faster so that I go home to my bed.
Then there’s the slight headache; a strong cappuccino helps with this sometimes but not always.
Such days end up being a waste of time, with no productive and quality work done. There’s also guilt at the end of the day when I think of all the time I wasted.
Create for yourself a proper sleep routine that ensures you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by getting yourself a good quality mattress and a memory foam/cotton pillow.
Other must-have sleep products for a better night’s rest
I’m I the only one who can’t fall asleep without playing soothing rain sounds? This white noise machine has over 30 soothing sleep sounds. It’s also small enough to carry when you travel.
The white noise machine is also available on Jumia.
If you have trouble falling asleep, this is a great option for you according to this study. Weighted blankets make it easier to calm down which helps in reducing anxiety. Less anxiety=best sleep of your life!
What’s worse than being woken up at 6 am by morning sunlight? Especially on your day off!! With blackout curtains, you don’t have to curse at the sun anymore! Yaaay to more blissful mornings!
e. Air Purifier
Air purifiers filter pet dandruff, allergens, dust, lint, mold and all other particles in the air. This product creates a better sleeping environment if you have allergies or are sensitive to air quality.
You should be deliberate, with no inch of guilt, about about optimizing your bedroom for the best and longest sleep.
5. Good quality shoes, especially quality sneakers for exercise.
I’m sure you’ve heard the classic advice that you should invest in the three items that come between you and the ground: shoes, a mattress and tyres!
Most of us need to summon the gods for us to be motivated enough to exercise. They’re more fun things we could be doing during the 30 or more minutes we’re required to exercise per day but hey, it’s part of adulthood. Most times we have to do things we don’t enjoy because they’re beneficial to our health, wellness and productivity.
Exercise is easier when you’re in comfortable shoes. There’s no need to suffer twice!
6. Dental care
Dentists advise that you should have a dental appointment once every six months. But a lot of us don’t, especially men.
A visit to the dentist is expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance or if your health insurance at work doesn’t cover dental visits.
My job doesn’t cover dental visits, which is one of the reasons I value saving up for an emergency fund. A dental check-up every 6 months is not an emergency per se, but since it’s an expensive procedure, I sometimes use my emergency fund to cover this cost. I believe we all know how painful a toothache can get so again, it’s an emergency that you have an emergency fund!
Taking care of your teeth by using the right toothbrush to brush at least twice a day, using teeth wipes, papermints will save you money in the long run by reducing the number of times you visit the dentist as your teeth will be free from cavities and other issues.
7. Gynaecologist and urologist visits
A visit to your gynae or urologist should be part of your annual (or however long your specialist recommends) financial plan.
These visits are important for not just treating but also preventing any reproductive health problems.
8. Internet connection
What is more annoying in this day and age than having slow and unreliable internet connection?
The speed of your internet affects your mood, the quality of your work, and when used right the general quality of your life.
When I moved into my current apartment, I had so many bills to pay within the first two months that I just couldn’t afford to get a home internet connection. I asked my neighbour if she was willing to cost-share the bill as her internet connection was super strong from my house. She agreed to share the internet and didn’t charge me for it!
As much as this is an article on how to better spend your money, you should always be on the lookout for deals and cost-sharing opportunities!
I bought a TV stand from IKEA and since I didn’t want to pay for them to assemble it, I had to wait for almost two weeks for a friend to come over with his toolbox to help me assemble it! Pretty sad since IKEA stuff has clear instructions which means anyone can assemble the furniture as long as you have a well-equipped toolbox.
This is one of the items that we (especially girls!) never think of buying until we have a broken sink that we can easily fix.
Having a toolbox saves you money since you don’t always have to call an expensive plumber or handyman.
It’s also important as an adult to learn how to fix and repair basic stuff. It’s a life-survival skill that comes with a side of independence!
10. Kitchen items
This advice is coming from someone who doesn’t really enjoy cooking so you probably should skip this one or take this advice with a pinch of salt!
Either way, I cook because I know eating out is too damn expensive and I don’t want to jeopardize my financial freedom journey.
It’s harder to build good habits such as making healthy home-cooked meals if you don’t have good kitchenware. It’s especially harder if you don’t enjoy cooking! Same way that exercising is harder if you don’t have a good pair of well-supportive shoes.
If you’re looking to refresh your kitchenware this new year, here is a list of affordable items you should check out.
11. Health insurance
For a lot of us, we’re one serious illness away from poverty or filing for bankruptcy. The government is supposed to offer good healthcare systems, and we should call out the government on failing us on this one.
In the meantime, since we have to do what we have to do, getting yourself good health insurance should be a financial priority.
Before you start thinking about investing, get yourself health insurance. You don’t want to be in a position where you have to liquidate your investments every time you’re sick. This means losing out on compounding which is one key reason we invest anyway.
And don’t just go with the cheapest option, ask for quotes from various providers, take your time to pick one that suits your lifestyle while paying attention to any pre-existing conditions.
12. Legal fees
To people who draft legal contracts, is it entirely impossible for you guys to write contracts that people who haven’t studied law can understand?!
As we wait for our learned friends to answer, you should consider paying legal fees to a lawyer so that they can proofread contracts for you to ensure that you ain’t getting a raw deal.
These could be employment or investment contracts. The cost of not paying these fees is usually more expensive in the long run.
The law is emotionless, it doesn’t care how you felt or what you were going through at the time you signed a contract. It only cares for facts and objectivity.
All successful people I know have coaches.
A coach is “someone whose job is to teach and help improve at something.”
Successful people know that you need the support, wisdom, different perspective and accountability of a coach. Some have multiple coaches for different areas of their lives such as financial, career, fitness, mental.
You need other people in order to succeed. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out everything on your own, pay someone who is world-class in the area that you’re struggling with. Yes, most of these coaches are expensive, but if you can afford it, pay for it and don’t feel guilty about it. Upgrading your life is an everyday job that requires money.
I help people who are struggling with debt, people who are unable to make budgets that work, people who want to grow their savings, people who want to improve the quality of their lives and people who are looking to diversify their investment portfolio to attain financial freedom by offering personalized financial advisory.
“Just as people have for years been employing personal trainers to help them get fit and lose weight, so too achieving goals can be accelerated by using an advisor or coach to apply similiar principles to success in life.” – Paul Dolan
There are people who feel guilty after giving away their money especially if they were pressured to do so, gave more than they could afford, or hadn’t budgeted for it.
Your budget should include a Charity budget. Decide how much money you can comfortably give to family, friends or charities that you care about.
Learn to say no when you’ve exhausted your charity budget and have the people in your life understand that you plan for your money and you’re doing your best to support.
15. Self-care stuff like massages and travelling!
My former boss used to get a massage every weekend. Then he’d proceed to tell us how relaxed his back was and how much tension this self-care routine releases therefore allowing him to be more productive. He’d tell us this during weekly team meetings.
You should have seen me rolling my eyes and shouting in my head ‘how about you pay us enough to afford such luxuries?!’
Anyway, that experience also taught me that massages are a must-have! Massages are what I picture when someone says ‘work hard & play hard!’ because we do work hard, yes? We deserve a soft life once in a while.
On travelling, it’s our birthright to globe trot the world! Plan for it, save for it and move!
16. Comfortable workspace
This one shouldn’t be debatable. An uncomfortable chair will lead to back & neck aches, cramping, stiffness, extreme fatigue and interrupted workflow.
Seeing that adulting equals work, you shouldn’t have to spend so many hours sitting in an uncomfortable workspace.
Upgrade your workspace to get more work done in a short period of time and to avoid the long-term medical effects an uncomfortable chair causes.
It takes time to get to a place where buyer’s remorse is not your constant companion every time you buy something. It takes deliberate work to get over all the negative money emotions you have accumulated so far.
Don’t buy aspirationally. Buy these items based on who you are and what your needs are. If you don’t need to cook, then it’s a waste of money to have a fully stocked kitchen.
To avoid any form of guilt or regrets, start by building the habit (e.g. mastering an exercise routine) then buy the item (exercise sneakers).
Lastly, work on having control over your money so that you can intentionally spend on what’s important to YOU. If you need help making a purchase decision, this is a great article with questions to guide you through the process.
What did I leave out? Which purchases should we never feel guilty about?
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