When You Overthink Your Spending (And Everyone Else Does Too)
I am a huge fan of the Captain Awkward advice blog, and the Captain’s most recent column is very relevant to Billfold readers: “I’m scared of spending money and everyone in my life pressures me not to.”
I feel guilty when I spend on necessities – if it’s stuff like health, or personal well-being, I can ignore the guilt. I’m fine when I buy presents for friends. However, the more these items fall into the “personal wants” category, the more agitated I get. But I want to! I want to pamper myself occasionally, or buy new jeans to replace my old ratty ones, etc. It’s my money, and I’m spending well within my means, logically that should be enough. Sometimes I go ahead and spend it… but then I start rethinking my decision and agonizing instead of just enjoying it. Other times, my mind just doesn’t stop overthinking whether I should be spending that money in the first place, and I just don’t spend it.
Anyone else read that and think “wow, that sounds a lot like me?” (I read your comments, so… I’m guessing yes.)
This letter writer also has thrifty parents and frugal friends, so they’re getting a double dose of “well, I wouldn’t want to spend that money” and “can you really afford that?”
The Captain’s advice is, as always, excellent. She begins by suggesting that the LW create a budget in order to know exactly what they can afford (and what they don’t have to feel guilty about buying) and then goes in-depth on how to deal with criticism from family and friends, including this brilliant observation:
Competitive and performative thrift like this is a habit that’s often born in real deprivation and fight for survival.
Again—though I’ve only been broke-deprived and not poor-deprived—that sounds a lot like me. It’s been a long time since I was the person who timed her bus rides to off-peak hours because I needed those extra quarters to buy food, but I’ve been there, and it’s hard to feel not-guilty about taking the peak hour bus (or the Lyft) even when you can afford it.
Read the letter and the Captain’s response, and let’s discuss in the comments.