I snapped a photo in the dressing room and texted it to my mom. “Should I buy it? I need new skirts, but I don’t know how much I’d use this.” I liked the skirt, and while sure, I could have lived without it, it would fill a hole in my wardrobe. I had enough money for it. But I did what I always did—reached out for external reassurance. My fear of spending money totally killed any pleasure I might have gotten from the shopping trip.
Luckily, I earn enough money to comfortably pay for the necessities in life, like rent, utilities, and healthcare. But I have a hard time when it comes to spending money on non-essentials for myself. I’m a pro at convincing myself that I don’t “need” that new pair of heels or a delicious-looking green smoothie after a workout class.
In some ways, I’m acting as if I’m still at my first job and pinching pennies to just get by. And while I know it’s good to be responsible and have money put away for retirement, I also feel like I’m missing out on some happiness in my present-day life. I don’t want to stop being financially responsible… but I do want to feel okay treating myself to a new outfit from time to time, or taking a memory-making weekend getaway with friends.
So, I talked to Bari Tessler Linden, financial therapist and the founder of The Art of Money, an online program designed to help people transform their relationship with money, and asked for her advice.
“You’ve moved into a new phase of life, but you’ve retained habits from your old financial identity,” she says. And while it’s not a “right” or “wrong” way to live (some people would say my savings rate is great and I should just keep it up), she asked me a few thought-provoking questions: “What is the balance you are trying to seek? Can you stretch yourself a bit to honor both the present time and your future goals?”
She took me through the steps she uses to help clients–of all income levels–find the right balance between enjoying their money now and saving it for the future.
1) Figure out where your fear of spending comes from
Many things influence our relationship with money, including our upbringings. Both of my parents are savers who shop sales, clip coupons, and get nervous about expenses like vacations and new clothes. While some kids do the opposite of their parents, clearly I fall right in line with mine.
I’m a workaholic and perhaps a save-aholic, who worries about the future–and feels irresponsible buying something that I don’t technically need. So, I delay gratification, telling myself to work hard and relish in the fruits of that labor later… but often, later never comes. I’m proud that I have a healthy retirement account, but I also want to enjoy the fruits of my successful freelance writing career.