As a personal finance blogger, I’m proud to list off the ways I save money. I use coupons at the grocery store, I eat leftovers from my side hustle. I’ve been known to go on month long spending bans. It’s a badge of honor.
There’s another part of the equation though. Frugality aside, I personally have trouble spending money. I’ve done plenty of stupid things to avoid spending at all costs. I am perilously close to miserly at times. Opening up my wallet, even for things I want, can be crazy hard for me.
Why do I have trouble spending money?
The truth of it is, I’m scared. I’m scared to spend money on anything other than the bare essentials, the absolute necessities. Even things that matter to me, like friends or causes dear to my heart, take the back seat when it comes to money.
I’ve been broke. I’ve been to rock bottom. It’s terrifying and not just because you can’t pay your bills. You begin to question yourself and your abilities. Things you thought to be true about yourself are suddenly up for debate. Am I capable? Am I smart? Wouldn’t someone have hired me by now if I was? Why haven’t I found a way to overcome this? What is wrong with me?
The sheer amount of anxiety and fear that comes with no financial security can be paralyzing. I’ve spoken before about the dark place I was in before I got serious about paying off my debt and taking control of my finances.
Paying off my debt gave me this wonderful sense of control over my life. I felt infinitely more capable. I felt stronger. Those feelings are now a part of how I identify. I know I can do amazing things. I love myself and I’m excited for my future in lots of ways. I’ve carved this life out for myself through a lot of hard work and I’m proud of it.
And yet. I still have money anxiety.
To be fair, I also still have a pretty low income. There’s just not a lot of money to go around. And while I do have a good sized emergency fund and several sources of income at the moment, I am acutely aware of how fast those things can disappear.
My safety nets are still pretty small. Disasters can come in ginormous sizes. Right now, even though I am out of debt and building my savings, I still very much so have a famine mentality when it comes to money. I want to save every drop. I want to stockpile cash. I both resent and am afraid of spending, because it means less money to build my cushion. It means I am still open to the risk of going back to rock bottom.
I don’t want that. God, I don’t want that so badly! I have worked really hard and I like where I am now and where I’m heading. In my mind, if giving up spending means more financial security, it’s a no brainer! Obviously I should forgo new sneakers and run in my two year old ones. Of course I should eat only rice and beans and vegetables for three months. Clearly I shouldn’t give Christmas or birthday presents. They all take away from my security!
It’s hard to live a full and generous life when that’s your mindset. I want to give birthday gifts (frugal ones obviously, but still gifts!) because I have some pretty incredible people worth celebrating in my life. I want to be generous with my time and energy and yes, occasionally my money. I want to be ok spending my money on things that matter to me.
So my trouble with spending money is something I’m trying to work on. I don’t mean I want to work daily lattes or a new car into my spending habits. I mean I want to reach a point where I feel comfortable spending on the things I know are truly worth it. I’m getting closer but I’m still a way off.
Frugal (or broke) friends: Any tips for feeling comfortable with loosening the purse strings when it counts?
For more on spending and how to do it in a way that won’t hurt your finances read these other articles.
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.