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How to Feel Less Guilty About Spending Money

Why Forgiveness Matters in Your Budget

In my house growing up, when any of the siblings got into an argument, you had to immediately say “I’m sorry” and the other person said “I forgive you”, and that was that. With five kids, I can’t say I really blame my parents for wanting to calm things down immediately, but that practice affected how I thought about forgiveness for many years later. I still sometimes tamp down my negative feelings instead of sitting with them, working through them.

As I relearn how to truly forgive, I often struggle to forgive myself for things I would easily forgive in other people. Like…overspending (aha, there’s the budgeting link you were looking for). If you’re looking for advice about how to feel less guilty about spending money, forgiveness may be your answer.

When rolling with the punches to cover overspending in your budget, there’s sometimes a tendency to square up with ourselves and not really roll. We feel bad, blame ourselves for our lack of planning or willpower, and aim to tighten our belts next month. We might leave overspending in our budget for a while, so that the negative reminder will “train” us to not do it again (like shoving a dog’s nose into its poop, which FYI, doesn’t work). Maybe we feel like covering overspending from another category feels like cheating—like we don’t really deserve to let ourselves off the hook.

Well, you do deserve that grace, from your budget and from yourself. Everyone has to adjust their budget—unless you’re an Artificial Intelligence bot that can predict the future, in which case, you could just make a fortune calculating your way to financial independence and never worry about budgeting again.

Sure, there’s a benefit to learning from our spending and adjusting it based on our long term financial goals…but we can forgive ourselves and learn, rather than holding resentment or shame over our own heads.

Taking the time to reflect on why overspending happened, and really gauge whether that was due to “laziness” or just an unexpected situation, can help us be more forgiving. Another word for this could be mindfulness. (Oh gosh, another buzzword? Trust me, this one deserves your attention.)

If you struggle with self-flagellating for your budgeting “sins,” take some time to sit with your feelings. Why are you upset that your budget changed? Do you believe that once your mind is made up, you can never change it? Think about (and even research) the societal messages you may be repeating, and whether they’re actually true for you. Is it a moral failure to grab a coffee on a chilly day, even if your Coffee category is already overspent? Most likely not. It could be that you need to increase your Coffee target to be honest with yourself.

Adding more money to your coffee category may be easier than consistently struggling with the guilt of overspending.

However, if you feel like your choice is between coffee and paying your rent, maybe there’s something deeper going on that needs your attention. Take stock of your financial situation and your stress levels. Are they in tune—or is your emergency fund just fine, while your stress is as high as it was when you lost your job or crashed your car last year?

Finally, if you find there’s truly something you want to change about your lifestyle, make a plan. That advice applies to anything; from how to feel less guilty about spending money to whatever other changes you’d like to make. Set an intention: when and where are you going to create that habit, or set that thing in motion?

Expect ups and downs along the way. Accept them. Learn from them. And forgive.

Creating a budget can help make more space in your life for guilt-free spending. Give YNAB a try for 34 days to see how it can change your spending habits to help you meet your savings goals.

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How to Feel Less Guilty About Spending Money