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There's No Such Thing as Cutting Spending

Why aligning your spending with your values beats 'cutting back' every time.

There's no such thing as cutting spending. 

No really, there's no such thing. You can't cut spending. It's impossible. So why try? It's an exercise in futility.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s say you come to me and say, “You know, we're spending $1,000 a month on groceries, and boy, we'd really like to cut that back to $800.”

Then I'd ask, “What are you going to do with the other $200?”

You're not going to throw it out a window, right? Of course not. So you'd probably reply, “We're going to use it for a vacation next summer.”

Oh, so you're going to spend it on vacation? Got it.

A megaphone for money conversations

Or maybe you say, “We're going to put it in our 401(k) to save a little more for retirement.”

Ah, I see. So you'll spend it when you retire.

Even if you say, “Well, we want to leave a little nest egg for the kids.” Got it. So the kids will spend it in the future.

All money gets spent eventually, my friends. There's no such thing as cutting spending. It's impossible.

Align, not cut

Here's what's really happening: when you say, “I want to cut spending,” what you're really saying is that you want to change your spending. And that's entirely different from cutting spending.

When someone says, “I want to cut spending,” what I hear is, “My spending is out of whack. It's not aligned with my values and priorities.”

YNAB: A chiropractor for your money

Think of it like this: if you wrench your back, the doctor might send you to a chiropractor to help realign things. YNAB is a chiropractor for your money. It helps you get your spending aligned with your values.

The YNAB app lets you create custom categories—like little digital envelopes for your dollars ready to spend on the things you care about most.

It might seem like I'm playing with words here, but words matter. How we talk to ourselves about money and spending matters.

The power of framing

“Cutting spending” is like saying:

“I've been spending too much. I've been irresponsible. I need to spend less. I don't know how to do this spending thing. I'm bad with money.”

That's a disempowering mindset and a pretty negative way to talk to yourself.

But you're not bad with money. You simply haven't aligned your spending with what matters to you.

Shifting from “I need to cut spending” to “I need to change my spending because it's out of alignment with my values and what matters to me” is far more empowering.

And you want to know the secret sauce? Here it is:

Money is hard when the only solutions to financial pain are negative solutions:

Cut.

Restrict.

Less.

Yuck. That's tough (and sounds a lot like the typical money advice out there). Money gets easier when it's aligned with your values.

How to adjust your internal money conversation

Instead of “cut,” your thought process becomes, “Ooo, my best friends will be in town next week, and we have to go out for tacos—that's our thing! I don't need new clothes right now; let's move that money to eating out so we can do happy hour at Tacos El Gordo!”

Taco night with friends

Instead of “restrict,” it becomes, “With three teenagers in the house, the grocery bill is climbing! We're putting $400 away for the next car, but $350 will probably be fine—we've got time.”

That's alignment. That's values-based spending. That's the YNAB Method. And that's way easier to engage with than cut, restrict, less.

So, friends—there's no such thing as cutting spending. It's a myth. All money gets spent eventually. You can spend it now or later. You can spend it on this or that.

The next time something feels off, take a closer look at your spending from an alignment perspective. You'll right the ship in no time.

Ready to bid farewell to "cutting back"? Try YNAB free for 34 days and spend on what matters to you—taco nights included!

YNAB IRL: Are you putting your money where you mouth is?

Whitney, a Budget Nerds commenter, shares how the YNAB Method is reshaping her... self.

Your rules claim to be about money, but they're honestly not. They're about defining yourself and your values. You say your value this or that, but are you putting your money where your mouth is? Are those actually your values? Starting on ynab really revealed to me that what I thought about myself didn't match my actions. By prioritizing certain budgetary categories over others, it helped me shape my values and become closer to the person I want to be. You're a self-help app, not a money app.
@blessedwhitney

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There's No Such Thing as Cutting Spending