The Magical Art of Spending Money on Yourself

It is hard for me to spend money on myself.

Sure, I’ll shell out $15 for happy hour out with my friends, and I’ll buy a $10 clearance dress at the Banana Republic outlet, but ask me to spend serious money on something that could really improve my life…and I freeze.

I’ll give you an example: one of my new year resolutions is to meditate for 30 days straight. I’d heard about this new meditation app, Headspace, and I wanted to see if meditation would help ease some stress and anxiety for me. Well, it did. Word to the wise: Headspace is THE SHIT!

I tried it, I loved it, I knew it would vastly improve my life.

But a year subscription is $70…

And that just seemed like too much.

I spent days (and days and days) agonizing over it. $70 divided by 365 is 19 cents a day. But, if I only meditate once a week, it’s $1.34 per day. And once a month, almost $6 for a 10 minute meditation recording!

My whole life, the fact that I pause before spending has set me apart from most people. It’s made it easy for me to save. It means I often prefer NOT buying the thing I want than going through with the purchase.

BUT, sometimes it gets tiring to worry so much about a purchase. And why? I’ll spend $70 on a birthday gift, on a visit to the dentist, on my wifi bill, to fix my car…but not on reducing anxiety? Not on 10 minutes of peace everyday?

I’ve spent years thinking this was a positive trait. Thinking I was frugal, careful, unselfish, minimalist.

But that’s not true.

I can’t spend money on myself because I don’t believe in myself.

Ah, that sucks to write, but it’s the truth, and I’m not going to feed you, my readers, bullshit about saving money if I know in my heart it’s not true.

Whenever I have the opportunity to take a class, learn something new, sign up for a challenge, or invest in a service that would make my life better, I start to question if I’m worth it. What if I suck at it? What if I don’t show up? Shouldn’t I just do this myself? Do I really “deserve” this?

The answer should be HELL YES! But sometimes the voice in my head tells me no.

Do I believe in lavish dinners you can’t afford? No. Buying gifts because you feel obligated? Definitely not. Purchasing things you want on credit cards or borrowed money? Never.

But I’m becoming a believer in the magical art of spending money on yourself.

What is the magical art of spending money on yourself?

spend money on myself

It’s this simple:

Put aside a little money to spend generously on services that will dramatically improve your life. Spend on yourself like you’re going to be the next Oprah. Invest in yourself as if you were the hottest stock on the market.

I’m not going to tell you how much, or if you can afford it. That’s your decision. But even $25 a month could buy you a subscription to treehouse, some low-cost therapy, a ticket to see the opera, a meditation app, a weight watchers subscription, a gym membership, a class at the local community college.

I’ve been ruthlessly cutting out less-than-extraordinary expenses and taking on extra side work to build up a little Emma fund. I don’t take the money out of my savings.

It’s not a fund for drinks, gifts, clothes, makeup, or date night. It’s a fund to cover professional photos for my blog. A massage after a long work trip. A meditation app to reduce my anxiety.

One last thought for your Tuesday: every dollar you put in savings is a prayer for the future. So is every dollar you invest in yourself.

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    • That’s a great point Marlynn :) I keep those funds separate, in an entertainment budget…but I agree that investing in yourself is a personal preference – not one-size-fits-all

  • I ended up here after clicking a link on BudgetsAreSexy twitter stream and can’t help but feel it was meant to be. I’ve been cutting expenses recently and just realized, after reading your post, that I have focused more on cutting my expenses than ones that would affect my husband or kids. Thank you for making me think.
    Heather Stephens recently posted…Sexy Master Bedroom Design IdeasMy Profile

    • So glad that Twitter led us to each other :) I think it’s true that women are the first to give up small enjoyments so that there’s enough money for everyone else.

  • We have so much in common! I recently found Headspace and LOVE it! I also found the $70 for the annual subscription a little hard to swallow when my family and I have ambitious goals to pay off the rest of our non-mortgage debt by the middle of the year so that we can boost our emergency fund by the end of the year.

    While it is important to work toward meeting one’s financial goals, it is also important to have some balance and enjoy the journey. In 18 months my husband and I have paid off $76,000 of debt on a single middle class income. Sure, we have put a lot of “wants” on hold during this time, but we have also splurged a little here and there when there was something we really wanted. The point is to be intentional with your spending and aware if what you’re purchasing aligns with your values and priorities.
    Monica Louie recently posted…Turning Your Dreams Into Reality – How to Determine Your GoalsMy Profile

    • Holy shit Monica! $76K in 18 months?! (insert slow clap here)

      I have a post coming about putting your money where your values are…stay tuned :)

  • There is definitely a trend away from “extreme frugality” and toward spending on just those things that make for a good life. This thoughtful approach to spending is more sustainable because you are motivated to keep going when you feel content instead of deprived. We are happy to spend on things like travel, certain hobbies, or other expenses that are worth it to us, while cutting costs in areas that don’t matter much, like going to movies and restaurants often.
    Kalie recently posted…Life is Not About Your PreferencesMy Profile

    • I love your term “good life” – I feel like we’re all just trying to figure that out! Thanks for stopping by Kalie.

  • this is SO good! i feel you on so many levels, emma! it’s such a strange psychological thing about why we feel guilt when we spend money on things for ourselves. i’m glad you got the app-we’ll have to compare notes!

    i made a decision with myself a bit ago that my mental health can no longer take a back burner because it effects all aspects of my life. easier said than done somedays but meditation is part of it!

    (ps. oprah and deepak are doing another30 days free meditation starting march 16 i think!)
    chelsea @ the new wifestyle recently posted…Toast Portland – A Gorgeous Wedding ShowcaseMy Profile

    • Great point about mental health not taking a back-burner. That’s something I’m really really working on. And 100% YES to the free meditation from Oprah. Love that lady. I’m signing up right now :)

    • That’s awesome Cait. I love love love your blog and I’m so flattered that you stopped by. What writing course was it?

  • I have a really hard time treating myself, too. Reading The Happiness Project a couple years ago helped–one month, her goal was: Buy Some Happiness. Obviously not in a shallow way, but thinking about how to spend money in a way that boosts happiness. (She identifies overbuyers and underbuyers, and I’m the latter–I buy the smallest amount possible and then get stressed out when we’re low on toilet paper or soap or whatever, when I should have just bought enough in the first place, or never want to replace things and then they break and I get upset…)

    Putting money away for yourself is a good reminder to spend money on important things!
    Create/Enjoy recently posted…DIY All-Natural, Sensitive Skin Essential Oil Deodorant RecipeMy Profile

    • That is fascinating! How have I not heard this?! I’m going to get that book from the library ASAP. I’m definitely an underbuyer…sometimes making life WAY too hard on myself :)

  • I really identify with this post, thank you! I’m struggling to pay off a mountain of debt, but recently decided to splurge on fresh flowers every week. It seemed like such a luxury, until I realized how much beauty that $8 bouquet brought to my life. It’s easy to lose sight of the truism that life is about the journey, not the destination.

    • When you start defining what’s important to you, it’s amazing how many luxuries are attainable, and how many things that once were necessities now feel unnecessary.