July 24, 2024


This is a common assumption, largely because so much mainstream advice has a restriction or deprivation focus around saving money. If you are in debt, or have insufficient savings, the advice always seems to be “you’re spending too much and you need to cut back”.

Saving money and enjoying life should go hand in hand. Simon Letch

There are two major problems with this approach.

Firstly, it’s just not conducive to a very enjoyable or fun life. As a result, many people just give up. They are so convinced saving money requires them to give up their freedom, fun and enjoyment that they’d rather just … not.

This usually leads to unnecessary overspending. They could probably save money without compromising their lifestyle but, since they’ve already decided it’s not possible, they don’t try.

Secondly, this approach isn’t sustainable. Those who do try this approach may find it doesn’t last long, or that it results in feelings of anxiety and frustration over time as they find themselves living in constant restriction.

Most people can only starve themselves for so long until they eventually find themselves breaking the rules, or feeling pretty miserable and unhappy with their life. Luckily, saving money and enjoying life do not have to be incompatible goals.

One way to spend and save better is to align your spending with your core values.

Over the years, I’ve frequently found that people who have a fraught relationship with spending and saving money aren’t necessarily spending too much but are often not ‘spending very well’.

In other words, the solution isn’t necessarily about quantity but rather the quality of spending. When you only focus on the quantity of spending (i.e. spending less):

  • you start to feel exhausted, deprived, resentful, or you might start to feel like you are being controlled by your money (instead of the other way around)
  • you might go through cycles of binge-spending, followed by bouts of guilt and remorse
  • this can lead to feelings of failure: “Why can’t I save money?” “I can’t do this.” “I’m such a bad person, I overspent again.” “What’s wrong with me?!”

When you focus on the quality of your spending (i.e. spending well):

  • you feel more fulfilled and happy with your spending decisions (less guilt and remorse)
  • you will generally end up spending less (without feeling deprived) because you are focused on spending money on things that really matter (instead of spending mindlessly)
  • you will have a spending strategy that is sustainable in the long-term because you are feeling fulfilled and nourished, instead of constantly feeling deprived

So, how do you learn to spend well? One approach I’ve found that helps people strengthen their relationship to spending and saving is to align your spending with your core values.

This means getting clear on exactly what drives value for you, and what you need (financially and otherwise) to live in alignment with those values.

For example, if you value family, what does that actually look like in your life? Does that mean spending a lot of time with family? Or showering them with gifts? Is it more important for you to go on a big vacation with your family every year, or spend dinner with them every night?

As you go through the process of clarifying your values, and how you want to live these values, you’ll start to get clearer on the resources required to live in alignment with them.

You might find a big disconnect between how you’re currently spending money, and what you value. Maybe you say you value your health, but you spend a lot of money on fast food.

Alternatively, you might find you’re currently allocating resources to your values in ineffective ways. If you value adventure, would domestic instead of international travel satisfy that? If you value learning, could you borrow from the library instead of buying books from the store?

This process naturally helps you reduce frivolous purchases, emotional spending and impulse buying by giving you clear prioritisation. It also helps you increase the fulfilment you get from spending because you have confidence that you are spending purposefully and intentionally.

If it all sounds like enjoying life and saving money are not incompatible but complementary, well, that’s because they are.

Paridhi Jain is the founder of , which helps adults learn to manage, save and invest their money through financial education courses and classes.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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