Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
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bandb4114
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Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by bandb4114 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:14 am

I'm 42, married, 2 kids 7 and 11. No debt at all. House has been paid off for 6 months. I make 65-70k a year, wife makes about 5-10k working parttime. We save 10% + our (old) house payment of $800 since we no longer have that obligation.

I hate debt and I had this thing about paying off the house. At the time my job wasn't going the best (new management) so I figured if I had the house paid for I could kind of tell them ....to put it nicely... buzz off if I needed to.

Now, my job is better. Thing is, I basically bought myself nothing in the past 10 years so I could take the money and get the house paid for. We did stuff almost every weekend, but nothing that cost much. We drove old cars, wore thrift store clothes. All the extra money I had I paid on the house. In fact, anything worth money I sold off. All my collectibles I've accumulated prior to that (baseball cards, coins, a couple cars I restored etc). Once I remember joking we could leave our doors unlocked because nothing in the house is worth stealing. It was kind of a good feeling.

I've tried to buy for myself in the past 10 years, only to turn around and sell the items, sometimes hours later. :shock: I even tried buying gold coins as an investment because I figured it was something I could collect and it’s still an “investment”. I bought and sold $1000s of dollars worth of coins over the past 5 years and never hung onto them long. I even tried storing them in a safety deposit box 40 miles away only to eventually sell them.

So lately I've decided (again) to reward myself and buy a few things. I have this pent up demand in a way, and I think I should spend some money on myself, because why am I working you know? I made a list and came up with about $5000 worth of some of the things I'd like to have back.

Yesterday, I bought about $700 worth of stuff (I have the cash and can afford it), and now I'm feeling guilty about it. :annoyed

I don't get it. Anyone ever go through this??

Edited to add: Many have responded with spend money on experiences. I do that for myself and my family. We're usually out and "doing something" just about every weekend and in the summer it's off the charts. There's tons to do and we're rarely at home or in front of the TV all weekend.
Last edited by bandb4114 on Sun Oct 13, 2013 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bottlecap
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by bottlecap » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:38 am

Do you sell things because you feel guilty or because you like the art of the deal? Figuring that out might help.

You've done an admirable job of saving. You also managed to spend time with your family, which is more valuable than any stuff. Relax.

If you truly have a mental/emotional issue about this, of course, we can't help. You need to go elsewhere. If you need encouragement, then you have it. There's no reason you can't buy something that you really want assuming your wife agrees. You've earned it and have taken care of your family.

I do wonder about the "pent up demand" - it almost sounds like you want to buy stuff for the sake of buying it. I've never set out to buy something, anything, without having a prior specific want or need for the item. If this is how you feel, then that is an issue. Otherwise, if you have something in mind and can afford it, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to purchase it guilt free.

Good luck,

JT

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VictoriaF
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by VictoriaF » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:41 am

Spending on good experiences provides a much higher level of satisfaction than spending on things. Spend money on experiences.

Victoria
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by chaz » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:22 pm

I like to experience assets.
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VictoriaF
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by VictoriaF » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:26 pm

chaz wrote:I like to experience assets.
You mean, not too hot, not too cold, not too high, not too low?

Victoria
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by reggiesimpson » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:59 pm

VictoriaF wrote:Spending on good experiences provides a much higher level of satisfaction than spending on things. Spend money on experiences.

Victoria

Agreed 100%

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frugaltype
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by frugaltype » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:59 pm

bottlecap wrote: If you truly have a mental/emotional issue about this, of course, we can't help. You need to go elsewhere. If you need encouragement, then you have it. There's no reason you can't buy something that you really want assuming your wife agrees. You've earned it and have taken care of your family.

I do wonder about the "pent up demand" - it almost sounds like you want to buy stuff for the sake of buying it. I've never set out to buy something, anything, without having a prior specific want or need for the item. If this is how you feel, then that is an issue. Otherwise, if you have something in mind and can afford it, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to purchase it guilt free.

Good luck,

JT
+1 also +1 to Victoria's comment about experiences vs. items.

I think you guys may have gone somewhat overboard with savings. Even when I was scraping by, I occasionally bought myself something nice, albeit not all that expensive. I think a chat with a (good) psychologist might be quite helpful. (deleted by admins in 1,2,3...)

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by gerrym51 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:05 pm

My address is---------- :mrgreen:

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LowER
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by LowER » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:59 pm

chaz wrote:I like to experience assets.
Good one. Still making me smile. :sharebeer

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by ThePrune » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:12 pm

What you are describing sounds very much like the psychological Money Disorder known as "Money Avoidance".

I serieously recommend you visit Dr. Brad Klontz's website Your Mental Wealth, watch a number of the videos dealing with Money Disorders, and take their Money Disorder Assessment. You should also try to read the sections in his book Mind Over Money that deal with Money Avoidance Disorders. This is an outstanding book for helping people begin to overcome psychological money disorders. I've read it several times myself, and each time I gain new insights!

Note For General Bogleheads: Many of you may be familiar with the field of Behavioral Finance that deals with the genetic, innate psychological biases ("heuristics") that everyone displays. (For more insight, read the Wiki article Behavioral Pitfalls.) There is an alternate field of study called Financial Psychology that deals with the financial disorders that some people develop because of their unique life experiences, typically experiences during childhood. This latter field is what my suggested references discuss. For professional level insight, take a peak at the Journal of Financial Therapy.

Art
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by GerryL » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:18 pm

I've always been rather frugal (my brother calls me a frugal miser). Buying on sale is a sport, not a form of deprivation. I recently learned that after a lifetime of careful saving, investing and luck -- and just a few years from retirement -- I am a lot better off than I imagined. Frankly, the realization was a bit unsettling. During that period I was grocery shopping and decided to pick up a bag of cereal, but when I look at the store shelf I realized the cereal wasn't on sale. Dang. Then I realized how silly that was and told myself "Just buy the @#$^& cereal." So I did -- at full price!

I doubt that I'm suddenly going to turn into a spendthrift, but I'm now appreciating my good fortune (and good planning). Get past the guilt and figure out how to use your money to make yourself and others happier. And, as others have noted, that doesn't necessarily mean 'stuff.'

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:15 pm

GerryL wrote: Get past the guilt and figure out how to use your money to make yourself and others happier. And, as others have noted, that doesn't necessarily mean 'stuff.'
The goal should not be to spend money to be happier, it should be to be happier. If that involves spending money, then spend money. If it doesn't involve spending money then don't spend money. Not internalizing consumer culture* is not a pathology.

* even the snobbish version that consumes "experience".

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by island » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:23 pm

bandb4114 wrote: Yesterday, I bought about $700 worth of stuff (I have the cash and can afford it), and now I'm feeling guilty about it. :annoyed
I'm curious, what kind of stuff did you buy? A big purchase, small items, collectables or?
Just wondering if its the type of things you buy that makes you want to return or sell them.

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BL
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by BL » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:36 pm

I wonder if you would feel guilty if you gave it away to a "good" cause? What about giving your spouse a gift she would really love?
I like the example above about buying the cereal even if it is not on sale. I have gotten much better at that also.
Paying for experiences is a good suggestion. Is there somewhere you and your spouse both want to go? Even a weekend trip that costs more than you usually spend, such as a great restaurant and fancy hotel, might be a good starting point.
Buying and then selling indicates something a bit more severe. Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.

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frugaltype
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by frugaltype » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:43 pm

BL wrote:Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.
That's because stuff looks different at home than in the stores' dressing rooms.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by LowER » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:51 pm

[OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek]

And I second the notion that not buying into consumerism is a pathologic process; it's better for you and the planet!

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by gardemanger » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:49 pm

When you are committed to living frugally, a lot of your mental energy/creativity goes into developing your frugal strategies - where can I get things cheaper, what things can I do without, what things can I do for myself, and so on. Being frugal often also takes more of your time - combing through thrift stores, fixing the car yourself, cooking from scratch, things like that.

Did you feel satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from living frugally? It sounds as if you did. I think when you've been successfully frugal for an extended period of time, buying something "just for the sake of buying something" is not going to feel satisfying at all. It doesn't require lots of problem-solving, discipline, investment of time and care, etc. It's quite possible you feel guilty doing this, not because you feel you're unworthy or don't "deserve" getting things for yourself, but because you don't feel you've "earned" the thing the way you're used to "earning" things. You haven't put enough of yourself into it.

Instead of trying to force yourself to spend a set sum on a list of things, maybe you could just dial back on the frugality here and there (it's not clear how much you've already done this) and pick out one or two presents for yourself, the ones that seem the most meaningful and that you think you'd really derive satisfaction from. I think you need an outlet for your energies and creativity most of all. Being a collector can be a real passion for some people, but is it for you? Would you rather make things, learn things, see things? What are you really happiest doing?

staythecourse
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by staythecourse » Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:58 pm

VictoriaF wrote:Spending on good experiences provides a much higher level of satisfaction than spending on things. Spend money on experiences.

Victoria
Agree 100%. Johnathan Clement always writes about that.

Everyone is wired differently. For me I don't enjoy material objects never had. Don't think I have asked for a birthday or christmas gift since I was 14 yr. old or so and that was in a family where my dad was a physician. I learned early on that I never bought anything that I wanted that gave me the long term happiness that I thought it would.

Now I would rather have the TIME vs. MONEY. The time to spend with the wife and child is what I enjoy more then anything I could buy from a store.

Also, I found out very quickly having less stuff in one's life makes it simpler to live with less stress. It seems the more stuff you own the more complicated your life gets. Not sure if others have noticed the same in their own lives.

Good luck.
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by The Wizard » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:05 pm

VictoriaF wrote:Spending on good experiences provides a much higher level of satisfaction than spending on things. Spend money on experiences.

Victoria
I agree with Victoria (as usual) but when you have two younger kids, it's good to temper your aspirations to things that are affordable...
Last edited by The Wizard on Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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GerryL
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by GerryL » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:06 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
GerryL wrote: Get past the guilt and figure out how to use your money to make yourself and others happier. And, as others have noted, that doesn't necessarily mean 'stuff.'
The goal should not be to spend money to be happier, it should be to be happier. If that involves spending money, then spend money. If it doesn't involve spending money then don't spend money. Not internalizing consumer culture* is not a pathology.

* even the snobbish version that consumes "experience".

Very true. But I didn't say "spend." I said "use." That could mean making charitable donations or investing with the goal of leaving a legacy. It could mean aiming to retire early in order to volunteer. It could mean many things besides being an enthusiastic member of the consumer culture. Sounds like we agree.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by jridger2011 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:11 pm

Don't forget to choose things that are fun. There is a limit to how much space you have to store stuff and stuff bought at discount prices. Unless setting forth to look for bargains and collecting stuff that has the highest resale value is fun to you, it's sort of a way to just burn time.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by reggiesimpson » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:16 am

frugaltype wrote:
BL wrote:Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.
That's because stuff looks different at home than in the stores' dressing rooms.
Finally an answer to that age old question.
Thanks.

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BL
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by BL » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:05 pm

reggiesimpson wrote:
frugaltype wrote:
BL wrote:Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.
That's because stuff looks different at home than in the stores' dressing rooms.
Finally an answer to that age old question.
Thanks.
Yes, and they should probably take a picture of themselves before buying so they can see themselves as others see them.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by VictoriaF » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:10 pm

BL wrote:
reggiesimpson wrote:
frugaltype wrote:
BL wrote:Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.
That's because stuff looks different at home than in the stores' dressing rooms.
Finally an answer to that age old question.
Thanks.
Yes, and they should probably take a picture of themselves before buying so they can see themselves as others see them.
You are not one of those men who get jolts of self-esteem by stereotyping women, are you?

Victoria
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by BL » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:30 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
BL wrote:
reggiesimpson wrote:
frugaltype wrote:
BL wrote:Of course, lots of women, especially, buy clothes and then return them because they change their minds.
That's because stuff looks different at home than in the stores' dressing rooms.
Finally an answer to that age old question.
Thanks.
Yes, and they should probably take a picture of themselves before buying so they can see themselves as others see them.
You are not one of those men who get jolts of self-esteem by stereotyping women, are you?

Victoria
Sorry, not a man. I just thought it was good advice, even for myself, though I haven't tried it yet.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by hsv_climber » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:35 pm

"Spending on things" vs "spending on experience" is a very questionable debate.

For example, anyone can search this forum and find Victoria's post on how she boasts about her new REI backpack. Sure, it could be argued that she has bought it to improve her future "experiences".
But then how is it differ from an NFL fan buying a big flat screen TV to improve his/her game watching experience?

Of course, Ariely, etc. all point out that our memory keeps the best parts of the past trips, while we'd get used to "things" and don't enjoy them anymore. Yet, I can assure you that I still remember the misery of my first long backpacking trip without expensive clothing and I've been enjoying and still enjoy wearing my expensive Marmot (which I've bought later on) on many other trips.

Bottom line: the most important part is to enjoy what you've got, since hedonic treadmill equally applies to new things as well as to new experiences. So, there is no harm in buying $700 worth of stuff, as long as you would not want to buy $1,400 worth of "better" stuff next year.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by denovo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:08 pm

If you're feeling guilty, give it to me and I'll spend it for you
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by leonard » Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:38 pm

hsv_climber wrote:"Spending on things" vs "spending on experience" is a very questionable debate.

For example, anyone can search this forum and find Victoria's post on how she boasts about her new REI backpack. Sure, it could be argued that she has bought it to improve her future "experiences".
But then how is it differ from an NFL fan buying a big flat screen TV to improve his/her game watching experience?

Of course, Ariely, etc. all point out that our memory keeps the best parts of the past trips, while we'd get used to "things" and don't enjoy them anymore. Yet, I can assure you that I still remember the misery of my first long backpacking trip without expensive clothing and I've been enjoying and still enjoy wearing my expensive Marmot (which I've bought later on) on many other trips.

Bottom line: the most important part is to enjoy what you've got, since hedonic treadmill equally applies to new things as well as to new experiences. So, there is no harm in buying $700 worth of stuff, as long as you would not want to buy $1,400 worth of "better" stuff next year.
Just thinking something similar. I can walk over pick up one of my guitar and play a song I enjoy or work to improve my playing skills. Sure, I spent money on a thing, but I can get improving experiences out of it. Is that spending on a thing or an experience? I could argue that spending money on one "thing" could give me thousands of positive (and a few negative) experiences. To my knowledge - there's no way to do that with a trip to Italy. Sure, I experience it and my enjoy it - but at the end - poof it's gone.
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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by curmudgeon » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:18 pm

It's good to sit down with your wife every few months and review your priorities, direction, and budget. Sometimes there are utility-oriented expenditures that will make your life easier or more enjoyable that will still feel more like investments than just "buying stuff". An example might be a new car. Buying a big SUV might feel like conspicuous consumption, but having a more basic new, more reliable car for your family might turn out to be valuable peace of mind for you or your wife. Maybe there are other things that are almost subconcious; like wanting to buy better cuts of meat, or getting a babysitter and going out once a week. When you weigh things together, you will tend to have more confidence in your choices.

It sounds like you've been living in a scrimp-and-save mode and it's become second nature. There's nothing that says you have to go and spend more, but maybe you can create a new target that puts some into your lifestyle, and other saving towards a particular goal.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by Randomize » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:30 pm

OP,

I feel your pain. My wife and I are still in school so even though I have a decent job already, finances are pretty tight while making aggressive payments on student loans. We pay the bills on time and keep up with the statement balances on credit cards but there's no slack there. Maybe it's because I handle the finances (and stress of juggling payment schedules with a limited checking account) that my wife is much less bothered by buying "stuff," so while she may spend a couple hundred bucks a month on eating out with friends or clothes, I feel like it would be wrong of me to buy almost anything more than the basics.

It sounds your past was similar? If so, it wouldn't be surprising if you have some kind of PTSD. If college could give us those darned late-for-a-final nightmares years after graduating, surely tight finances can yield similar results?

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by Greentree » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:30 pm

My mindset is pretty similar, and though I am going to go back and read some of the psychology links provided, I also think you are worrying about something just because it is different (and not necessarily wrong). I once went on a little spending streak and I just didn't enjoy it. I felt wrong for not enjoying it and then i asked myseld, so what's the problem? I like my junkie car more than any other nice car I've ever had because I could side swipe it tomorrow and not care.

Some of the most enlightened people who ever lived barely bought anything. I just don't think The Dali Lama, Ghandi, or Mother Theresa had deep psychological issues that explained why they didn't enjoy spending money. They just didn't feel it was worth their time and unbelievably, they had goals beyond becoming a great consumer. I would go with it and not worry if that's how you feel.

You could use that money to donate or to build up investments to provide cash flow. Then the next time your job heads south, you can have even more freedom.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by Ken. » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:03 pm

I also seem to not be spending money on myself, but never thought of it as a problem. But recently I've been thinking when you retire there may be some things you can no longer do when you were younger, so there are some things where it's probably good to spend money on while you can.

Have you talked about this to your wife? Maybe get her ok to spend that 5K, or agree to set aside some amount each month in your own personal spending account that you can use for whatever you want.

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by pjstack » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:15 pm

Buy yourself a good suit!

Advantages: You can't sell it 15 minutes after you've bought it.

You'll look good at occasions where a suit is appropriate.

A good suit lasts forever! (Men's suits don't really ever go out of style if they are conservative.)

Put it on occasionally and feel rich!
pjstack

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by Saving$ » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:58 pm

Band - Interesting post and particularly fascinating response from ThePrune.

Band - were you simply obsessed with paying off the house at the expense of all else? Did and do you continue to fully fund your 401k to the limit? I'm trying to understand if the issue is owning the house free and clear or good financial planning. Because there are those who would say fully fund the 401k before all else, especially with kids who may go to college - your retirement assets are exempt from counting as assets, and without that house payment, there is that much more they figure you can spend on college, so you really are best off funding the 401 & IRA's.

You write also about collecting things such as gold coins and selling them. I suppose you could enjoy a gold coin, but there is not much to do with it other than look at it and have the satisfaction of owning it. Unless they are rare coins..in which case the thrill is in the hunt and getting the deal and completing a collection of a set, etc.; actually having the item is just part of it. Are any of the $700 worth of items you bought things that you can enjoy over & over? Even buying a tool to help do a chore can make the chore more enjoyable - ie cordless yard trimmer or new food processor to make meals. Anything like that? Or some other item that will entertain you or give you pleasure in the experience of using the item? Or are you just purchasing things to collect them?

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Re: Can't seem to spend money on myself, guilty feelings

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:13 pm

A number of comments are related to psychological concerns, which is off-topic for this forum (medical issue). Several are off-topic comments and replies. I don't see this discussion going anywhere productive, but I think the OP has a good indication of how to proceed.

This thread has run its course and is locked. See: Forum Policy
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