Common Ways we Justify Spending

By Mike Peterson
In September 29, 2014

Common Ways we Justify Spending

Nothing derails a carefully planned budget faster than unnecessary spending. Sure, it would be great if we were all above temptation when it came to buying extra stuff that we don’t need (and can’t afford!) – but we all have our moments of weakness. Flash sales, special occasions, and peer pressure can all wreak havoc on our finances, especially when we come up with creative “reasons” to spend the extra cash.

Want to strengthen your budgetary resolve? Keep reading for a list of common things we tell ourselves to justify overspending – and how (and why) to resist those lame excuses once and for all.

The Excuse: “It’s a special occasion/holiday/celebration, so it’s okay to go overboard.”

The Reality: Special occasions are fun, but you have to remember that your bank account and your budget won’t take a holiday. If you tend to overspend on giving gifts, you can create a small “gift” category in your budget to ensure that you’ll have funds for presents year-round. Or, opt for low- or no-cost homemade gifts instead. If you tend to spend the most on things like food for holiday parties, consider paring down your guest list or hosting a “potluck” style feast where everyone contributes a favorite food.

The Excuse: “It’s okay to spend now – I’ve got that big bonus check/tax refund/raise coming.”

The Reality: If it’s not in your hand or in your bank account, it doesn’t exist. End of story. Because no matter how sure you are that your employer or Uncle Sam is going to come through, you never know what’s going to happen. And anything can happen: Your check can get lost in the mail. Your company can decide on an “alternative” bonus (like a fruit basket or a gym membership). You might even have some kind of emergency that requires a quick infusion of extra cash. You just never know – and that’s why you should never spend money before you actually get it.

The Excuse: “But I’ve been so good with money lately – I deserve a little splurge!”

The Reality: If you’ve really been “good” with money – as in, not spending more than you earn, putting money in savings, paying down debt, and building up your emergency fund – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a “little splurge.” The problem with this excuse, though, is that it’s often used to justify large and expensive purchases that offset all of that recent good behavior.

If you want to give yourself a little room to splurge, that’s fine – as long as you budget for it and set a strict spending limit. Don’t use the “I deserve it” excuse to justify overspending, and never use credit cards to splurge.

The Excuse: “But I’ve had such a bad/stressful/crazy week! I deserve a little splurge!”

The Reality: If you’re an emotional spender, you probably already know that purchases made in anger (or stress, or sadness) rarely help anything. At best, “retail therapy” provides a very temporary distraction from problems. At worst, it becomes a destructive habit that wrecks your finances and racks up debt. If you’re stressed, try some relaxation methods that don’t involve spending money: Go for a walk. Take a hot bath. Read a book. Take a nap. Call a friend. Do anything you want, as long as it doesn’t involve your wallet.

The Excuse: “I can just take the money out of my savings/emergency fund. I’ll put it back later.”

The Reality: Even if you really, really mean to “pay yourself back” after dipping into savings or emergency fund accounts, the chances of you actually doing so are very slim. The best thing to do is treat those accounts like they don’t exist.

The Excuse: “But XXX just got a new XXX – I want one, too!”

The Reality: Sadly, we never truly outgrow the “everyone else is doing it” mentality. It worked on us in junior high and it still works now when we see our friends and neighbors spending money on shiny new things that we can’t afford. But as adults, we’re able to think about the big picture – and we understand that blowing our budget to keep up with our peers isn’t the best way to build financial stability.

Remember that you don’t know your neighbors’ financial situation. They could be buried in credit card debt, or they could have saved carefully for a purchase that seems frivolous to you. And if your best pals’ money habits tempt you to spend, consider opting out of shopping- or spending-focused activities altogether. Still want quality time with your friends? Plan some fun, low-cost outings that don’t require a lot of money.

The Excuse: “But it’s on sale!”

The Reality: Unless it’s something you really, really need, you shouldn’t buy it – sale or no sale. If you find it hard to resist low prices, try to remove extra temptation: Steer clear of discount racks at your favorite stores. Unsubscribe from retailer newsletters and daily-deal services, and consider “unfollowing” your favorite stores and brands on social sites like Facebook.

The next time you try to justify blowing your budget on a purchase that you don’t need and can’t afford, remember that there’s no excuse for overspending or racking up credit card debt. Stop the excuses, stay on track with your budget, and avoid the common ways we justify spending! Your bank account will be better off.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

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