Letting Go of Spender’s Guilt


Talking about spending this week. Monday it was our year of tracking our finances and Tuesday it was my luxuries. Today: letting go of my spender’s guilt.

One thing I’ve struggled with since shedding a lot of our stuff is letting myself buy things.

I get anxious when I realize clothes need replacing or that I want to get a few things to personalize our apartment and make it feel like home.

I worry I will buy the wrong thing.

I worry I will waste money.

I worry it will break or not work or be in a donation bin in a year.

When you’ve seen thousands of dollars worth of stuff leave your home, stuff you never used or really liked, you start to look at what you buy much more closely.

Sometimes you look too closely.

I actually have to relax my grip on not-shopping now. It’s a strange turn of events from my online shopping days and the constant arrival of packages in the mail.

I’ve been missing fruit smoothies since we moved here a year ago. I have nothing to blend or whip with in our rental kitchen so I’ve been using a small whisk for whipping cream. I even attempted homemade mayonnaise by whisk but a forearm cramp lead me to abandon the endeavor.

So I bought a blender the other week. I bought it here on the island and when I asked about their price match policy they didn’t have one so they offered me 10% off. I didn’t bother looking at dozens of places online for the best deal. I read a handful of reviews, compared features and saw that this one met my needs and had a five year warranty.

I spent more on this blender than I would have in the past. This thing crushes ice and will whip cream and could probably blend batter if I needed it to. It’s done a great job with my almost daily smoothies of frozen fruit, banana and yogurt. Even if we end up only getting a few years use out of it ourselves before moving back to Canada we can pass it on to someone else over here that will put more miles on it. It won’t be in a landfill.

That’s one of the things I try and take comfort in when I buy things now. Even if I don’t get the full life out of something, someone else will. 

When I buy things now I try and focus on just having things that we like, that we use and that will last.

Someday I might not like them anymore but if they are well made someone else will.

Someday we might not use them as much but if I keep them in good shape someone else will.

Has anyone else had to relax their grip on not-buying after letting go of a lot of stuff?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Like this post? Share it:
  • I recognize those worries! I am getting married in a few weeks, and we have listed items on a bridal registry. I am trying my best to merge social norms and our not-quite-traditional outlook on owning stuff. We’d rather have far fewer items of higher quality than a large number of things that we could probably live without. All that to say that I have stressed to no end about which items to put on our registry, the appropriateness of exchanging the items we initially registered for to ones that are better suited to our needs, etc. Mind me asking what type of blender you ended up purchasing? We’re tempted to go for a Vitamix, but I’m still trying to sift through the difference between the hype and the potential!

    • I got a Cuisinart. It really does the job. The last blender I owned was a cheapy plastic single serve one I got from Target for $10. I got a six months out of it before the plastic canister cracked and it started leaking.

      Vitamix machines are mentioned here a lot and I have to say, owners really love them. I think if it fits with how you eat – making your own nut butters, smoothies from whole fruit and veg – it can be worth the money.

      PS. Don’t feel bad about returning registry items. I did that for a few things that I was unsure on if we would use. Then I had store credit if I wanted them down the road. Which I didn’t.

      • We bought a Kitchenaid KSB560 a year ago when we were looking at blenders. We were pleased with how well our used 600 pro stand mixer stood up to daily use for almost 3 years so we decided to try the Kitchenaid first since it was only around $100 USD. We have bought many blenders over the past few years but they kept burning out from daily frozen fruit beverage making for 4-5 people. We’ve been pleased with how well the 560 has held up for the price. I still want a Vitamix someday, but I haven’t been able to convince myself to spend that much on a blender so I keep an eye out for them at yard sales as my friend found one there used 15 years ago and it still works beautifully for her.

  • i have TERRIBLE trouble with this!
    it’s easier for me to have no money than some money. to go out to eat? i have guilt ordering. to treat my kids? maybe they could do without.

    there is no generosity in this mindset. i don’t want to be that person.

    thank you for sharing your similar thoughts!!

    • Some things I don’t have a problem with. Like it’s very customary within our social circle for someone to pick up the bill at a restaurant. Particularly if it is just two families. I find it really nice to be in the financial position that we don’t sweat that (this is very new – before getting out of consumer debt and before we moved overseas we just didn’t have the funds to be able to pay a large restaurant bill). We also don’t eat out much so it’s not a regular occurence.

      The thing I really want to get over is the anxiety about making a bad purchase and the guilt when I inevitably do buy something that’s a dud. I bought little Converse sneakers for my son and they have been terrible and are not fit for a toddler to wear. My saving grace is that he grew out of them quickly and the next size up shoe I had was a pair of second hand Geox shoes (very well made). But you, I’m still kicking myself for the bad purchase. I need to just learn from it and not buy anymore cute but ergonomically terrible shoes.

      • I relate to this. Specially when buying for myself though. My kids usually get the good shoes, which I have always considered to have to be comfortable and of good quality in order for me to buy them as compared to clothes or other things. However when it comes to MY shoes, I get the cheap ones that only look cute and end up getting blisters and not wearing them. In retrospect, after a lot of purges this year, my shoes have added up to more than I spent on my kids, not because they were expensive, but because I bough so many because they were cheap, that all added up was TOO much. And now, they are all in the garbage, I feel bad that I didn’t even donated them because I could not feel good giving something away that I knew would hurt someone’s feet. Shoes can actually damage feet. So yes, shoes are something that I’m afraid of buying, and I calculate it too much. I also feel guilty of buying shoes for myself. As a result I’m still using bad cheap flip-flops this summer.

  • I always think of this when I get rid of things. My husband likes to give people things because it makes him feel good to find it a good home. I remind him that whenever we donate items, they also find a good home, even though we don’t have the pleasure of seeing the faces of the people who get them. Kids grow up and they grow out of clothes and toys, etc. Hanging on to them doesn’t stop them from growing and changing. Passing on the things they don’t use any more gives someone else a chance to enjoy them. It also helps save the earth by recycling the things we have and keeping them out of a landfill. We also change. What we may have enjoyed or fit into a few years ago, may not be what works now. The money is a sunk cost. It has already been spent. So, instead of feeling guilty and beating yourself up for it, focus on how much you enjoyed it and now it gets to find another home where it will be used and loved.

    • There were a few things that we gave away or sold that really made me happy to send onto a new family. My wedding dress, Henry’s crib and other baby things. It was really nice to meet the families that were going to use all of our stuff.

      • I also donated my wedding dress, and something so personal like that, I really really wish I could have seen who it was given to. I almost wish I would have sewn my email address onto the dress so the next owner could send me a picture! While I don’t feel guilt about letting go, I feel n awful pang in my heart about not knowing for sure where it’s next home was.
        but for what it’s worth, http://www.bridesagainstbreastcancer.org is a great charity, and I’m not lugging around a box the size of a coffee table (which must remain sealed) for the rest of my life!

        • That is a great charity. Thanks for linking to it here.
          I’m so sorry that you didn’t get that closure/joy of seeing your dress with its new owner. Selling my wedding dress was a highlight from our big purge. I felt so good about it, the woman buying it was ecstatic about the find and the price. I’m also still in touch with the family that bought our crib and a bunch of Henry’s clothing. Occasionally I’ll see photos of their son in an outfit and remember that Henry wore it once.

  • This is going to sound lame, but here’s the set up: I work from home, I am plus size and I am heading into my last month of pregnancy (maternity clothes are expensive in general – when you are plus size they are a MISSION to find and spendy to boot.) Because no one sees me, I’ve been pretty content with wearing what I own (I like my clothes baggy anyway, so they’re just a little tighter than normal) and have been able to get by with buying only a few pieces for when I have to go out and about. But I told my husband the other day that I want to buy one more pretty shirt for an upcoming baby shower. Who knows how much wear I’m going to get out of it, but one of my husband’s co-workers is also plus size and is expecting a baby in December, so I’m cheerfully going to loan her my maternity clothes after my baby is born. Knowing that someone else will benefit makes me feel a little bit better that I’m going to buy a shirt that I technically don’t *need.*

    • Not lame. Great reasoning here and I remember all too well that “I’m pregnant why bother” feeling about clothing.
      Enjoy your baby shower and enjoy sending that maternity shirt along to someone that will love it :)

  • I am the EXACT same way and have been my entire life. The thought of purchasing things (more than like $10) sets me into panic mode. I am known not to eat at restaurants to save a few bucks. I often treat others at my own expense. I have huge issues allowing myself to spend or receive nice things. When I do get nice things, I often return them to use the cash for more practical things like food. Practicality only goes so far until you are just depriving yourself. I’m glad you got the blender! We are actually needing a new one (use ours almost daily…and went with cheapest when we originally purchased), but I have yet to get one due to the stress you described above. At least one of us got over it haha!

  • After my biggest purge 7 years ago I did have a hard time buying anything for a while. Then while we were at the store looking at a folding table to put into his playroom for crafts and homework that I had wanted to buy but wasn’t sure about bringing into our home. It was the 4th time that week we had been to the store. My then almost 5 year old son told me to just buy it. “He said Mom after we use it and don’t need it anymore if you don’t want to keep it around you can just give it to someone else. Everyone can use a folding table.” We ended up buying it. We used the table for a little over three years and then gave it to someone who had lost everything they had along with some other things we no longer needed. Since then it hasn’t been so hard for me, I just think about how the things I buy are high enough quality that after we’re done with them we can pass them onto others and it can get a lot more use.

  • Yes! Two examples loom large: we are in desperate need of a new sofa (as the one we have was free and is literally falling apart) and my wardrobe is a shambles. We just moved to NC from Maine, for example, and I don’t own a pair of shorts. I need shorts, bad. But it’s been hard to convince myself to go get them. We’re expecting record high temps this weekend, so maybe that’ll do it. 😉

  • I find that I heave to competing urges of ‘how little money can I spend’ and ‘ooh look a shiny thing, I WANTS it!’. Trying to strike a balance between being Scrooge like, worrying about whether a product is the most ‘ethical’ I can get, finding shopping around tedious, and being seduced by the new and pretty. Complicated- sigh!

  • Oh, I struggle mightily with this one. But I think there’s a big difference between a carefully considered purchase and a frivolous one. When you make conscious purchasing decisions, you end up with things that really work for you, rather than just a pile of stuff that you bought for the sake of buying it. The key is being able to let the stuff flow both in and out, rather than trying to hang onto it all.

    At some point I realized that I don’t really own any of the things that come and go in my life… I’m only using them while I’m here. And at some point, I’ll be gone and the stuff will move on. I’m just hoping that I can tailor my purchasing decisions to keep as much as possible from ending up in a landfill… or at least make sure it has a long & useful life before it eventually ends up there.

  • OMGosh, yes! I’ve had to become very mindful of any spending, I pretty much just get to shop for groceries anymore and even then it’s tough. A local paper crafting shop holds a “garage sale” of sorts for customers to bring their stuff they don’t want anymore, which is fabulous! And when your stuff sells, you get a credit with the shop. Just today I was in there spending my credit before it expires, and I realized I felt stressed and guilty, when it was supposed to be fun! I was so worried about making wise use of this resource and buying the “right” stuff (as in, stuff I will actually use). I finally had to tell myself, try to make good choices, then don’t worry about it! I bought mostly sensible stuff (like adhesive refills I use on cards I make), a couple little things for my kids, and splurged on an inspiring piece of reading material I look forward to sitting down with. Whew!

  • I have a really tough time with this too. Mine doesn’t really stem from spending in the past, I think it’s more that my family struggled financially when I was growing up, and I don’t want to make the wrong decision. I feel like one wrong move and I could end up like my parents. My husband and I are in the process of buying our second home and selling our current one, and it’s like torture–I have actually gotten sick to my stomach more than a couple times. I have trouble spending on things large and small. That said, I have never really regretted a purchase that I can recall. Like you, I try to best quality that I can afford, and it makes me feel really good when I can pass nice things on to friends or relatives when I’m done. I guess that’s what I need to focus on more.

  • I think the exact same way everytime I start to purchase anything. Will it be given to Goodwill next year, am I wasting money…. etc. After 18 mos of cleaning out the last thing you want to do is start cluttering back up.
    Funny, it must go with the territory of being a minimalist.

  • I can totally relate to this too! Partly it comes from living for a long time on a very limited budget and the subsequent obsession with ‘security’.

    Instinctively, I chose the cheaper places to eat out (when we do) and look for the cheapest thing on the menu! It’s not a terrible habit but when you are meant to be treating yourself, why eat something that you don’t even like just because it’s cheap???

    I often get kind of panic attacks in shops – particularly when I have a set amount of money that I’m allowed to spend, particularly on essentially frivolous items such as books (not frivolous but I could get them for free fro the library or almost for free from a charity store) and household decor items. It’s too hard to narrow it down to just 1 or 2 things when there is so much to chose from but no real criteria to use to chose. Often I will leave with nothing at all or only buy gifts for others and nothing for myself.

    For some reason for me it is easier to spend money on other people than on myself….I actually often don’t even like it when other people spend money on me, as I’m always thinking what the money could have been better spent on!

    But one strategy that does work, is to treat some stores like museums. I don’t go there to shop, I go there to appreciate the beautiful things and leave them there. I can go look at them whenever I want but there’s no need to own them myself. It’s helpful to remember this when I see another beautiful piece of china or a pretty cushion or blanket etc – how many could I really acquire if I bought everything that leaped out at me in the store? I have realised that I would wind up in a constant state of yearning, despite owning many beautiful things already. Easier to stick to owning the basics and admire the beautiful things in the stores and other people’s homes. Just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean I need to own it :-)

  • I have to really struggle with this and it surprises me because I was never one to buy superfluous things or items of low-quality in the first place! Now, though, I constantly have the word “curate” in my mind while I’m shopping and if an item isn’t just right, exactly what I wanted/needed/was looking for, it doesn’t make it home with me. This is a problem unto itself, since I am an extremely particular person. So in addition to letting go of Spender’s Guilt, I also need to make a few compromises: ) It’s a journey, right?

  • I struggle to buy things for myself, always have – even before I discovered minimalism. What used to happen was that I wouldn’t buy the right thing because I’d compromise (that was in the days when quantity overruled quality). Know that I hardly ever spend anything on myself now I don’t feel the guilt. I buy well and actually don’t think that much about cost. I go with ‘need’ first and ensure I’ve made the right decision, then I look to see how well I can buy it. I’m not price-led – which is an interesting by-product of simple frugality as opposed to bargain hunting.
    Here’s an elaborate term I learnt when studying for my marketing qualifications – post-purchase-dissonance. Always remembered it, probably because I suffered from it, an awful lot!

  • I’m so glad you mentioned Post-purchase-dissonance. I am really struggling with this right now. In this process of paring down, I am discovering I want to get rid of some items only to replace them with a more practical version. For example: I have a set of glassware I wanted so badly because they are funky and oddly shaped. I often like ordinary objects that have an extraordinary flair. Or I used to anyway. So I was gifted these glasses, 12 tall ones and 12 short. And I only sort-of love them. We really only use the short ones because the tall ones pose a weird balance issue when you hold them. Anyway, I would like to get rid of the lot and replace the 24 with 12 stemless red wine glasses, which I have long wanted. I have a newfound appreciation for things with multiple uses and I think these fit the bill: I can serve wine in them in addition to any other beverage, plus use them for other serving ideas like individual trifles or fruit salads or puddings, etc. It will probably cost me less than $30 to buy the new ones, yet I am paralyzed. Shouldn’t I just be satisfied with what I already have? Sigh. This also applies to other items: I want to downsize my gigantic ugly desk to a small secretary-type desk than can close up when not in use. I want to get a captain’s bed with storage drawers so we can get rid of our dressers. Is it okay to buy these items to replace bad purchases you made in the past? In my mind, these will be long lasting and long term items because my attitude about “things” has changed. Yet, I am still struggling with this! I discovered your blog purely by accident about a month ago and I just want to say how it has really opened my eyes and my mind. I thought I was paring down before but now I have a new perspective on this whole process and way of living. The changes I am making now are really having a positive impact on my entire family and I just want to keep going, so thank you for everything you share here!

    • Hi Carrie – Your quandary is so familiar to me. That is exactly the spot I was in early last year before we found out we were moving overseas. I had purchased things for our home that I didn’t really like or that weren’t practical and wanted to replace a lot of them. At the time we just didn’t have the money to do a lot of replacing so I just had to make do. Then we found out we were moving overseas and decided to pretty much sell everything in our home. All the furniture, all the not loved housewares. Very freeing but we will have to do a lot of saving and planning for furnishings before we move back.
      If you have the means and budget is not a concern, I would start selling or giving away the items and replacing them as you described. Make a list and slowly check a few things off each month. Don’t be in a hurry for that “done” feeling because it’s mythical. I never feel done but I feel better and I have less stress in my life. With a growing child I almost always have a box of unsorted clothes or toys that need to go to donations or get stored away.
      Don’t feel bad about wanting to reshape your home for a simpler life. Your tastes and needs have changed so your old furniture and goods won’t all meet your new needs. Nothing wrong with change.
      Good luck!!

  • I can absolutely relate to your quandary. Our family has recently moved into a smaller, more manageable home and we donated a TON of our belongings to charity. My husband, bless his soul, was pretty game about the whole thing. I realized the things were owning us and not the other way around! We kept what we USE and let go of the rest—such freedom in this way of life. Of course, being American, we are on the fringe of “normalcy.” Our culture is based primarily on buying, getting, and hunting for more, bigger, and better. How exhausting, physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually! I finally got tired of always having my antennae up and ready for the next “thing” I had to have. It was (and is) such a relief to have let that way of life go.
    So now I am very careful with my purchases. Rather than guilt, I look at each impulse to buy (they still come around, but are not as strong or often) as an opportunity to ask myself basic questions that I never did before:
    why do I feel I need this (the stronger the urge to buy, the less I need it!)? Do I have the cash and am I willing to part with that hard-earned money? Am I using shopping to avoid myself?
    What I have come to is that I only bring something new into my life when the old one has been completely worn out. That criteria saves me a lot of heartache and self-doubt. And I have time, energy, and joy to LIVE MY LIFE!!! :)

Comments are closed.