Do You Deserve To Spend? Is It Ok To Splurge Even When You Don’t Have The Money?

I’ve been thinking about a type of spending lately that I think causes a lot of problems similar to impulse buying.  However, this spending is deliberate.  It’s emotion driven and it can get you into credit card trouble quick, if not careful.

Perhaps it’s at the end of a long week.  Work has been a rough road to travel and there have been other life challenges along the way.  But, you’ve overcome them and here it is, Friday, the end of the week!  You’re excited about the weekend and to finally have the opportunity to relax and have some fun.

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Unfortunately, there’s not much money in your account, but it sure would be nice to reward yourself for overcoming the battles of the week.  In fact, you reason in your mind you deserve a night out on the town whether you have the cash or not!

It would be okay to just put the expense on a credit card to pay off later, but it’s just not necessary to think about “how” right now.  You’re emotionally charged and ready for a celebration.

credit card

Perhaps you’ve felt like you deserve to spend for other reasons such as a nice vacation, or for treating yourself after paying off some debt.  But do you really deserve the reward if you don’t have the money to pay for it today?

Dangerous Territory

When we spend because with think we deserve or are entitled to spend, but don’t have the money, we’re entering into dangerous territory.

  • The behavior is selfish.  It doesn’t consider the impact of debt and stress on other family members.
  • It’s not a characteristic of financial stewardship, where we should be trying to spend or use God’s money wisely.
  • Emotionally charged decisions remove logic and reason that would normally help to consider the monthly budget and assess how much money is available to make the purchase.
  • The spending results in a debt hang over because it never really hits you until the purchase has been made or the experience associated with the spending is complete.  The debt is left waiting for you to deal with later.

Avoiding The Behavior

I think you may agree this is an all too common feeling or emotion experienced.  But again those emotions can lead to behavior that gets us into trouble.  How do we avoid acting out on the emotion?

  • Just don’t spend.  If you’ve worked hard to create a budget and are trying to accomplish goals; why let emotions drive you off track?
  • Find new ways to reward yourself that don’t involve careless spending.
  • Find an accountability partner.  If you’re tempted to use the “I deserve it” excuse, phone a friend.
  • Go somewhere else.  Really, if your typical reward is eating out, stay at home.  If your typical reward is shopping at the mall, don’t you dare go there!

Finally, what may be the best step to take is to think about the end result.  Similar to impulse spending, there is an emotion that turns into negative behavior.  So, to avoid the behavior, I think it may be most helpful to go to what the end result or outcome looks like in your mind.

I deserve a big screen TV because I just got a new promotion.  Ah, that sure would be nice, but I would have a $2000 credit card bill that I would have to make monthly payments on for the next “X” years and it would cost me “X” in interest.  Okay, that doesn’t sound so good after all.

Closing Thoughts

The truth is that no one really deserves to spend the money if it’s irresponsible spending.   I’m sure there are some pretty bleak situations out there and spending some money may help make one feel better in the short term, but unless the money is available to spend, it just leads to bigger problems.

Many of us work hard and it’s natural to want to reward ourselves.  But there are responsible ways in which this can be done.

How do you feel about this type of spending?  Do you find yourself into the trap where you feel that you deserve to treat yourself – even when you don’t have the money?  Tell us about it in the comments!

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Last Edited: 2nd July 2012

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    • says

      Ken, good point. Perhaps people generally take an “I/we deserve attitude” this time of year more than others. It would be cool to see a study of such behavior.

  1. says

    This is where control, and dedication to your goals come into play.

    And it is a key to staying on financial track.

    it is NOT OK to spend in these kinds of situations. For those of us who have not yet met our financial goals, isn’t this the kind of thing that had a part in where we are today??

    Maturity and money go hand in hand.

    You’ve got to find a better way to deal with the “long weeks” and other things that come up. Forgive me, but that type of stuff is called “life”.
    David/Yourfinances101´s last post ..10 Easy Ways to Save on Vacations

  2. says

    I think you hit on a very big aspect of this type of behavior: The idea of entitlement. Everything from advertisements to what we see daily leads us to believe that instant gratification is okay, and that we “deserve” whatever it is we think we deserve. We’ve reached a point in our society where we think having a big TV is a “right” and that we are somehow deprived if we don’t have two cars, or if our kids don’t have a Wii.
    Miranda´s last post ..Tax Time: Deduction vs. Credit

  3. thisisbeth says

    Some of my impulse spending is the artificial “need”. There are things I’ve never needed before that suddenly I must buy now. I “need” a wet-dry vacuum cleaner, in case a pipe bursts in the middle of the night. I “need” a new sweater because it’s really cold and my sweaters are getting old. I’m very good at justifying expenses.

    Really, I need to just get by with what I have. I have more than my grandmother ever did (especially when it comes to clothes!). I really need to save my money.

    • says

      thisisbeth, I think “I need” and “I deserve” are closely related, but still a little different, but they do get us into the same trouble, right? Perhaps we don’t need a fancy advertisement, or other to catch our eye in the store to result in an impulse decision. I suppose an “I need” or “I deserve” can result in the same buying behavior. Regardless of the source, we just have to learn to be content in what we have today.

      Jason´s last post ..Get Out of Debt: Common Characteristics of Those Who are Successful

  4. says

    I agree 100%. We definitely need to be responsible with our spending, and do not need to buy anything on credit.

    Also, you make a great point about doing something instead of spending. It is so easy to get into the habit of spending money to make us feel better or to reward ourselves. I think it is far better for us and our bank accounts to find other ways of feeling good.

    For example, exercise, talking to a friend, or figuring out what we are most grateful for.
    George´s last post ..Weekly Wisdom: The Do-It-Yourself Nation

  5. says

    We all feel the need to treat ourselves special from time to time, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem is that when we look for these self-rewards we tend to look to the culture for cues.

    The culture tells us that we reward oursevles with stuff. We see it on TV, at the mall and in other peoples homes, and we’re drawn to it as a default.

    What we really need is a ready list of rewards to give ourselves when we feel deserving. But there don’t need to be dollar signs attached to any of them. We can reward ourselves with quiet, alone time, a long morning in bed, extra time with family, a dinner at home with our spouses (complete with wine, candles, dim lights, soothing music), a night off for watching favorite videos at home.

    But this takes imagination, and our culture offers up rewards that are a lot like fast food–quick, easy, enticing, but not particularly good for us. We have to think counter-culture, which is not always easy!
    Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last post ..Face the Future Informed and Without Fear

  6. says

    Great job of addressing an issue most of us struggle with but don’t like to talk about.

    One way my wife and I prevent splurging is to put “spending money” in our budget and then pay ourselves cash each month. That way, we get to spend, but only until the money is gone.

    Also, we avoid credit card splurging by not owning credit cards.

    In other words, we know our weaknesses and try to structure some checks into our lives to help avoid a tendency to splurge.
    Joe Plemon´s last post ..How to Work Out Settlements With Collectors

  7. Nick says

    What about when you feel entitled to buy stuff but you CAN purchase it? If it doesn’t hurt our wallets, I still think there’s a more subtle moral hazard there.

    Maybe it’s a little sin, but it sure feels like one to me, and I catch myself doing it all the time. Saying ‘I did x, so I seserve to buy y” sounds suspiciously like “I did x, so I deserve salvation.”

    Most Christians are pretty good about knowing that salvation isn’t earned, but we sure don’t think the same way about our paychecks. We “earn” our paychecks, right? It’s hard to acknowledge that both our salvation and our money are blessings from the same source.

    My favorite passage for thinking about entitlement is Luke 18:10-14.

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