I’ve always had a hard time reading personal finance sites because I feel like 90% of the content doesn’t relate to me. Yes, I like money, but I hate budgeting and I don’t like focusing on cheap finds (though I’ll certainly take a deal when I find one).
For a while, I was ashamed of this. How could someone who likes personal finance also justify booking a last minute plane ticket for too much money or spending on indulgences like a housekeeper? I was a fraud.
But the more I started to own the fact that I’m pretty savvy with my money, despite what conventional gurus say I should do, I started to realize that maybe my lens on money was what made it work for me. And if it works for me, this view might work for someone else as well.
What is this lens?
I don’t like to look at money as something that must only be saved and conserved. I like to use my money. I like to spend it. But I like to spend it in line with my priorities and my values.
I spend guilt free on the things I love and cut out all the other things that I don’t.
Maybe it’s my take on financial minimalism. Or I’m bringing Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up into my financial life.
Either way, money should be used. To write your own rules, create your own freedom, and live life on your own terms.
Here are some things I spend shamelessly on that bring me joy:
We live away from family. Like around the world away from family. And we rescued a dog that has separation anxiety issues. (Side note – does anyone have any advice for that?) So if we want to go out to dinner and I want to actually enjoy myself, we take her to the sitters.
Is that expensive? Yes.
Is it ridiculous? Probably.
But guess what? Leaving at the intermission of a play we were watching because our dog was at home barking her head off and having a panic attack was also expensive and ridiculous. I choose the ridiculousness that I can live with.
Education, formal & informal
I was one of those kids that never really wanted school to be over. When I was transferred from a year-round elementary school to a school with a traditional schedule I cried at the realization that summer break was for the whole summer.
I haven’t shaken that nasty habit yet. I love learning. That’s probably why I studied for the CPA exam, then studied for the GMAT, then did 2 years in business school, and then started an online course addiction that is intense.
As I was paying my CPA renewal fee this week, for a license I will likely never use again, I realized that I spend a good chunk of change on both formal and informal education. I’m a nerd and I don’t even care.
Like every single person I know, both Jordan and I have busy schedules. Between work, commute (his), side-hustles, friends, we like to make the most of our time.
For us, that does not include cleaning or going to the grocery store. We pay for weekly grocery delivery, a meal prep service, and a housekeeper. And guess what? It’s some of the best money we spend. Some people love cleaning or walking the aisles of a store. To those people, hats off to you. My anxiety is at an all-time high as I wander the aisles frantically searching for butter. I’m not at my best.
Travel has always been high on my list, but as we are currently living the expat life in the UK, it’s taking up more and more of our monthly disposable income. We won’t live in Europe forever so it’s worth it to us to soak in the sights. Of course, we look for deals where we can, but if we really want to go to Spain for a summer trip, we’re going to Spain for a summer trip.
On the other side of that travel coin, we also miss our friends and family dearly. And flights to the US aren’t exactly cheap. Travel home to make the unmissable events (wedding, milestone birthdays) are memories that I wouldn’t trade for money. When that horrible credit card bill with our flights home comes at the end of the month, I might cringe, but I know I’ve spent money where I really wanted to spend it.
I could give you 85 places where I don’t spend money because they don’t bring me joy. I know I have a balance – I only spend on the things I truly love. My bank accounts are growing as much as I need them to each month (thanks to my non-budget, budget).
My reckless spending won’t be what you choose. I have a friend that would never pay for the conveniences I have, but she loves purses.
As long as it makes you feel happy and balanced, you do you.
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Erica Gellerman, CPA
Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: a weekly money newsletter you actually want to read. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she's not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.