Create your Guilt Free Money Zone
“Life is to be ENJOYED, not just endured.” Likesuccess.com
10 second summary: Create a guilt-free money zone by budgeting every month for “fun money.” Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived! Set aside some money for YOU, some money to spend as a family, and some money for gifts/holidays/spending on others. Use cash only and when it’s gone, stop spending. But find great enjoyment in spending the heck out of it!!
Guilt Free Money Zone
When it comes to spending money, do you ever feel guilty? Sometimes it seems like everywhere we turn, money advice is flying around, making us feel guilty for spending too much, not saving enough, and not having everything perfectly under control.
Now don’t get me wrong, we need to be good stewards of our money, and have plans for spending and saving. But we should also make specific plans for enjoying our money and sending that guilt flying right out the window.
I’ve heard it said that people naturally fall into one of two different categories—“spenders” or “savers.” And that if you’re married, usually you’re one way and your spouse is the other. So true! I’m the “saver” and my sweetheart is the “spender.” That means I have a natural tendency to feel guilty and stressed out if I spend money…or I used to before I started my guilt-free plan below. No more guilt, now I enjoy spending money.
Did you know that enjoying our money is encouraged in the bible? “And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13 Some say that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived—and the richest! Either way, Jesus also says “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV). Another translation says “My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10 NLT)
There can be balance in all things, including our money. So today, let’s focus on simple ways to create a guilt-free money zone and enjoy spending some hard-earned cash.
Step 1: Putting Our Money Priorities in Order
You may have heard that we should:
- Put God first with our finances (tithes and offerings, followed by giving charitable donations) and…
- Save second (emergency fund, retirement fund)
I recommend we prioritize the rest of our budget this way:
3. Spending money (for each family member, family as a group, gifts for family and others)
4. Bills and other necessary stuff
Woah, Nellie, putting spending money BEFORE bills and other necessary stuff? Really? Is that smart and responsible?
Because it works.
We work hard for our money and deserve to enjoy a little bit of it! By creating spending money and a purposeful guilt-free spending zone, we’ve injected balance and FUN into our budget. It’s the same concept as those food diets that allow you to eat a little bit of chocolate or some cake or other treat, to help you stick with the plan and feel rewarded and not cheated.
Budgets that don’t include “fun money” are, well…just no fun. They don’t tend to work because it’s only human for us to want to splurge a little sometimes. If we’re too restrictive with ourselves, we’ll struggle to stay inside the boundaries and guidelines we create and something will blow up. Budgets will be too unrealistic to stick to, and we’ll get defeated and discouraged, and likely give up. Or we’ll struggle with guilt and stress, lacking financial peace.
The opposite is also true. By budgeting for a little bit of fun, your budget and budgeting process becomes something you and the whole family actually look forward to! I love it when my husband says “is it time for us to get our spending money yet?” because I know we’ve created a good, fun routine that works for us and has helped us really stick to the budgets we create…and gain true financial traction (aka slowly getting out of debt and building up our savings account).
Creating a budget is a topic for another day, but if you don’t have one or are looking for some easy new tips, try out SmartSheet.com’s free resources including their Top Excel Budget Templates. My favorite which I recommend is their Zero Based Budget Spreadsheet. I created a sample one below and highlighted my 3 recommended guilt-free spending categories in GREEN:
Using this budget spreadsheet is super-easy and pretty self-explanatory; just fill out the Budget column with your targeted amounts for the month, for both Income and Expenses. The budget should balance to zero at the end (bottom-left where it says Total Budgeted Balance), meaning you’ve given a purpose and place to direct every dollar. If there’s some left at the end, allocate it to paying off debt, put it in savings, or…set aside a little more to spend! (Fill in the spreadsheet in the priority order listed above: #1 tithe, #2 saving, #3 spending, #4 bills and necessities. Adjust dollars up or down where you can until you have things in balance.)
OK, so back to the three categories I recommend for guilt-free spending. I’ve included the actual amount my family sets aside to spend in each category below—your numbers can be higher or lower as you and your income/budget choose:
- Money just for YOU. Create a money-to-spend-on-whatever-the-heck-you-want column for each family member. (In the example above, mine’s in the Other categories towards the bottom–$75 per month per adult, $20 per child in my house).
- Money for family spending. We call this “family date money” and we love it! See ideas of how we spend ours below…for the past few years my family’s budget for this category has been $70 per month, which includes $10 for Hulu (no cable = more to spend on other stuff).
- Money for gifts. This section of the budget includes Christmas, birthdays, co-worker/friend birthdays, our wedding anniversary, and anything else super-important we may forget about. It doesn’t include monthly holidays like Valentine’s Day or Easter, we set aside a little money for those on the month they come up. Over the years this amount has fluctuated for us anywhere between $50 and $150 per month on average…again, what works for you and your budget may be completely different from ours, so no guilt involved here, please! The example budget above is $100 monthly.
Grand total of guilt-free monthly spending money in this example is…$340. Again, adjust yours up or down as needed.
Step 2: Guilt-Free Spending Rules of the Road
Let’s lay down some rules-of-the-road here. If you follow these, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy and benefit from your guilt-free spending money. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s that simple. And I know because I’ve personally tested each of these in both directions and almost instantly regretted deviating from any.
- Commit to NO-JUDGMENT, GUILT-FREE SPENDING for all family members. Each person’s personal spending money is personal. Respect it. No judging what your spouse or kids bought or how foolish or silly you think it may be. That’s part of the point. This is YOUR money and THEIR money for whatever in the world you want to spend it on. As long as it’s not illegal or unethical, anything goes. (My husband collects watches…to me, they all look the same. That’s not my business…as long as he’s got the cash, he buys what he wants. I often blow most, sometimes all, of mine on coffee and lunch with friends. Not for anyone to judge—I value the experiences and feel “rich” and guilt-free when I’ve got cash in hand to pay for a girls day out.)
- Use cash only. It’s easier to track, and you’ll know for an absolute fact when it’s gone so you won’t overspend. Cash-only, please. If you want to buy something online, save up for it with your “allowance money” then turn it back into your “family bank” to be re-deposited and the purchase debited from your account. Some of my friends say that one benefit of the “cash only” plan is that their spouse can’t see and judge them for where they spent it (thinking Starbucks…). I’m not advocating that particular reason, but hey, if it helps you avoid the “no-judgment” thing then that’s just another benefit of cash!
- When it’s gone, it’s gone. I admit, there are times I’ve struggled with this one (and I thought I was a “saver”…hah!). Sometimes I wanna run to Dutch Brothers for a coffee or buy a new Kindle book when my spending wallet is empty, but rules are rules. When the money’s gone, it’s gone. This spending money is guilt-free in part because it’s limited. So be happy with your purchases and if your money didn’t quite last as long as you wanted it to then, well, smile as you remember the fun you had and decide on your new spending plan for next month when you’ve got more in your pocket. Find free spending alternatives—coffee made at home/work and library e-books are replacements I use for the items above.
Step 3: Dream Up Lots of Spending Plans
Some say that when you go on a vacation, planning for it and looking forward to it are the most exciting parts. I dunno about that, but I do know it’s fun to plan ways to spend your spending money. Here are some items my family and I like to enjoy:
Personal Spending $$:
- Coffee shop visits
- Iced tea out with friends
- Pastries splurge/French fries with friends (can you tell I like to eat??)
- New books
- Just-because flowers
- Business stuff (maybe just my quirky self, but as a business owner I value investing in business training and/or equipment)
- Not-necessary-but-I-want-it clothes (shoes, new shirt, new dress, etc.)
- Save for a biggish purchase (new watches for my husband, household décor for me, etc.)
- Phone apps
- iTunes songs
- Lunch out
- Dollar store/dollar section/clearance section shopping
- Craft items
- Any ol’ thing you want! (Not enough money now? Save for larger “fun stuff” by saving a portion of your fun money aside each month.)
Family Spending $$
- Ice cream out
- Restaurant with toys “play date” (Kayla loves to play on the Chick-fil-A toys and eat their kids meal)
- Helium balloons (Kayla and I love balloons)
- Family favorite restaurants (we love Firehouse Subs—we each get our favorite sandwiches, and Kayla gets to splurge and drink “orange soda” which we don’t buy at home).
- Movie day—in the theatre
- Movie day—at home via iTunes rental
- Pizza night—at a pizza parlor or at home
- Day trip—children’s museum, science center, whatever’s fun and nearby
- New family board game
- Make a family decision and splurge on a new toy or entertainment item
- Junk food of your choice
- Anything you as a family want!
Spend time as a family brainstorming what fun things you can do when you run out of money. Visit the library, play board games, make crafts at home, coloring book contest, blow bubbles, eat ice cream at home, make homemade cookies, search Pinterest for fun stuff to do or make at home, and more. Love Pinterest…
“Compound Pinterest: The amount of money you save by not actually buying anything you pin, added to the money you are not spending because you no longer have free time to shop.” wtfpinterest.com
It won’t be too long before you have next month’s money to spend, so plan it out now and have fun with it.
Step 4: Go Spend Some Money, Guilt-Free!!
We’ve budgeted for our spending money, committed to the rules-of-the-road, and dreamed of how we’d spend it, so assuming you’ve gotten paid recently (or when you do) go get that cash, pass it out and start spending!
ENJOY spending your spending money, guilt-free. It should make you smile, and remind you to be thankful for the extra blessings we often overlook in life.
Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things.” Pooflikemagic.tumbler.com