My Biggest Money Failure…Taking Care of Myself

There are a lot of things I do wrong with money. I’ve been known to grab a few dollars from my emergency fund and occasionally overspend on my monthly budget. None of these things are horrible offenses but they also aren’t shining examples of my money prowess. However, my biggest money failure isn’t actually spending too much…it’s not spending enough.

I don’t spend money on myself. Honestly, it’s as simple as that. I love buying gifts, going on trips and even splurging on meals out with friends. But in the past few years, even those purchases have come with a side dish of guilt.

And the one thing you’ll never catch me buying is a treat for myself.

I wasn’t always like this though. Before my financial world crashed around me, I was much better at self-care. I would treat myself to a few massages a year, buy the occasional latte (just because) and never sweat a fun outing that I really wanted to do.

I’ve been working since I was 16 and I always had money in my savings account. I never had a problem with blowing my money, but I also didn’t have a problem with spending some of it either. I occupied the elusive ~middle ground~ and it was nice.

When I was unexpectedly cut off at the age of 20, everything changed. I had two choices: drop out of college halfway through or figure it out. I figured it out, but it came at the expense of my mental health.

There were so many different heartaches involved in my final two years of college, but the main one was fear. It was the first time in my life that there was no safety net. If I missed a rent payment or tuition check, then I had to figure it out…alone.

At the time, Alex was living across the world in London, my mom was living across the country in Oklahoma and my best friends were living in various cities across the state. With my support system spread out across the world, I felt as if I was physically alone too.

In order to make it through my first year supporting myself, I had to suppress my emotions. If I had felt all of the pain, loneliness and financial stress that accompanied that year, I would have imploded.

I slashed my budget to the absolute bare minimum and learned to live on peanut butter and pasta. My goal was survival and self-care was a luxury I couldn’t afford.

Today, my financial situation is drastically different. I’m debt free. I have a full-time job with benefits and a healthy emergency fund.

The day I became debt free.
The day I became debt free.

But for some reason, I’m still stingy with myself. Every time I spend money on something fun, I start to sweat (literally) and feel waves of guilt wash over me. I check my accounts every day and even though there is more than enough money, I constantly worry that there isn’t.

It’s an exhausting way to live.

And recently, I’ve realized that it’s rippled out into other areas of my life as well.*

Without even realizing it, my charity donations have gotten smaller, and I’m much less likely to buy Alex a surprise gift or treat my sister to dinner after a long day of work. These things may seem small, but I think they are symptoms of the bigger issue: my attitude of generosity.

By being stingy with myself, I’ve become stingy with everyone else as well.

Driving to work last week, I listened to Farnoosh Torabi’s So Money podcast. The interview was with Dr. Daniel Crosby. As they began to discuss his childhood, it came out that Daniel’s parents were extremely debt averse and had paid off their mortgage by age 40.

I was immediately impressed.

However, that wasn’t the end of the story. The pay-off came at a cost. There were no family trips or delicious dinners. Instead, there was constant scrimping, saving and stress.

Daniel’s parents are now grandparents and their advice for their son is to NOT do what they did.

Daniel explains, “My dad has actually moderated his ideas about debt over time and has encouraged us to not do some of the things he did…Now they have a whole lot of money and they don’t have that time back…He preaches something different to the grandchildren because we did miss out on some things…Now my mom is in poor health and they have all the money they need, but they don’t have the opportunity.”

His story hit me hard because I could easily see myself as Daniel’s parents—scrimping, saving, planning for the future and constantly stressing about money.

But that isn’t what I want. I want to enjoy life, travel without freaking out about every penny and live with a generous heart…and a generous wallet.

I treated myself to frozen yogurt yesterday. There was no reason or occasion. I was alone at the mall and had just finished running some errands. After paying for my yogurt, I sat down in the sunshine with a view of the mountains and took the first bite. It tasted like self-care.


Are you good at self-care? What’s your biggest monetary failing?


* Last month, I created an Abundance Journal for myself. It’s a 21-Day journal that is filled with prompts and quotes designed to help you recognize the abundance that already exists in your life and I wanted to share it with you. You can click here for a free download. Happy journaling, friends.


13 thoughts on “My Biggest Money Failure…Taking Care of Myself

  1. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies says:

    I’ve made more money mistakes than I can count…but this is a big one that I’m guilty of as well. We only get limited time here and with our loved ones. It’s got to be about balance somehow. I’m still working on it! Building an empire is pointless if it leaves you unhappy and alone. I have yet to see that part in Pinterest or Insta 😉 Awesome post!


  2. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure says:

    Ah, the constant struggle for balance. It is constant. I think we’re pretty good about making these choices as a family: “we live in this small house so we can go on 2-3 vacations a year as a family” but I have a harder time making these choices for myself. I work hourly, which means any moment I have where the kids don’t need me, I feel like I should be working. It ends up cutting into time where I can reflect, exercise, organize, dream, etc. And I feel that when I get too caught up in it all. It’s so hard to balance.


  3. gwen @ fierymillennials says:

    It’s definitely a struggle. I’ve hammered the mantra “we’re young so we have more time in the market” into my brain and it’s difficult to turn that off. However, I am getting better at it. I chose the nicer apartment. I occasionally swing by Starbucks. I’m going to spend whatever I want on vacation. It’s very freeing even if I don’t hit my 50% savings goal for the month!


  4. Leigh says:

    When I told my mom of my plan to pay my mortgage off in five years, her first response was that I shouldn’t do that at the expense of taking vacations. I reassured her that I could do both. It’ll likely end up taking me 5-8 years to pay it off depending on how life goes, but when my only debt is a mortgage at 2.5%, I’m going to enjoy my life in the process. Some people will enjoy life while having debt at 5% or higher, but that isn’t me. I value financial security more.

    Learning to spend on myself is one of the hardest things I have had to do and is honestly one of my biggest regrets of my early twenties and teens – not spending enough on myself. I’ve found some balance now though in my late twenties and it is wonderful.


  5. Mrs. CTC says:

    This literally brought a tear to my eye because I could have written it (although maybe not as beautiful as you just did :)).
    I have never had much money, from an early age I learned to live frugally. Served me well and it’s good to know how to spend little, however my shortcoming is that I just don’t know how to spend money on myself when necessary.

    Mr. CTC always has to point out when it’s time to go shopping for clothes or to go to the hairdresser and I hate that about myself. I just can’t spend money on me without getting my palms sweaty and feeling guilty. Definitely need to work on that. Thanks for sharing!


  6. NZ Muse says:

    I am also bad at selfcare. Little things like stuff for eczema/hayfever, through to say moisturiser or other similar things… yeah. I really relate to agonising over these little things – like a little sweet treat from the bakery.


  7. ZJ Thorne says:

    Learning how to be generous with yourself after so long in the lean times is difficult. I was lucky to have friends who let me know that I was ok and was not going to be hungry again and that life was for living. It was possible to get there, but it took time. Money is a tool. Don’t use it to hurt yourself, hon.


  8. Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree says:

    You have come so far and you should be so proud of all that you have accomplished! I can understand it can be hard to loosen up on the spending when you had to create these habits just to survive but sacrificing too much now that you are stable isn’t good either. I am glad that you are starting to see that you can treat yourself and that it is OK. You will be OK. It may take time before it does feel alright but an ice cream here or there is a great place to start.

    My husband and I although we dream of FIRE we agreed that we won’t sacrifice our current lives too much to reach this. We still take vacations, I spend money on my health and fitness, and will even treat ourselves to a nice meal out for a special occasion. It is all about finding that balance. But you do need to find some happiness and enjoy life now as well as Daniel is right, you never know if you will be able to enjoy it later. Best of luck in finding some balance and joy in treating yourself.


  9. Felicity says:

    Great job working on finding a balance!

    I love how you also mention how being stingy on yourself made you stingy with others. I’ve found this to be true, 100%, and it makes me feel awful. Charity and even just spending on friends and family is something that is rarely talked about in the realm of personal finance and budgeting.


  10. J says:

    Let me give you one alternative story about the benefit of saving for FIRE –
    I’ve always been a saver and also wouldn’t spend a lot on myself. In recent years, I started taking better care of myself in terms of exercise and eating, but still didn’t spend a lot on myself. Two years ago, I suddenly experienced odd things go wrong in both legs and 1 arm/hand. Had no clue what was going on and nothing like this in my family health history. I did recover in 1 leg and the arm, but I was left with permanent nerve damage on left side of body. After 6 months of investigations, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. There is no cure although there is medication that slows the progress of the condition. I can still remember walking through the doctor’s waiting room anxious to find out what the issue was, then walking out 30 minutes with my entire world tilted on it’s axis. The ONE thing I never had to worry about in the aftermath was money. I was so, so thankful I had always been more of a saver than a spender. Mortgage had been paid off a couple years earlier, and I had enough saved for retirement that if I did have to stop working due to ill health, there would be enough over time with compound interest to manage in later years. I’ve continued to work full time, but I know if I need to cut back hours to go part time, I’ll manage financially prior to retirement. Making the effort to save so many years ago has made all the difference to my situation now.


  11. Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says:

    I am so bad at this too. I am much more likely to spend some money on my daughter than myself, and I feel so guilty if I buy myself something.

    I am working on it! I play hockey, and this is something I felt bad about paying for so barely pay, but this year I am going to try and play every game. It’s only £3 a week! And I was beating myself up about it, but it makes me so happy and gets me out of the house, so screw it. Lol. Hubby however has no problem spending money on himself!


  12. Vonn says:

    Generosity is something I’ve been thinking about and working on as well. After repaying so much debt I’ve been operating from a scarcity mindset. I am guilty of being a stingy penny pincher and have learned to loosen up a bit. I know that I won’t come to financial ruin if I buy my mom a gift or take my niece’s out to eat. It’s thoughtful and a better way for them to remember me, rather than thinking I care more about money than them. Your article was very insightful and just what I needed to read.


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