What One Therapist Defines As ‘Healthy Spending’, Part 2

We previously published part one of this series. If you haven’t read it, you can here. 

Healthy spending is a journey for everyone. Your income, your background, your current needs- all of this and sooo much more goes into shaping what healthy spending looks like for you.

I know that my journey to healthy spending is still on going. I’m much more conscious of my spending and my true financial needs than I was when I was younger, and that’s a good thing. Here are three more steps to follow to find your healthy spending lifestyle.

Health Spending For Everyone

Step 4: Adjust your approach to tracking spending

If you are more careless with money, put systems in place to regularly review all of your recent purchases (e.g., reminders on your phone to check your account balances, use of an app like Mint). Go a step further and create a budget which will give you a guide to spending (until more mindful and limited spending becomes second nature).

A budget can also work in your favor if you are more anxious. A budget gives your anxious brain the doses of reassurance it is looking for that you are on track and gives you permission to loosen up.

However, and this is a big however, if your tendency is to compulsively check, limit this behavior. Checking only serves to reinforce anxiety. Be explicit and specific about when and how many times a week you will check. And in between those times…

Step 5: Make room for feelings of discomfort and acceptance

Both ends of the spending spectrum are fueled by avoidance of uncomfortable feelings. Break out of the cycle. Whichever end of the spending spectrum you gravitate towards, challenging yourself to sit with vulnerable and unpleasant emotions is a key part of the journey towards healthy spending.

    • Stare money uncertainty in the face. Learn to let it in a little. When we worry obsessively or get into behavioral patterns for avoidance (avoidance of spending, avoidance of social activities, avoidance of our feelings) we are not giving ourselves a chance to sit with the uncomfortable reality that we can’t know for certain what will happen in the future. Anxious humans want safety and certainty over everything else. Practice gently going against that instinct to learn that you can handle feeling a bit of uncertainty and lack of control.  
    • Make room for other kinds of experiences. If you are an anxious spender, this isn’t to say go spend recklessly, but learn to prioritize experiences other than prioritizing the experience of avoiding anxiety. Can you feel a bit anxious in the name of something bigger that you care about?
    • Watch your emotions carefully. Increase mindful spending and cut back on meaningless acquisition by noticing if an impulse to purchase is being triggered by an emotion rather than a need. If your spending revolves around feeling not good enough…notice that. AND THEN WAIT. Don’t give in to immediate gratification. You are robbing yourself of a chance to see you can handle and work through these feelings.
  • Practice acceptance. Maybe the most radical and vulnerable experience in the face of emotional discomfort is to allow it. Acceptance does not equal resignation. Acceptance simply means being willing to embrace your situation exactly as it is with some objectivity and perspective, knowing that it will inevitably change.

Step 6: Practice values-based spending

Placing a values lens on spending choices can quickly reveal if a purchase is a “healthy” one. Ask yourself: Will this purchase get me closer to the life I want to be living? Is it in line with what I care about? Does it sit well with my principles?

Sounds simple, but it’s shocking how often we make an impulsive purchase, feel we “need” something. Or in the case of anxious spenders, abstain from spending in a way that is misaligned from our core values. If you’re having a hard time identifying your values, snag the Bravely Values Based Budgeting Workbook! It will help you figure out what you really value, track your spending, and create a budget that works for you. 

In summary, healthy spending does not just mean sticking to a budget. It’s about meeting outward spending actions with a mindset of intentionality and acceptance. It means forgiving yourself when you mess up or get overwhelmed. And it means cultivating a balanced view of money as a tool; not an oppressor, a savior, a distraction, or a prize.

By Melissa Weinberg, of

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