All the times I’ve felt guilty for spending money

A lot of very exciting things cost a lot of money! And in the past year especially, I’ve had a lot of guilt and conflict about spending large sums of money.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am not the type of financial expert who says you shouldn’t spend any money ever. I don’t believe that you can be hyper-restrictive of your spending and still have a good quality of life. In fact, I think it’s imperative to build the things you value into your budget so that you feel more motivated to stick to a budget in the first place.

One of the best ways to include the things you value most into your budget is to save up for them over time. That way, when a big expense comes up, you know you have the money for it and you don’t have to feel stressed out or guilty about it. However, there will still be times when you have a hard time spending the money you saved up. At least, that’s how I’ve felt!

As someone who is fairly structured with spending and saving, I don’t often spend a whole lot of money. But the truth is, a lot of very exciting things cost a lot of money! And in the past year especially, I’ve had a lot of guilt and conflict about spending large sums of money. These feelings haven’t been particularly rational, but they do make some sense, because spending a lot of money is scary! So here are some of the times I’ve felt most guilty (and scared) about spending my money.

Travel

The funny thing about this guilt is it wasn’t about the actual money I was spending. In fact, for years, I’ve prioritized saving for travel so that I can explore this world without guilt and without going into debt. I believe that if you love to travel, spending money (that you have) on it should never be a shameful thing. It only improves your quality of life. And that’s what ultimately matters!

The guilt I have felt has actually come after I’ve spoken to friends and family about my travel plans. Not everyone is able to save the money or take the time to travel, and I completely understand that. It’s also true that a lot of people don’t prioritize things like travel. And that’s okay! Everyone has their own priorities.

The problem for me is when I talk about my travel plans and the snarky response is: “Well, that must be nice” or “I wish I could travel” or “Wow, do you ever work?”. It’s a frustrating response and often makes me feel defensive and guilty about the exciting trips I’ve been able to take. Luckily, my reaction has softened over time, and the comments come less and less. In fact, I haven’t heard any negative comments about my upcoming honeymoon in Thailand!

The lesson here is that you just have to continue doing what makes you happy, and try not to worry about what other people think. It’s your money and it’s your life, so use it in a way that means the most to you!

House Expenses

My actual guilt hasn’t been too high on this end. However, buying a home was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done! We only put down 10% as our down payment, and that was the largest check I’ve ever written in my life! I wanted to vomit. But at the same time, I’ve always wanted to own a home, and I allocated that money specifically for our down payment. I was still surprised at how conflicted I felt when I was actually writing the check. I wondered if we were making a big mistake.

The real money drama came when we started construction on our home renovations. We had a big job that included knocking down walls and rebuilding new ones. We found a contractor we liked a lot and ended up adding a bunch of work to the project just to get it over with faster. That was a mistake! We ended up overspending on shoddy work and feeling really foolish about our decisions. In fact, I had a hard time talking about how much we spent on new counters and railings, because I wasn’t happy with how they turned out, and I felt like we were taken advantage of. I also felt foolish and regretful, which is not a great way to feel when you’ve just spent a ton of money.

That was definitely a learning experience, because we are much more careful with our contractor choices and home renovations now. We are choosing smaller, individual projects and getting at least three quotes before moving forward. This has helped us keep our costs and stress levels down, and makes us feel like we’re making the right decisions with the people we hire and the money we spend. Our next project will be getting a new fence installed in the backyard. I hope to share pictures soon!

My Wedding

As a feminist and a financial coach, I’m very aware of how capitalism and the wedding industrial complex pressure people to overspend on their weddings. So I felt very strongly about not spending a lot on my wedding. When I received a financial settlement from a shoulder injury, I set aside $10,000 earmarked for my eventual wedding (we weren’t even engaged yet – can you tell I like to plan ahead?). I was certain that $10,000 would be plenty for a wedding. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, we’re paying more than double that amount for our wedding. And we’re only having 130 people attend! And we are getting married an hour away from DC. And we pursued a lot of cost-cutting measures! The point is: weddings are incredibly expensive. We really wanted a wedding where we could invite almost everyone we love the most. Put those two things together and you have to spend quite a bit of money. Luckily, we have been able to save up the amount in full, and will not be going into debt for the wedding. In fact, we may have some money leftover afterwards, because we saved an extra 10% as a buffer.

But having enough to spend on our wedding didn’t take away the intense shame and inner conflict I felt throughout the planning process. I felt strongly, on principle, that we should spend as little as possible. But at the same time, there were many things I was not willing to DIY in order to save money. I also wasn’t willing to have a tiny, inexpensive wedding that many of our loved ones wouldn’t be able to attend. I had many values that were in direct conflict with each other. However, as time has gone on, I’ve had to accept that we decided to have a wedding and that means we have to fork over a lot of money. There’s no sense in being ashamed about it the entire way. In fact, there have been some areas where the higher cost probably means it’ll turn out better.

Here are the areas where we spent more than I wanted to, but will actually turn out great:

  • Our photographer. She’s amazing and we have great chemistry with her. It took some convincing, but now I realize that spending a lot on photography will be worth it. I can’t wait to see how our wedding photos turn out.
  • Our florist. Do you know how many times I said “we don’t even need centerpieces!”? I said it a lot. We’re spending more than double what I wanted to spend on flowers. But I also didn’t want to be up late the night before my wedding finishing up the centerpieces and bouquets. So we hired a florist who is associated with our venue and who grows many of their flowers themselves. They value sustainability and authenticity. They seemed to really vibe with our wedding day vision, and I think the flowers will turn out beautifully. Plus, we definitely cut some costs here, as the bridesmaids will not carry bouquets.
  • Our venue. When we first booked our venue, I felt really good about the price. This was because I was completely naive about everything else we needed to pay for. I also wasn’t fully aware that almost nothing else came along with the venue fee. We had to rent a bathroom trailer, tables, chairs, and we had to pay for all of the staff from a different vendor. But I saw our venue two years ago and knew I wanted to get married there. It’s a beautiful space and I can’t wait to see how it looks on our wedding day.

Here are the areas where we saved some money and I feel really good about it:

  • DJ. We’re actually not hiring a DJ. We are making our own Spotify playlists and we hired an audio engineer who will run the sound system for the day. We’re also having our good friend, Liz, emcee the reception for us.
  • Booze. We had to overspend a bit on wine because we were required to purchase wine from the venue (they’re a vineyard), and their wine is more expensive than the three-buck chuck I would have gotten from Trader Joe’s. But we’re making up for this by buying our own cases of beer. We’re going to try to only buy local beer, but this will still be more affordable than having our vendor provide the booze.
  • Wedding dress and shoes. I’ve written about this before, but my wedding dress cost less than $250. (Plus, my mom paid for it.) I don’t often spend a lot on my clothes, so I felt strongly about not spending a lot on my wedding dress. I also really wanted something very simple that I felt like myself in. I found the perfect dress from BHLDN and it was even cheaper than I expected! To top it off, Dan and I both bought our wedding shoes from Poshmark.

Here are the areas where we spent more than I wanted to, and I’m still annoyed about it:

  • One vendor. This vendor was who we were originally looking at for catering. They are a one-stop shop for weddings and it seemed like it would be much easier to just hire them to handle everything, rather than having multiple vendors. And it would have definitely been easier! But it would have also been way more expensive. The original quote they gave us for food and drink alone was nearly the entire amount we’re paying for the wedding. We decided not to use them for food and booze, but we ended up having to hire them for a few other items: bathroom trailer, tables, chairs, linens, bartenders, day-of-coordinator, etc. I think their staff will help the day to move more smoothly, but I’m still frustrated by how much we’re paying in “operations fees”.
  • Invitations. When Dan first told me we’d probably spend $400 on invitations, I had a fit. I couldn’t believe that something so small could cost so much. Of course, Dan is a graphic designer and has made wedding invitations in the past, so he knows better than I do. But I thought that having him design our invitations would mean that we would save some money! But the truth is, printing is expensive. And printing gold foil on thick paper is even more expensive (did I mention Dan is a designer?). So we’ll likely spend around $400 on our invitations, after all. I’m not pleased about it, but I’ve accepted it at this point (for the most part).

So why did I tell you all of this? Well, first of all, I needed to write about it for catharsis. But I also wanted to let you know that it’s normal to be freaked out about spending money, even if you’ve planned and saved for it. It’s okay to have conflicting emotions when you’re making big decisions. And you’ll probably find yourself in situations where you have competing values. It’s okay! You just have to decide which value is more important in that instant. For me, it’s having a wedding day that we’ll love, while still not going into debt.

This article first appeared on MaggieGermano.com.