It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that it’s never ok to spend money — unless you actually need something. And, while it is important to watch how you spend your money, and be conscientious about it, there’s no reason to assume that spending money on things other than survival is a bad thing.

Of course, I have that opinion because my money personality is that of a spender. I like spending money, and I’m not known for my frugality. It’s ok to spend money, but you also have to have a few ground rules so that things don’t get out of hand.

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Have You Taken Care of the Really Important Things?

First of all, you need to make sure that you have taken care of the really important things. If you have credit card debt, you should be paying that down as quickly as possible. What about your other obligations? The mortgage, groceries, insurance, utilities, and other required items need to be paid for as well. Take care of those things before you spend money on the non-essentials.

Additionally, take a look at your long-term financial goals. If you want to save for retirement, build an emergency fund, or send your kids to college, you need to make sure those items are taken care of as well. Being a spender, and enjoying the things your money can buy, should come only after you have fulfilled your responsibilities to yourself and others.

Decide what you want your money to accomplish in the long run, and take steps to make that happen before you spend money on the fun stuff.

Only Spend on Things You REALLY Want

There are lots of ways to waste your money. One of the worst, though, is buying things that you don’t actually want. How many times have you bought something that you thought was just “ok”? You probably regretted it later. Often, we find ourselves buying things that we don’t really care for. You might want to impress visitors to your home with your big TV. Perhaps you think that you are “supposed” to have two cars because everyone else in your neighborhood does.

Spending can quickly become a problem when you are buying things to impress others and going places to make other people happy. If you don’t like going to the movies, don’t go. Be picky about what you spend your money on. For years, my husband assumed I hated spending money because I didn’t want to buy stuff. He’s finally understanding that I would rather have experiences. So I spend my money on things like travel and eating out.

There is no reason to spend money on things other people want and enjoy. Instead, think about what’s important to you, and only spend on those things (once your obligations are taken care of).

Make Sure You Can Afford It

The most important rule of spending money is to make sure you can afford it. After you have paid for the important things, I think it’s totally cool to spend money on things you enjoy. Just don’t go into debt for it. I save up for some of my bigger trips, and my husband saves up for the more expensive things he wants to buy.

We spend almost all of our money every month. However, we don’t spend on the “fun” stuff until after the retirement account contribution has been made, our charitable giving has been accomplished, the emergency fund has a little more in it, and our bills and obligations are discharged. We think it’s important to enjoy some of our money now, so we use it on things we actually like. Some months, that means putting the money aside for use later (like a trip to a conference).

There’s no reason to get caught up in the idea that spending money is always bad. While too much materialism is probably undesirable, there are experiences and things that can enhance your life, whether you are going camping, remodeling your home, enjoying a good book, or watching the game on a big screen TV. Figure out what you like to do, and what’s important to you, and consider spending on those things.

Of course, the simpler your tastes, the less you’ll spend!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.