It’s Your Money and Your Financial Future
Obviously putting an extra $200 toward your debt rather than another pair of sneakers would have been the financially responsible thing to do, a fact you clearly understand and are grappling with. But you can give yourself a break in this case.
Even the most frugal amongst us slip up now and then, and while you shouldn’t make a habit of buying expensive shoes every time you have a bad day, getting swept up in guilt will likely only make you feel worse. And feeling like crap isn’t a great motivator, in my experience.
It’s an interesting (read: damaging) reality of American life, that we promote consumerism in every form and yet shame each other for buying things we don’t “need” when we have debts to pay or are living paycheck-to-paycheck. We equate our worth and morality, to a certain extent, with our ability to have a top-notch credit score and zero debt, maxing out our retirement contributions each year and having a well-stocked emergency fund. It’s the same mentality that reasons you should stop buying iPhones if you want health care or that not tipping your server will somehow lead to a better, more equitable wage environment in the restaurant industry. But having debt doesn’t mean you’re precluded from enjoying frivolous things, or that you should be plagued by guilt for every penny you spend that’s not going toward some “essential.”
So you have debt. You’re making the payments—sometimes early—and that’s the important thing. Yes, any bit extra could help dig you out faster, but there’s something to be said for treating ourselves. We all deserve a bouquet of flowers or new pair of shoes every now and then, to be enjoyed without guilt or shame. We all deserve to have stuff that simply brings us joy.
Curbing Our Spending Impulses
But if impulse spending really does bother you—maybe it’s the reason you have some of that debt to begin with—there are a few strategies you can use to avoid doing it:
- An obvious one: Only use cash
- Or, try using a prepaid debit card for a few days/weeks
- Follow Kristin Wong’s 10/10 Rule
- Ask yourself this question: How will the purchase improve your life?
- Delete your saved payment info online
- Focus on the opportunity cost
Understand your triggers. You said you had a rough day, so you bought the shoes. Is that something that happens often? Is there another outlet you can use instead of online shopping when the going gets tough? Next time, rather than perusing your shopping list, try taking a walk or writing complaints in a journal (my preferred method of coping) to clear your head. Buying stuff any time we feel like it has never been easier, but ask yourself if you really need it, particularly if doing so will cause you to feel guilty afterwards.
Next, consider your other financial goals. Maybe that $200 didn’t need to go toward your debt repayment, but are there other things that are important to you (say, saving for a vacation or owning a house someday) that you don’t tend to consider when you’re opening emails from your favorite stores? Consider those goals next time you go to buy something impulsively.
Most importantly, make sure you have a plan in place to pay off your debt (snowball or avalanche, or another that you’ve created yourself). If you’re comfortable with your debt repayment plan, you’re investing a little bit and you’re not digging yourself deeper in the hole, buying a pricey pair of shoes doesn’t spell disaster for your financial future.
And enjoy your new shoes. They’re going to look great on you.