Your Guide to Discretionary Spending

Money, in addition to being a necessity, is the conveyer of many of life’s indulgences. Thus it’s no wonder that for many, deciding how to spend discretionary funds can become a burden. Even in adulthood, there is peer pressure to make choices that keep with the herd. Kevin, a long-time patient, explained that although he is lucky enough to be financially comfortable at age 59, he still feels pressure to fit in. “My dream is to spend my money on travel and to learn new skills, but I somehow find myself spending most of it on material items, like expensive cars and technology. I enjoy these things but I always have a nagging feeling that I would be happier if I followed my passion. I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

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Kevin is not alone. Regardless of how much discretionary money is available, a great many people spend it in a way geared more toward pleasing others instead of themselves. Jessica finds herself spending money on clothes that she never wears, just so her friends don’t wonder if she “can’t afford” to shop with them. Jessica can easily afford it—now in her mid-40s, she is very financially stable—but she’d rather spend her money in different ways. Still, she finds it difficult to assert her own wishes.

Kevin and Jessica are not the exception. Many adults bend to peer pressure when it comes to deciding how to spend. Over time, this can become a source of personal stress and it can contribute to feeling that one is not living an authentic life, focusing too much on impressing others.

An excellent guideline to spending discretionary money fruitfully is to ask the following question and answer it honestly: “Does this purchase bring me joy?” A “no” should elicit an internal signal to put the brakes on immediately. It might be difficult to do this the initial few times, especially if those around you continue to apply pressure, whether or not intentionally. However, much like it was in adolescence, withstanding peer pressure ultimately increases self-esteem, self-awareness and a general sense of well-being.

Making spending choices that reflect individual passions and personality support the development of a true self that is immune to the fickle tides of fads. This time around, rather than getting a new, more expensive car, Kevin and his wife chose to spend their money on French cooking classes…in France! Kevin has never been happier. Focus on those things that genuinely reflect your passions and you may be surprised to find others follow in your footsteps.

An excellent guideline to spending discretionary money fruitfully is to ask the following question and answer it honestly: “Does this purchase bring me joy?” A “no” should elicit an internal signal to put the brakes on immediately. It might be difficult to do this the initial few times, especially if those around you continue to apply pressure, whether or not intentionally. However, much like it was in adolescence, withstanding peer pressure ultimately increases self-esteem, self-awareness and a general sense of well-being.

Making spending choices that reflect individual passions and personality support the development of a true self that is immune to the fickle tides of fads. This time around, rather than getting a new, more expensive car, Kevin and his wife chose to spend their money on French cooking classes…in France! Kevin has never been happier. Focus on those things that genuinely reflect your passions and you may be surprised to find others follow in your footsteps.

dr. susan bartell

dr. susan bartell

Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally-recognized psychologist and author practicing in Port Washington. She also speaks throughout the country on a wide range of topics to help individuals and groups improve emotional and physical health and life balance. drsusanbartell.com