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I don't really have trouble with spending money on small purchases, but for some reason I have some trouble spending money on big purchases

Do you ever have trouble spending money?

I don’t really have trouble with spending money on small purchases, like nights out, or dinners and brunches with friends, but for some reason I have some trouble spending money on big purchases, like preventative purchases.

Evidence Of My Issues With Spending

For example, I have been using the same MacBook Pro since 2009 and I really should get a new laptop (because my worst fear would be if the said Macbook Pro suddenly crashes on me one day and it goes kaputz- because that is a “when” and not an “if”).  To answer my question on how to tell if splurges are worth it from the Macbook Pro post 4 years ago, yes, it was worth it!  Now if I could tell my future self 4 years from now the same thing.

This phenomenon occurs even when I have some money set aside for these big purchases.  For example, I had saved up $5000 for my future care in case my 14 year old car went kaputz (it never did thankfully) and I still have some trouble justifying buying a car despite saving some money towards the purchase.

Even my frugal parents are encouraging me to buy a car (that’s how bad it is!).

Related: Personal Finance Sin: Bought a New Car

I think this issue with spending large amounts of money at one time is valid for any purchase over the value of $300, with the effect being stronger for purchases over $500.

For some strange reason, this does not apply to traveling.  I don’t think I have an issue spending $5000 on an international trip (that $5000 usually is good for a 4 week trip or so).  I spend about that much (or more) on an annual basis traveling.

Another thing it does not apply to is if I had to spend that money on a friend or family member.  I would say I am generous and have no issues treating friends or buying them gifts.  However, when it comes to spending money on myself, that is a different story.

I wonder if it is because I still have a choice.  I can choose whether to purchase something new or stick with the same thing.  Whereas if it were imposed on me, like I had no choice to buy something, then it would be an easier, straight forward decision.

Is It Frugality Or Is It Something More?

According to US News, chronic savers (and non-spenders) might be more than just ‘cheap’ (yes, they used that word, I personally would not use that word), and that these thoughts and actions stem from underlying issues.  An example of an underlying issue that US News used was that there may be negative thoughts, like “I don’t deserve these things”.

I don’t know if I have these thoughts overtly, I don’t think I do, but perhaps the underlying message is that?

Or  maybe I could see that instead of spending that money, I could save it and invest it?

Maybe I’m Not Alone

It looks like I’m not alone.  David from Moneyning seems to have the same sentiment of feeling guilty when spending money.  Perhaps values run deep.  These values that have been ingrained ever since I was a child watching my family save every little penny run deep.  My frugal parents have taught me well, or perhaps taught me too much.

Just as some people have issues with over-spending there are some people who have issues with under-spending.  I guess it is important to try and strike a balance in this regard.

I must admit, with the large purchases I have made recently, I have been compelled to tone it down on my spending again by other means (like saving money on groceries).  It must be all psychological.  I think it is getting a bit better, I mean, I have spent money and got myself a car.

I am sure I am probably preaching to the choir, because most people who read this are interested in personal finance so these thoughts and feelings that I experience are probably quite similar to how you feel as well!

Readers, do you have the same issue as me?  Do you have trouble spending money even when you have it earmarked?

Article comments

Sushant says:

This is so true. This is exactly what happens to me. Word to word. situation to situation. It felt like I was reading about myself while going through this post. I do this quite often for all sorts of big or small purchases. At least for small purcahses (<$100) I am able to convince myself. But for lager ones I have to push myself or someone has to push me or worst the item just goes kablamo. But I have found a "TRICK" which helps me. Say I would have to buy a laptop worth $1000. I don't say to myself its really expensive. I say I am going to use this for at least 4-5 years. Thats like 1460 days. And if i spend even 10 mins (LOL) on it, I could easily do it for a dollar a day. SO the purchase is worth it.

Mark says:

Kind of surprised at the idea of “really should get a new MacBook”, to be honest.

Computer hardware used to have forced obsolescence. Each generation of software and OS required a leap forward in processing power. And at the same time, a crash was much more to be feared as data could be lost, and programs would need to be reinstalled on any new hardware.

These days the hardware advances are in making things smaller and lighter and with better batteries, not really pushing the processing envelope. Hardware needs aren’t increasing, and with cloud storage and cheap, flexible backup solutions, a sudden catastrophic loss of your computer should not really be a big deal at all.

So to me, unless there is some new feature you are dying for (in which case the replacement should pass the splurge test), or the machine’s performance is degrading, I have no idea why you’d replace it. Having money saved for a replacement in case it dies makes sense, but pre-emptively replacing it?

Contrast it with the 14 year old car you haven’t replaced. You may not be that reliant on a car, but if that dies on you out of the blue, it will be far more difficult to replace at the drop of the hat.

JJ says:

Reading this feeling like I am looking into a mirror, lol….I am also too “cheap” on purchasing except for expense on travelling…sometimes I think I am too weird…by nature…I wish I know how to spend my money happily…

Tawcan says:

I’m in the same boat as you. Frugal in nature I always find it hard to spend something thats greater than $1000. I just recently got an iMac after having my MacBook Pro for over 5 years. Even though I had enough money saved up I ended buying a refurbished unit. I guess that’s just how I am. 🙂

Joe says:

Yeah, we have the same problem. I don’t mind spending on traveling, but even then I don’t splurge on a luxury vacation. At home, I try not to buy anything unless something needs to be replaced. It’s too easy when you’re semi-retired. Nobody care how I look… 🙂

BeachBoy says:

I am the opposite… I have a hard time spending $5 on a meal but I’ll buy a $1000 watch on a whim… Which is probably the same total spending in the end that people who don’t look at their small excited nses.