Nobody LIKES to spend money, least of all us.
But the thing is, money is just a piece of paper we give value to. While our society deems the market value of that piece of paper, the true value of money comes from what we do with it. You see, the same amount of money can be worth much more when spent on certain things.
It’s not that you can’t ever spend money. It’s all a matter of learning to spend money on the things that give you the biggest bang for your buck.
After all, we need money to live, but we don’t want to live for money.
However, not all spending is created equally, and there are some things you should definitely focus your resources on more than others.
While there are many things that are included in these groups, the things you should spend your money on boils down to 3 basic categories:
Let’s take a closer look at each and why you SHOULD spend your hard-earned money on them.
But did you know there is more to investments than investment accounts?
For the purposes of this article, we encourage you to think about investments as anything you put time and money into that offers a good return on your investment.
Investments are things that give you a good bang for your buck. They might make you money over time and are things that gain value over time. They appreciate. Investments actually get MORE valuable over time!
Investments are assets.
However, one of the most overlooked types of investments are…
Investments in yourself!
You can never go wrong with spending money on investing in yourself. Any time, effort, and money you put into yourself will pay you back tenfold.
This is one area where a saying gets it wrong. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. The human brain has this amazing ability to learn new things at any stage of your life. Sure, it may be easier to learn when you’re younger, it may be easier to learn things you are naturally talented at, but you can always learn if you put the time and effort in.
And these investments don’t even need to have the ultimate goal of making money. While college, trade schools, courses, books, and other more formal academic skill acquisition is good, and will mean you’ll have more to offer, building skills just for fun is equally as valuable.
For instance, both Sebastian and I are learning to play piano, although he’s been doing it much longer and is much better than I am. Learning a new language is another investment you could make (Sebastian speaks 3 ½, I speak 1 ½). Playing a new sport or starting a new hobby are others.
Learning new skills throughout the lifespan is a good way to make yourself more valuable in terms of making money, but also makes you more well rounded and keeps your brain working and sharp. Aside from the health benefits of working your brain (less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other memory issues), the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel is more than worth the money and time spent learning the skill.
Long story short, making investments is one way that you SHOULD be spending your money. Investing in financial assets will grow your money wealth, while investing in yourself as an asset through skill acquisition will grow your overall well-being.
It may seem like vacations and entertainment are a weird thing to advocate spending your money on, but there’s actually been a lot of research on this topic.
It turns out spending money on material possessions (things, objects) does not make you happy, while spending money on experiences actually promotes happiness and well-being.
A 20-year study by Cornell psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich found that you’d be much happier by limiting the money you spend on things. This is because the happiness we feel from getting the thing fades over time. The fade in happiness is a result of getting used to the possession, raising the bar on our expectations with each new purchase, and the ever-present need to keep up with the Jones’ (there’s always someone with something newer or better).
On the other hand, experiences do not fade as drastically over time as possessions for a number of reasons.
- Experiences stay with us and help us form our identity. Our life becomes the culmination of our experiences, and when you look back on it you will remember the things you saw and did, not what you had.
- Experiences don’t allow us to make the same kinds of comparisons because we experience things differently.
- We anticipate them. In fact, Gilovich and his colleagues found that anticipating an experience builds excitement, while the anticipation of gaining a possession only makes us impatient.
- The shorter duration of experiences makes them precious. While you may regret purchasing an object after awhile, the memories of a great vacation or the first time seeing your favorite artist in concert never completely fade.
Long story short: spend money on experiences, not things.
Cabo, here we come!
This is a big one that is neglected by most people.
Aside from safety and the other basics needed to live, your health is the most important factor in your quality of life.
While many health issues are due to no fault of your own, the most prevalent health problems facing the world today are the result of choices we make in our everyday lives.
In fact, the single most common cause of health problems is something most of us can easily control: our weight.
It is now estimated that 1 in 3 Americans are overweight, and a further 1 in 3 are obese. Being overweight carries an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke, arthritis, and cancers.
Guess how many of the previously mentioned ailments fall into the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.?
Four of them (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer) and high blood pressure and cholesterol contribute greatly to many of these issues. Almost 75% of the deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to the top 10 list, and more than half of the items on the list are largely avoidable with lifestyle choices!
The stats are clear on this one. A great number of healthcare issues can be all or partially mitigated with lifestyle choices, which is why your health is one of the three things you SHOULD spend money on.
This means you should spend money on healthy food, avenues to exercise (such as a gym membership or equipment), and any other vitamins, supplements, or other things that will help you stay healthy. You should also spend money on healthcare, making sure you get your regular check-ups and take care of issues as they come up.
DO NOT put a hold on your health because you want to save money. In fact, not maintaining your health could cost you big time in the long haul from increased need for medications, medical equipment, doctor’s visits, and procedures.
But the biggest cost of all?
Possibly your life.
I want to take a minute and share a personal story that will hopefully drive this point home.
My grandma would have been 81 if she was still alive. If she had lived, she would have seen me graduate from college, then get my Master’s and become a teacher. She would have been there when my niece was born, and for every birthday and amazing moment since. She would be offering me encouragement about all this blog nonsense and helping me critique my articles.
Instead, she died in the summer of 2008 from lung cancer, the result of persistent and prolonged smoking.
She was told.
My dad was there the day that her doctor said, “if you do not stop smoking, you will be dead in two years.”
It was almost exactly two years.
I still tear up when I think about her, and as I’m writing this.
Don’t play around with your health, it is not something you should be looking to save money on.
Moral of the Story
While there are many things you shouldn’t be spending your money on, there are a few that you should.
The big 3 things that you SHOULD be spending your money on are investments (in yourself and otherwise), experiences, and your health.
Spend your money in these categories, and you’ll be just fine.
Tawnya is a 34-year-old Special Education teacher in the sixth year of her career. Along with her partner, Sebastian, she runs the blog Money Saved is Money Earned. Tawnya has worked extremely hard to reach her goals and remain debt-free.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University and has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. It is this wealth of tips and tricks that they wish to pass on to others.