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How To Know When You Are Spending Too Much

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

How To Know When You Are Spending Too Much

Learn To Listen To Your Intuition
Cait Flanders
Cait Flanders More by this author
Jan 09, 2018 at 04:45 PM

When I was 25 years old, I found myself maxed out with close to $30,000 of consumer debt—and that didn’t surprise me. The total amount surprised me, after I finally stopped ignoring my credit card statements, looked at the balances of all my debts and added up the numbers. But it didn’t surprise me, because I knew I was headed towards trouble.

I knew because my intuition told me. It told me whenever I was browsing online stores, quickly clicking through to complete an order and archiving the evidence in my inbox. It told me whenever I reached for the credit cards inside my wallet and wondered which one had enough money left on it to pay for a purchase. It told me when I was about to pay for anything, period.

Of course, my intuition wasn’t an actual person in my ear. It was me. And it felt more like the gut instinct that helps you make decisions that align with your morals and values. I knew that my spending habits were wrong, in that they were hurting my finances and preventing me from living the life I really wanted. Still, I ignored it, until I was eventually completely maxed out.

At that point, I had no choice but to start paying down my debt—being maxed out made it so. It took commitment I didn’t know I had before, but I paid it all off in two years and finally felt free. Then, I should have been able to tackle any financial goal I set for myself, and put money towards my dreams of traveling and seeing the world. Instead, I went right back to spending.

Challenging myself to do what felt right for me.

Again, it’s not surprising (to me) that I went back to some of my old habits. I hadn’t learned many lessons, throughout my debt repayment journey, other than that I knew I never wanted to be in that situation again. I was also really hard on myself, during those two years. So I didn’t go back into debt, but I did start spending almost every penny I earned—and it didn’t feel good.

At the beginning of each month, I would tell myself I wanted to save 20% of my income. For what, I wasn’t entirely sure. Based on how much of my income I had been allocating towards debt repayment, though, this should have been doable. However, I would get to the end of every month, see I had only saved 5-10% (sometimes even less) and feel deflated.

It wasn’t just the numbers that didn’t feel good; it was what I knew whenever I saw those numbers. I knew they were an accumulation of times I had ignored my intuition and talked myself into spending money on things I knew weren’t right for me. After a year of living debt-free and continuing to feel this at the end of each month, I knew there had to be another way.

Listening to my intuition saved my (financial) life.

The challenge I set for myself was to not shop for an entire year. If that sounds extreme, I can assure you it didn’t feel that way for one simple (but important) reason: I was still allowed to buy things when I actually needed them. To do that, though, I had to learn how to finally listen to my intuition and make spending decisions that felt like they aligned with my values.

It didn’t come without some hard lessons, namely around my tendencies to shop when I was feeling down and trying to numb my pain. I also had to change bad habits I’d spent years perfecting, particularly the ones where I acted impulsively, like browsing online stores, quickly clicking through to complete an order and archiving the evidence in my inbox.

Financially, the shopping ban was a huge success. By the time the year was up, I had saved 31% of my income and spent another 18% on travel. These were numbers and goals I didn’t know that I would ever be able to achieve before. But I know they became a reality because it was the first year where I finally trusted my intuition to guide my spending decisions.

Buying stuff isn’t bad and spending money isn’t bad.

I want to make sure I share this point, because it is one of the most important takeaways from my challenge. So I will repeat it: buying stuff isn’t bad and spending money isn’t bad. But I think we know when we are buying stuff we don’t need and spending money we don’t have. We know because our intuition tells us; through the pause we take before pulling the credit cards out of our wallets, the anxious thoughts about how we might not have enough money while we wait for the transaction to go through, and the gut instinct that we are heading towards trouble.

I’m grateful that I took a timeout from buying stuff I didn’t need. That’s all it was, really—an extended timeout, or a long hold on the pause button. It helped me put money towards the financial goals I cared most about, and allowed me to finally see more of the world. But I’m most grateful because this challenge taught me how to trust myself and trust that my intuition knew what was right for me. She had always tried to help me make the right decisions before, I had just never listened. Spending money feels so much better when we are in alignment.

About Author
Cait Flanders
Cait Flanders is a former binge consumer turned mindful consumer of everything. Through personal stories, she writes about what happens when money, minimalism, and mindfulness cross paths. Cait's story has been shared on, Forbes, Yahoo!, Continue reading