About a month ago, I spent about $150 on a giant pile of used books for a tabletop role playing game. A friend of mine was moving out of the country so I “borrowed ahead” on my personal spending money and dove in headfirst. I deeply enjoy tabletop role playing games and I will likely never get this many books at that price again, plus I was helping someone who was trying to liquidate all of his possessions to make a major life change.
(For those interested, the book collection included several Pathfinder hardbacks and a few complete Pathfinder Adventure Paths.)
It was a splurge. It was a big splurge (at least for me at this point). Typically, when I make a purchase that large, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about it. I didn’t really do that this time, mostly because I didn’t have time to do that kind of reflection.
Right now, those books are sitting on a shelf in my office. I see them a few times a day. I’m currently reading one of them. It’s a constant reminder of my splurge.
Do I regret the purchase? A little, perhaps. I will have to play this game a lot to make these books worthwhile.
Strangely, I don’t feel as much regret as I would if I made this same purchase a few years ago.
It’s not because I’m in a financially better position than I was a few years ago. That’s absolutely true, of course, but that’s not why I feel less regret.
I feel less regret because I have control over my “hobby” spending. I have a certain amount that I spend each month and that’s it.
The only reason I have any regret at all was because I borrowed against my money for the next couple months (by reducing my budget each month through May) and because I question (a little) how much use I’ll get out of these books.
My monthly hobby and free spending budget represents money that I can spend each month without guilt. I can use it on a bunch of small things or I can use it on one big purchase.
If I spend less than I budget each month, I let the remainder roll over to the next month, which means that if I play it cool for a while, I can splurge in a pretty spectacular way without any financial regret.
Guilt or regret only enters into the equation if I overspend my budget or if I buy something that I end up not enjoying very much. I don’t regret the finances of anything within that amount.
Budgeting and being financially responsible doesn’t mean giving up all splurges and all spontaneity. It just means planning for the financial end of things so that when you do choose to splurge, you’re not filled with money guilt or regret.
Financial responsibility means having what you want without the financial guilt because you’ve spent the time in advance figuring out what’s really important to you and what isn’t.