What Things Motivate Your Spending?

Introspection is not something many of us apply when spending money. Unfortunately, too many of us just buy mindlessly, without really think about why we buy the things that we do.

A little self-knowledge, though, can go a long way. If you are unhappy with your financial situation, maybe it’s time to look at your spending habits, and figure out if they match with your spending priorities. Part of that is looking at your money motivations, and examining why you buy the things that you do.

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One of the main motivations for spending is need. If you need something, you are going to spend money on it. For most of us, money is a means to an end. We need food to nourish our bodies, so we spend money on food. We need a place to live/shelter, so we buy a home. Necessity is all about survival. If you are spending money so that you can survive, it’s clear that you need to keep spending money on those things.

But make sure you know where the line is. Don’t call things needs when they are really wants. You might be spending on something that you think is a need, when it really isn’t. Another issue is trying to move out of survival mode. It’s not fun to see all your money go to survival. If everything is a struggle, you might need to figure out how you can earn more money, perhaps with a second job or a side hustle.


Another money motivator is enjoyment. Do you enjoy the things you spend your money on? I stopped buying trinkets because I realized that I didn’t enjoy them. I had got in the habit of buying them, but I don’t really have a good time with them. I am happier with a good book, or going out to dinner, than I am looking at a trinket. My husband likes collecting action figures. He enjoys looking for them on eBay, and getting a good deal (or sniping them out from under someone else). He also enjoys looking at them and arranging them for display.

That’s fine. Having a hobby — one that you can afford — or buying things or experiences that you enjoy, is fine. But make sure that is what you really want to spend your money on. If you spend money on things and experiences that you don’t actually enjoy, your money is wasted, and you are unhappy. Evaluate your spending, and make sure you are happy with where your money is going.

Impress Others

Sometimes, we spend money on things we don’t enjoy in an effort to impress others. Look at your motivation there. If you are buying things because you are “supposed” to have them. Or because you think that it will add to your status in the neighborhood, you probably aren’t very happy with the outcome. It’s nice to feel as though you are on top of things, and that you are a major player in the neighborhood, but it’s not true enjoyment. And it’s certainly not need.

Examining your money motivations can help you figure out where you could change your spending, and maybe start using your resources for things that matter to you, rather than wasting money and racking up debt for things you don’t actually need or even want.

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Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger. She writes for a number of personal finance blogs, including Planting Money Seeds. She has a M.A. in journalism, and is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Miranda lives Utah, where she enjoys spending her free time reading, traveling and playing with her son and husband.

Last Edited: 25th July 2012


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  1. says

    My grandparents buy to impress and I have never felt like they truly enjoyed what they had. My feeling is that I would much rather spend money on things that I enjoy rather than having the same things that my neighbors enjoy. Keeping up with the Joneses just isn’t worth it!

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