3 Common Money Excuses We Tell Ourselves

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3 common money mistakes we tell ourselves, and what we can do.

Money excuses are a part of everyday life. We’re all guilty of spending a little too much here or there or thinking we have more in our accounts than we actually do.

Looking back at all the money excuses I made back in my early 20’s makes me laugh. “Everyone takes out student loans” is the first one that comes to mind. That definitely wasn’t true!

So, in honor of the fact that we’ve all told ourselves a money excuse or two, below are some common ones that I know I’ve told myself at times and which, if we’re honest, we might be telling ourselves right now to justify unhealthy financial habits.

1. I deserve to spend this because I’m awesome.


Did you get a raise at work? Did you get an A on your test? Did you win a dance off at FinCon?

Congratulations – you’re awesome.

I mean, we all are at some point, right? The problem is channeling this excitement into a trip to the mall. When great things happen to us, it’s part of the American culture to want a reward. Rather than thinking of a reward in the form of a getaway or new purse, though, remember that doing well in life and saving your money is a reward in itself.

2. I’ll charge it and pay it before the bill is due.


The new iPhone isn’t that much, right? (Okay if you have it, I don’t want to know because I’m already jealous.) It’s pretty hard to see new, shiny things and conjure up some self-control. However, one big lie people tell themselves to get into credit card debt is that they’ll pay it off before the bill is due, even though they don’t know where the money is going to come from to make good on that promise.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking becomes a habit and before you know it, you’ve charged several things to your card, promising yourself you’ll pay it right when you get that paycheck.

One way to combat this is to stay organized with a budget, so you don’t over-allocate your money to numerous different things before you have it.

3. Everyone else is spending, so I should too.


Peer pressure doesn’t go away in high school,. At least in my experience, it definitely continues throughout adult life.

I can think of numerous times I’ve gone out with friends and not wanted to buy a drink at a restaurant. It feels awkward when you’re the only one not doing it though so I usually give in. I just can’t justify $7 for a glass of wine when I can buy a whole bottle for that at the grocery store, but I tell myself everyone else is spending it so I should too.

A great way to avoid this is by spending time with people who share your values – and by values I mean they also enjoy drinking bottles of wine that are $7 and not just glasses of it. 😉

The Bottom Line


Ultimately, money excuses are going to come up from time to time. It’s a pretty normal thing that happens to everyone, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much if you’re guilty of the same thing. I know what it’s like to convince yourself to buy the more expensive option thinking it’s more valuable or telling yourself you deserve a vacation. What’s most important is to be aware of the tendency so that you can combat it the next time it comes up.


What’s a money excuse you tend to tell yourself? How do you like to celebrate accomplishments? What helps you avoid overspending?


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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    I used to tell myself that I could just pay for it later. Which I always did, after bonuses, but I couldn’t pay for it in the moment, so I should not have spent the money. If you can’t pay for something when you buy it, then that is a sign that you shouldn’t buy it.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Yikes! I’m sure I’ve told myself similar excuses in the past. I actually remember buying my first expensive car in my early 20’s and rationalizing the purchase by saying that “everyone has a car payment.” Doh!

  • Al | Saving the Crumbs says:

    How I’ve lamented the days of my youthful folly giving myself these excuses! I think the key for me was having a shift in my thinking about how to define “awesome.” I’m so awesome because I’m NOT spending money I don’t have to, I’m so awesome because I don’t have credit card debt, and I’m SO AWESOME because I don’t spend like everyone else. It’s a little egotistical, I know…but that’s the one voice in my head saying these things to myself to combat the other voice telling me to spend-spend-spend.

  • Kassandra says:

    A checkmark to all three points in my past spendaholic life. It was ridiculous how I was able to convince myself I needed stuff even though I knew I couldn’t afford it! Now it’s hard to get me to cough up money for a random reason as I really analyse a purchase before I make it.

  • Robin @ The Thrifty Peach says:

    The last one used to get me all the time. Sometimes I still think to myself….screw the budget and let’s go to Target and blow some money! It’s like trying to get away from an addiction.

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    I have definitely succumb to #3 in the past! Thank goodness I stopped going to malls with my spendaholic friends. It’s hard to be in a group who is spending money and be the only one not spending- even beyond the peer pressure aspect, I used to find myself wanting certain things more when hanging out with those friends. Contagious overspending!!!

  • Erin @ Journey to Saving says:

    I did the same thing for student loans. There are times when I go with the flow for the sake of a group, but then I feel bad later on for spending or going out in the first place.

  • Grayson Bell says:

    I used to be heavily into excuse number two. Did it all the time. That is how I racked up over $50,000 in credit card debt. I don’t do that anymore.

  • Michelle says:

    I used to always use the “I deserve it” excuse. I hated my job, and I would reward really bad days with “treats.” It was a bad cycle where I wasted a lot of money.

  • Amy says:

    Number 3 has been my nemesis for sure!

  • John @ Building Financial Freedom says:

    My wife has been known to fall victim to some of these excuses and of course, I have too.

    The worst one for us used to be the “everyone else is spending”. It didn’t take long to realize that keeping up with the Jones’ wasn’t gonna work.

  • Ciel Belle says:

    I know I have blurted out one of those things either out loud or in my head the past month. Its still something I need to work on, but this is why I read PF blogs to keep me on track =)

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    I hear these excuses all the time, Cat! I’m surprised by how often people are surprised to learn that credit card debt really shouldn’t be normal. πŸ™‚ #1 is the one that I have to watch out for. We do tend to celebrate by spending money, which is okay as long as we have the money to celebrate and we celebrate truly momentous occasions, not that the sun rose, the mail was delivered type of events. It’s easy to turn everything into a cause for celebration!

  • Ben Luthi says:

    I feel the temptations of #1 and #3 the most. I definitely think those are going to be the ones that the younger generation struggles with the most as well.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    Honestly I think sometimes it is good to celebrate accomplishments – within reason! When I sold my first credit card we stipend some of the money to go out to eat. I think we ended up just getting Chipotle, bu tit was still kind of nice to reward myself. I think #3 is tough. I think for 20-something professionals it’s the worst because everyone is making “okay” money and it seems like people end up trying to compete.

    • Cat says:

      I believe in rewards within reason too. πŸ™‚ I bought something I’ve been wanting when I got my first public speaking engagement – all within reason!

  • Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says:

    Still to this day I’ll “treat myself”. Usually its whenever I’m stressed at work and usually the “treat” is either lunch/dinner/coffee or all of the above. It just helps to reduce the stress at that moment. But it hurts later financially so I try to resist whenever I can.

  • Prudence Debtfree says:

    I think that your idea of spending time with people with similar values is a good one. And now that my eyes are open to differing money habits, I find that there are many quietly frugal people out there. When I had my financial head in the sand, I didn’t notice.

  • Kim says:

    I think I’ve used all those at some point, although I must be the only one on the planet who has no desire to have an iPhone 6! You can always find an excuse or reason to justify why you bought something you didn’t need. I don’t think I even knew they were excuses until I stopped using them.

  • Richard says:

    Hey Cat – great article as always πŸ™‚ I couldn’t agree more with you about point #1 – people’s need to reward themselves sometimes astonishes me!

    Infact, on a slightly different angle, I have a friend on Weight Watchers who, if they he a good weigh-in, reward themselves with a McDonalds! Lol!

    I learned some years ago that the best reward is *not* to spend your money. Seeing your savings account growing all the time is the best reward I can imagine πŸ™‚

  • Myles Money says:

    The way I see it, over-spending is a socially-accepted addiction and the addicted tend towards justifying their actions so they can keep indulging. It’s necessary for people to educate themselves about the potential harm they are causing their future finances and stop normalising compulsive buying. Spending should be a decision and not a reaction or a habit.

  • My Own Advisor says:

    I’m still guilty of all three, just less so now πŸ™‚

  • Michelle says:

    I have a constant battle with myself with all three of these things. I just keep on trying to think of the big picture before I make purchases.

  • Abigail says:

    Unless you’re in a restaurant you’ve walked or taken the bus to, just use the drink and drive excuse to not buy a overpriced glass of wine. If they say one is okay, just tell them you’ve been paranoid about it lately.

    Okay, you shouldn’t have to do that, but if you find yourself in that situation, I think it’s a good solution.

  • Steve Adcock says:

    It’s more than “…because I am awesome”. It’s more about “…because I can afford it” that gets people into trouble. I was like this too not so long ago, especially with a recent car purchase. A stupid purchase because I made decent money and could afford it.

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Think of it this way – will your future self love you or hate you for the financial decisions that you are making today?

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