How to Spend Money Like the Government

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I’ve often wondered what life would be like if we spent money like we had no worries. Sure, it might be fun for a while, but spending money like that would end soon for many of us who aren’t buried in Benjamins. To gain financial freedom we must not only be frugal about how we spend money, but also earn as much as we can. The formula for financial freedom is simple: spend less than you make. If you stick to that strategy over time and have an increasing difference between your income and expenses, then you can achieve more of the goals that matter to you.

I’ve written before about What the Government Teaches us About Living Without a Budget. What I want to look at today is what would happen to us if we were to spend money like the government. As opposed to boring you with long prose, I’ve decided to use a handy dandy infograph from If you’ve not checked them out, then I highly recommend them. Their service is entirely free and they have a wealth of infographs available. I will also add that I have not been compensated by them, but am simply directing you to them as a helpful service.

Making Spending Personal

Learn about infographics software.

Seeing things like this in plain numbers helps make it more concrete for me. Do you spend money like the government? If not, what are some of the benefits of not doing so?



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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • It’s impossible for anyone to spend like the government because we can’t just run the printing presses over at the Fed whenever we please. Government debt is staggering and puts in perspective even “high” amounts of student and credit card debt that any one individual might have. What we fail to realize is that each American has a huge amount of debt in the form of our share of the government’s debt…if people realized this maybe they would be a little more critical of the federal government not balancing their budget?

    • John says:

      I totally agree DC. We can only get so much credit card debt. The debt per tax payer is currently just over $142K. That number is just staggering and is just continuing to balloon.

    • Jason Clayton | frugal habits says:

      Very True. I don’t think we will ever get a handle on our debt until the FED is dealt with.

  • Michelle says:

    Ha I definitely do not spend like the government. I prefer to have some sort of back up plan for what I’m buying 🙂

  • I think of Congress as the ultimate “people pleaser”. They’ve made so many promises to so many different constituencies that there’s no way they can possibly fulfill all the promises without going “over budget”.

    • John says:

      Great point Mrs. Pop. I think they’re too busy lining their own pockets and throwing money around like crazy which just encourages them to go over budget.

  • Pauline says:

    I would love to have a press at home too and print as I please! Like Mrs Pops I think sometimes I go over budget to please people, having an extra drink or an expensive meal. But most of the time I am my own dictatorship and not one cent comes out without my approval whatever the people say!

    • John says:

      I would too Pauline…but then again reality can is a bit different. 🙂 I agree Pauline that, in the end, I spend my money as I see fit and not to make someone else happy.

  • God this post is poetic. SPEAK THE TRUTH Jon 😉

  • If I spent like the government, I couldn’t sleep at night! It would be like taking cash out on my credit card and loaning it to my friends. Not good!

  • justin@thefrugalpath says:

    A lot of people spend like the government. They just can’t keep the charade up quite as long as the government can. On any scale it isn’t sustainable without making more money.

  • Funancials says:

    Very interesting article. I, personally, think the government should budget just as an individual or household would. Sound money policy would be a hard sell though to most…too many people rely on the government spending. I WISH I had the ability to increase my income like congress and print money like the fed…life would be easy!!

    • John says:

      Thanks. I agree that it would be a hard sell. But I look back to times when we had a balanced budget, it simply requires discipline and a committment to being sound financially.

  • Ultimately, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that government does need to solve it’s spending problems. However, it is important to note that a government to household comparison isn’t very realistic. A reasonable amount of debt is entirely manageable and rational for a nation. It’s not always so for households.

    • John says:

      Good point JP. I agree that a certain amount of debt, if managed wisely, can be a rational tool for a nation. The point I am making though is that it can’t be done with reckless abandon. We see the results of it in our government and if we do it ourselves then it can lead to disaster.

  • Savvy Scot says:

    This really puts things into perspective! I think some people certainly spend like the government (on credit cards) and then all of a sudden hit their own recession!!

  • Veronica Hill says:

    If I spent money like the govt. I’d be rich. I’d appoint my mom as the chairman of stealing my own money (FED) and ask her to loan me paper bills with no value. I’d then sell those paper bills to the Chinese in forms of debt and make real profit in the process. Oh man, life would be sweet!

  • Excellent post and love the info graphic. I agree that spending with an unlimited bank account might be fun for awhile, but at the end of the day how much “stuff” does one really need? I wish the clowns on both sides of the aisle would take some fiscal real fiscal responsibility all of the time instead of their meaningless posturing on the subject around elections time.

    • John says:

      Thanks Roger! I find that pictures are better than words at times. I agree that there is only so much stuff one can use or need. If the clowns were able to work something out then I think I’d fall out of my chair.

  • I think I’d run out of things to buy. When you spend for every single thing you think you might need and even if you don’t you keep spending just because you always have, it would seem a challenge to keep finding things to spend on. I say all the time if I ran my business like the government, I’d be broke. We once got a letter in the mail from the IRS saying they couldn’t do something (I can’t remember what) because they didn’t have our mailing address!

  • Wow. That is staggering. I couldn’t imagine spending that much money. There are so many benefits to saving rather than over-spending. The ability to retire, have nice things (guilt free), travel, have hobbies.. the list goes on! Not having stress from debt and interest rates and creditors calling you is a huge one too. I can’t believe the government can get away with spending that much.

  • John says:

    I totally agree. The get away with doing it by having a printing press to print off as much money as they want.

  • I’d like to mint my own $1 Trillion platinum coin.

    That would be sweet!

  • An almost one year after your post we are staring at a government shutdown and a debate on finances before we possibly (default) on the first of our debt repayments. Can we just get a completely new slate of elected leaders please?

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