How to practise mindful spending

4 min | 15 May 2023

Chanté Joseph
Chanté Joseph

Saving money can feel like a stressful experience. Enter 'mindful spending': the technique some savers are using to change the way they think about setting aside money.

When you think of money management, what's the first thing that comes to mind? It might be budgeting – but that isn’t always the best way to save and organise money on its own. Setting up budgets might feel time-consuming and admin-heavy, and you might be left feeling even more restricted and anxious. Plus, it can be tough constantly revising your budget as your circumstances change.

What is mindful spending?

Mindful or conscious spending is about managing your money without focusing on deprivation or restriction. It encourages you to save without feeling like you’re giving up things that make you happy. Instead, by prioritising your goals when spending, you're likely to make decisions that feel more in tune with the future you want for yourself. I spoke to Natasha Knox, a financial planner and therapist, to break this concept down and share techniques we can use to help us better manage our money.

Knox describes financial therapy as "applying therapeutic intervention to the topic of financial wellbeing". There are many reasons why people seek help from someone like Knox. “It isn't necessarily people who have overspending issues,” she says. “It could be enmeshment issues or financial hoarding issues where they’re denying themselves something, such as appropriate healthcare, because they're so terrified of running out of money that they definitely have.” Knox’s role is to help people burrow down into their deepest thoughts and discover how past experiences drive their relationship to money. “How on earth is someone going to permanently make a shift in their spending if they haven't come to terms and re-evaluated what is really underneath?”

Think critically

Mindful spending and financial planning encourage you to think critically about popular ideas regarding money management. When it comes to budgeting, Knox describes people as “locked in” to the idea of separating their purchases into “needs and wants”. This sort of binary thinking when trying to manage your money can be unhelpful, as there's little space to consider how our needs and wants can be the same. “You can turn almost anything into a need,” Knox explains, and in some cases, the black-and-white language of needs and wants can lead to unhelpful self-judgement. “It's a sort of self-shaming language that I'm not a huge fan of because shaming doesn't generally lead to better behaviour – not in the short term, definitely not in the long term."

“When we think of needs versus wants, many people think about the basics like shelter. However, people have other needs, such as connection, belonging, equality, justice and comfort.” Knox uses the example of spending money on lunch with colleagues daily at a great expense to your budget. “This behaviour shows a need for belonging. There are fears around acceptance – there could be a lot of shame in how you look in front of colleagues if you say you can't afford it.”

Mindful spending is acknowledging that this spending habit feeds a need: connection. So, a mindful approach is thinking about a way to fulfil this need without spending more than you can afford. To Knox, mindful spending is all about considering how you interact with money. “It's an awareness of what’s available for you to spend, in conjunction with an understanding of what the spending is about," she explains. "Once those two things are married, you have mindful spending.”

I asked Knox for some quick-fire strategies to start mindful spending:

  • Put your phone in grayscale: everything looks terrible in grayscale, so you're less likely to be attracted to ads
  • Clear your cache, so the algorithms don’t show you items you don’t need
  • Give yourself a 24 to 48-hour cooling-off period before you buy something
  • Make mindful trade-offs: what does buying something mean for the quality of a different experience?
  • Try de-automatisation: remove your card details from your browser so they don’t automatically populate for every purchase. This will give you time and space to consider whether you need it

Whatever you decide to do, look after your money. Chase's easy-access saver account lets you start saving with as little as you like.

18+, UK residents. A Chase current account is required to open a saver account. T&Cs apply.

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