Tiny Wisdom: The Fear of Spending Too Much Money

“The use of money is all the advantage there is in having it.” –Benjamin Franklin

I just came back from the dentist where I learned I need $1,400 worth of dental work, and it’s largely because I failed to make a $100 investment last year.

My former dentist had informed me my teeth were worn down from me grinding them in my sleep. She'd suggested I purchase a customized mouth guard, which would run from $100–500, depending on the quality.

I decided to spend $30 at CVS instead, because I enjoy spending as little as possible and, as a result, I often finds ways to cut corners. It’s not because I don’t have money; it’s just because I prefer saving it.

Ultimately, wearing this ill-fitting mouth guard turned out to be an expensive decision, because it kept my mouth slightly open, which dried it out each night—and saliva is something that prevents tooth decay and protects us from cavities, of which I now have eight.

Have you ever decided to go with the lowest cost contractor—maybe for work on your house or your website—only to find you got what you paid for?

Have you ever opted to go without health insurance because you assumed you wouldn’t need it, only to find that health is fragile?

Have you ever bought the cheapest possible furniture, only to realize spending just a little more would have made a big difference in your enjoyment of your space?

Or how about this: Have you ever talked yourself out of a dream because it would require a financial risk?

These are all things I have done—sometimes to save a little, and other times to save a lot.

It seems contrary to conventional wisdom to suggest that not spending can be an emotional decision, but it can be exactly that—a choice to skimp on something necessary or useful in fear there won’t be enough down the road.

This scarcity mindset can prevent us from rationally weighing the options when a moderate expense now can prevent a major one later—or even make us money in the long run.

If you’re someone who spends freely without fear, this lesson may not resonate with you, but for those who can relate: less is not always more.

Sometimes we need to invest in ourselves or our future. As long as we’re not spending recklessly, we can trust this truly is the wisest choice.

Photo by sherrattsam

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Laurel

    This is so me! I am always trying to find a bargain and I realized recently that it’s partly because I have a fear of being dupped or taken advantage of. Thankfully my husband is the exact opposite. He believes in buying quality even if it costs more, he says it’s paying for a little peace of mind. We just made a big investment by getting a new car. I drove myself crazy for months trying to find a great deal and the best bang for my buck…but when it came down to it, we ended up getting a basic model (no fancy gadgets) of a new car (instead of used), because we realized that reliability and safety were our main priorities. After we took the leap I was still cringing a little at the price tag, but I have to say it’s true there is really no price you can put on that “peace of mind” feeling. I even heard from family members and friends who said they were so glad we got a new car because they knew we (and our two kids) were safer. (the old one was pretty bad!). I think part of it for me is also letting myself feel like I deserve it, because I always have this feeling of guilt if I feel like I’m spending more than what I actually need for the sake of comfort. I try to remember that it’s okay to be comfortable sometimes! And really, we never know what the future holds, so like you said, worrying about future scarcity just prevents you from living in the now and taking those risks that can lead to greater happiness. (I love my new car).

  • Laura

    i totally get this!! i have had a history of reckless spending, ending up in debt over $25,000 from credit cards. but few of the things i purchased on credit cards were in my best interest, usually just things tied to vanity or avoiding pain (shopping, makeup, dinners out, drinking). now i’m in punsihment mode, where i feel like i have no abundance, despite a roof over my head, a car to drive, food to eat and clothes to wear. just this past fall i decided to pay extra for the health insurance at work that is more per month, but has a lower deductible, to encourage myself to take care of what needs to be taken care of: wellness checks, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc. its hard though, i often try to get a good cheap deal, only to see it backfire on me.

  • Sandy

    I had to go to the post office yesterday and while I was there I decided I would buy a passport.  I changed my mind while I was in line because even though I have the money, it felt like an extravagant purchase.  I love to travel and I’ve wanted to travel abroad for such a long time but I was always afraid to spend the money.  2012 is the year that I’m going to do it and tomorrow I’m going back to get my passport.

  • Laura

    Interesting topic. Once, while visiting my mum at her church, the collection plate was being passed around. I reached into my wallet to put something in — all I had was a twenty. I hesitated, I didn’t want to shuffle in the plate to “make change”, and I didn’t want to put in that much since I was on vacation and counting my pennies. I took a deep breath, thanked God I had twenty instead of ten, and put it in the plate. What I learned that day was
    1. I never missed the money
    2. Money is like water, or air, it’s purpose is to flow, to be used not become stagnant

    To reinforce that lesson,since I obviously needed refreshing/testing at a later date:

    Recently, when our finances were non-existent, I asked the universe to provide for a mortgage payment. I tried to visualize it happening. I put it “out there”. I then saw something on TV news about unclaimed money. I went on the website, entered in my information and yes, there it was. Some money from a prior job! I was surprised. and thankful. 

    Another example, we needed a new roof badly, (the town inspector even sent us a letter to inform us, as if we didn’t realize it). My hubby is self-employed and had a very slow year, and I was on unemployment.  I “put it out there” and then heard about a program that was available if your income was below a certain limit. I applied for this grant, and our roof was fixed for free. The following year I found a job, so if I had applied then, we probably would have been over qualified financially.

    I have a weird feeling this lesson will be coming back to test me again . . .

  • kikiwin

    Take a vacation to the city of Guanajuato, Mexico and visit Dr. Daniel Garcia Nieto. You can pay for your trip and get the best dental care possible for less than a visit to a US dentist. And while here you can see the oldest and most productive mines in the new world, the cradle of Mexican Independence and drink some fine mezcal.

  • Good advice. You really do get what you pay for. I try to remind myself of that when I’m faced with a big purchase that could make my life easier or happier. If I act like money is scarce, then I’m putting out to the universe that I don’t have a lot of money. I like to think that I have plenty of money, and I find that I attract more money in my life simply by being positive.


    This rings so true for me at this very moment. Do I spend the three k for the Louise Hay trai ing or not ? Your post has given me thie sign I was looking fir. Thank you.

  • Francesca

    Sorry for typos, I am not so good on the iPad.

  • Great story! It’s nice to be frugal, but sometimes cutting costs can hurt us even more in the long-run. Got to do your research and make the best decision with the information you have.  A higher price doesn’t ALWAYS mean a better product, but a really cheap price is often “too good to be true.”

    Like many things, it’s a balancing act.

  • Carol Steinfeld

    Excellent point. But I have the same problem. There are thin mouthguards at some CVSs. I don’t know why they aren’t at all of them. These work. And don’t worry—the one your dentist makes is also thick. I’ve gone through 2 of those. Brush, floss, swish with baking soda, use fluoride rinse or gel, and try to use the thin mouthguards. So much to remember.

  • You’re most welcome! What kind of training is it?

  • You’re so right about it being a balancing act. This is one lesson I’ve learned repeatedly with Tiny Buddha, as I invest in the site far more than I’ve ever invested in anything else–and there have been a few times when I’ve lost money. Still, the site is growing and expanding on the whole. Learning to accept and learn from losses, without feeling resistant to investing more, has really opened up my world.

  • Thanks Carol! I actually got a different kind of mouth guard the first time around. It wasn’t one that molded to your teeth–it was one that has two parts that you bite on so that it just props your mouth open. I wore that for a year because I didn’t read the warning where it suggested speaking with your dentist if you use it for more than three months. I have definitely learned now to take all product warnings seriously!

  • Yes, I know that feeling of guilt all too well. Sometimes saving money just feels like the “right thing to do.” But you’re right–comfort and safety are two things worth prioritizing!

    Formerly, I used to buy everything for my apartment on Craigslist, or on sale at stores like Target and Ikea. I still shop through those places, but now I let myself spend an extra $20 or even $50 on something if I can afford it. It’s so much nicer to have a matching bucket/shower curtain in my bathroom than a cheap plastic bucket and a curtain that doesn’t match. And since I don’t always spend recklessly or extravagantly, putting out a little extra here and there doesn’t really make a huge difference.

    I don’t have a car at the moment, but if/when I get one, I will definitely follow your lead!

  • That’s great you were able to get a hold of the credit card habit! I definitely think when it comes to healthcare, spending more is a good decision.

    Formerly, I didn’t have insurance–and then last year, doctors identified a health problem that ended up costing me a little over $4000, since I was paying out of pocket.

    Luckily, I was able to get on the Obama insurance plan for people with pre-existing conditions. If that plan did not exist, I would be paying many more thousands this year to treat that condition–all because I didn’t want to pay a couple hundred each month.

    Of course I still love a good deal too. I think I get a little endorphin rush every time I think I’m saving money! As another commenter wrote, it truly is a balancing act.

  • I have to admit, a trip to Mexico sounds far preferable to expensive dental work without a vacation!

  • Congratulations Sandy! How wonderful that you have some exciting adventures to look forward to this year.

    I got a new passport a couple years back, but I’ve yet to use it. The last time I left the country, aside from trips to Mexico, was in college. I’ve been waiting to plan a trip abroad because my boyfriend doesn’t get much time off, but I am seriously considering doing some type of international tour/trip on my own. Nothing feels as good as seizing the moment!

  • Great point Sage. I know all too well how limiting a scarcity mindset can be.

  • Wow how wonderful that you asked and you received! I was thinking something similar yesterday. It seems that coincidentally, every time I earn a little extra money I come up against an unanticipated expense. And at first, I was thinking of it just like that–why is it that whenever I get extra money, there’s an extra bill I have to pay?

    Then I decided to reframe it. I’m no longer feeling annoyed that I get an extra bill whenever I get extra money–I’m grateful that I get extra money every time I get an unexpected bill!

  • Yes, I have similar experiences.  What I found is it is best to feel within with which option to go with.

  • I absolutely agree with this, and it is such an important teaching to embrace. Thanks! Connie x

  • Meow

    any other information about Dr Daniel Garcia Nieto? I typed his name into google and cannot find much. I need about $10,000 worth of work (mostly crowns) and I’d love to pay less, and visit friends in Mexico!

  • Estee

    So true. I’ve recently begun thinking about my spending-related guilt issues, and how worrying about costs and whether I’ve made the best choice has sapped the joy out of most purchases I’ve made over the past few years. I seem to go between two extremes, and can’t find a happy medium where I can trust my purchasing decisions. 

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one trying to find balance in this area. 

  • Bloominwild89

    LOVE this 🙂 I grew up poor. What I mean by that is that my mom had $15 a week to spend on groceries for herself, my brother and me. My mom is not the type that loves a handout but eventually we had no choice and we had to get assistance, which was food stamps at the time. When you’re poor money is always at the fore front of your mind. As soon as I was old enough to get a job I started saving money and I clang to my savings like it was my self worth. I proudly had several thousands dollars in my bank account and a car I paid off all by myself! 🙂 But still all the time I was stingy with my money and I worried about losing both; and my thoughts might as well have been my wish. It was granted to me when I lost both my car and my money all in 2011. Low doesn’t even begin to describe. I felt lost…..and then I grew. I am INCREDIBLY grateful for losing what I thought was my everything. My whole outlook on money, myself, and life has changed, much like what you have written about here. I use to hold on tight to my money not wanted to spend it. Now the very little money I have I spend on what makes me happy! I don’t even have enough money to pay my water bill that just came but I saw a beautiful handmade eyeshadow on etsy and I bought it! What the heck 🙂 I know things will work out somehow and by the time my bill is due I will come up with the money. Ok…that was a long comment. Sorry! 😀

    Support the starving artists on Etsy!

  • Linwho2

    ok that is just bizaar…i DID just go to the dentist (last night) and i was told it would cost me about that much…so its just so strange that THIS article showed up today,…after i was thinking…oh man…1500.00??? WOW!!!

  • Lori,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your costly dental bill. I do hope everything works out with your teeth though. Last year I purchased a $350 dollar prosthesis from my dentist for the very same reason. I later saw the CVS version and was kicking myself that I hadn’t purchased that one instead. I can see that, luckily, I made the right decision. Thank you for sharing this personal story with us.

  • thanks for this reminder! I am dreading my dentist appointment next week because my electric toothbrush broke months ago & I was too cheap to get a new one until recently. ;( oh, I mean, I DID brush them…but just with a basic toothbrush. My hat is off to the men and women who can safely use your basic toothbrush, but I am a gum hacker & can’t be trusted to move a tooth brush up & down on my own accord. But, I can accept that. I can accept that I need help…from battery operated brushes. I hope I don’t have new gum recession in the “3s!” pray for my gums please. And please allow yourself the best tooth brush on the market if you are like me – dentures don’t look very fun. ;( 

  • I have gum recession too actually. I should definitely look into a good electric toothbrush. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Yes I think you definitely made the right decision! My dentist is going to throw in the $100 mouth guard for free since I am having so much work done, but once I pay that off, I am going to get the more expensive one. Definitely a good investment in the long run!

  • Wow what a coincidence!

  • It’s funny how sometimes loss can actually be a gift. I’ve lost my savings twice now, and both of those experiences ended up being positive in the long run. I think losing money pushes us to reevaluate our needs. When I focus on what I truly need, I am a lot happier!

  • I tend to go between extremes as well. I always have to be mindful of black and white thinking! You are not the only one…

  • You’re most welcome!

  • I tend to be somewhere in the middle.  I don’t like to pay full price if I can find a deal, but I don’t worry enough, sometimes, about having enough $ down the road.  However, my mantra is ‘all I have is all I need’ and it has held pretty true most of my life.
    Thanks Lori!

  • That’s a great way to look at it Barbara! In the past year, I’ve really been reevaluating some my beliefs and behaviors around money. I know I am happiest when I focus on having enough and trust that I will have enough even if I splurge here on there, both on necessities and luxuries.

  • Vwlkwan

    I enjoyed this post a lot. I don’t have a fear to spend money on my wife and kids, but towards anyone outside my immediate family. My wife loves to spend hundreds on others by taking them out to dinner/gifts on birthdays and special occasions. I on the other hand feel more ‘cheap’ doing so. I just go with the flow and pay, but feel a little taken/ripped off as things are never seem to be reciprocated.. Do you have a post with some relavance for this for me to get over this feeling? Much appreciated

  • I don’t actually have a post that addresses that specific issue, but it’s a great idea for a future post! If there’s one thing that can cause tension in relationships, it’s money. I have been there before.

  • Stacie

    I don’t know where you are located, but you can get dental work done for probably 50% less cost at your local school of denistry.

  • Traveller

    Hope you found Dr. Daniel Garcia Nieto. My friend and I went to him in January and loved him. He speaks a little English and does nice work. His office phone is 473 734 00 04. I don’t know if the women who answer the phone speak any English. I’ve only talked to them in Spanish. Hope this helps.

  • Sandeep Kedia

    That’s a very beautiful point you made Laura. I would like you to put some light on “How you put it out there?”