The Fear of Spending Money | The Physician Philosopher
The Fear of Spending - the physician philosopher

The Fear of Spending Money

November 16, 2019 • 6 Min Read

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Some of us have conditioned ourselves to be conscious of how we spend our money. That's usually because, early on in our medical careers, we've either had to choose between spending on necessities over luxuries. Then… bam. We experience an entirely different financial life at a particular interval of our careers. How do we react? Sometimes with fear.

The Physician Philosopher accounts for the time in his family's life when his fear of spending money and what should have been a happy time in his life collided.

Today’s Classic is republished from The Physician Philosopher. You can see the original here.


The day should have been filled with joy.  On the same weekend, our offer on the house we wanted to buy was accepted, my favorite NFL team kicked an NFL record-tying field goal as time was expiring to win the game, and my 33rd birthday was being celebrated! However, joy is not what I felt.  What I felt was anxiety stemming from the fear of spending money.

Is this normal?

Buying the next house

For six years, my wife and I spent most evenings looking through houses on the market.   The desire to buy a house (without feeling trapped in debt) was one of our biggest drivers to getting to a better financial situation.

We started looking this month, the point at which we said we would after we realized our student loan debt would soon be paid off (TPP Update: We paid off our $200,000 in 19 months).  Naturally, we found a house that was perfect almost immediately. Part of me was ecstatic.  But my frugal nature that’s been formed over the past two years was in a pure state of fear.

What are we about to do? This could be a huge mistake!

This led me to the realization that I have found a new cause for fear that I didn’t know I had… the fear of spending money.

The Fear of Spending Money

Looking at the math it is quite obvious that the two main drivers of early financial success are living well below your paycheck, which allows for a high annual savings rate.

My wife and I have paid off $150,000 over the last 15 months while we have ballooned our investment accounts to over $115,000. We have done this by living on ~20-30% of our gross income. The rest was put towards destroying debt, giving to charity, and investing in our retirement accounts.

In my first Journey to Wealth Manifesto, I said, “I will live like a resident (not buy a house) until I have paid off my student loans.”

However, we still have $50,000 in refinanced student loans remaining.  Am I a hypocrite? After all, I run a website that teaches people not to inflate their lifestyles in order to get to financial independence!

What have I done?

A Reality Check

It’s important to write down our goals.  Otherwise, it makes it pretty tough to achieve them.  It’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know the destination.

However, life is constantly in flux.  That doesn’t change our goals, though!  We wrote them down for a reason.

So, what were the other goals that I posted a year ago in My Journey to Wealth Manifesto?  (And have I achieved them?)

  • $100,000 in assets by July 1st, 2018 (Done)
  • Positive Net Worth by July 1st, 2019 (Done… six months early)
  • Out of Student Loan Debt by July 1st, 2019 (check… five months early!)
  • Millionaire by age 40 (We are on track to reach this early, too)

When I looked at our list and all of the things we were accomplishing, I realized that we might be able to buy the house a little early if we came across the right one.  Otherwise, the plan was to keep trekking along til the loans were gone.

Thus, my goal changed a few months back to start looking for the next house when we got our student loans down to $50,000. This number was chosen because we have $30,000 of equity in our current house.

Given the money from our home sale, I realized that even if we bought the next house early, I’d still pay off my debt at least two months before our original deadline.

Essentially, we would be able to buy the house at this point AND reach our financial goals at the same time.

Intentional Changes

There are a couple of reasons to share our decision to buy a house.

First, I want The Physician Philosopher blog to be transparent in tracking our progress towards our goals.  Showing others that we can balance the joys of living now with our goals of reaching financial independence is important.

We are all human. Therefore, we all err.  It is important to show others that financial mistakes – when they occur – do not necessarily mean our entire financial plan is derailed.

Second, our decision is a real-life example of the balance I preach.  We are buying the house we’ve wanted for six years a little earlier than anticipated.  We are also still achieving our financial goals at the same time!

While we made a decision to buy the house before our loans were officially paid off, we didn’t do that in the face of failing to reach our goals.  We sat down, did the math, and realized we could buy the house and still be student loan debt free in two years.

Take Home

After learning the art of frugality, it is common to experience the fear of spending money.  But sometimes, this fear is unnecessary.

It’s important to strike a balance between the future goals we set and living today.  If you can meet your financial goals and a change is within those parameters, there is nothing wrong with making a change.  In fact, I encourage you to spend lavishly as long as you are on track to meet your goals.

That does not give permission to change goals simply to spend more money.  That message will never change on this site.

So, take your time. Write your manifesto and your personal investor’s statement. Then, set your mind to achieving those goals.  Finally, don’t forget to be flexible along the way.

Do you struggle with spending money now that you’ve learned about frugality?

Do you have a fear of spending money? Leave a comment below.

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Disclaimer: The topic presented in this article is provided as general information and for educational purposes. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking action, consult with your team of professionals.

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