Anybody want to discuss how to move toward Intuitive Spending? Or HAES, money edition?

So all the discussion we have been having about attitudes and practices around food/eating has me seeing so many parallels with how we interact with money. Wondering if anyone wants to join me on a thread looking at how we can support each other to move toward a healthier, more life/energy sustaining attitude toward money. Is it important to save it for your future? Yes, definitely – everyone can benefit from engaging in long term planning/preparation for their financial future. But at the same time, it is not healthy or sustainable to be constantly depriving oneself in the here and now while hoping for some far off future where we will be diving in and out of our piles of hoarded money, ala Scrooge McDuck.

I have personally been fortunate enough to have reached a state of real comfort/peace with my level of spending. And I didn’t have to significantly deny myself along the way. I think part of that was that I learned to really look at how my spending aligned with my values and goals (ala YMOYL) fairly early on in my journey – well, I was around 30, but I was finishing grad school without debt and was used to living frugally. So once I was earning real money it was pretty easy to stash a lot of it away because even small steps up in consumption level seemed really luxurious.

Anyway, throwing this idea out there to see if it sticks. I have been trying to give gentle nudges toward a more balanced approach to spending/saving where I think it might help on individual journals, but maybe having a more focused place to talk about these issues will be helpful to others.

ETA: I want to acknowledge that I am coming to this topic from a position of extreme financial privilege. While my Inner Bag Lady still pops her head up to scream in my ear from time to time due to me not being 100% in control of my finances yet, I am pretty confident that I will never be in a position where I struggle to meet basic needs, and the financial outlook for the rest of my life looks pretty damn rosy. I have enough resources to deal with almost any catastrophe that might befall me. That is probably part of why I don’t have anxiety over my spending and saving choices. I have the freedom to look at things loosely and from a position of not having any particular spending choice have much of an effect on my overall outcome (though if I could go back in time I would not have spent what I did on the house we currently live in). If there is anything I say on this thread that you find hurtful or insensitive, please call it out – either directly or via PM. I have learned I don’t cope well with general “someone said something that offended me” types of comments that leave me guessing.


I’m in.
In 2021 I will track spending in much broader categories so I don’t have the behaviour reinforcement of having to tally up all ‘frivolous’ spending each month. I’ll have one big category for normal life spending then breakout categories for stuff I really do need to track, like landlording stuff and car costs and medical stuff.


This is something I kind of just went through recently on my journal, trying to be more restrictive about spending decisions but then getting hella anxiety.

In general, I have always been happiest and in the best mental health when given the choice between sticking to the budget and deferring spending or pulling from savings to buy something we really want or need, I always choose pulling from savings. I’m actually getting a bit more granular with my YNAB categories, though, mainly to make our budget more accurately reflect what our actual spending decisions are, versus always getting down on myself for pulling from savings.

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Being retired we are in the spending mode for travel which is something we really value. However, with the pandemic we have been saving because there’s nowhere to go. We sadly cancelled our month’s trip to Europe to 5 countries. It involved a visit to my DIL’s parents in Poland. They also were going to 2 other countries with us. We have been to Europe 4’s but it’s been 5 years. We also used to eat out twice a week and go to all sorts of local activities. While it’s nice to save money we want to have fun. We definitely always spent money along the way because waiting for retirement can be a flawed goal.

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I was JUST talking to mr krmit about how I feel that this year (dumpster fire that it is) I’ve felt a real shift in how I think about money - in general I feel like I’m nickel-and-diming less and being more open to spend more on what matters to me.

I think it came from just having fewer options to spend money on - we weren’t going out to eat or shop, and certainly didn’t travel out of state like we usually do. So we had more space (and a bit more money) freed up to support local businesses, pay and tip extra for delivered groceries, increase charitable donations etc.

I hope I’m able to hang onto this philosophy as life re-complicates itself.


I had been writing my money diary and had been thinking about how my spending had become disordered and caused me anxiety the way I used to/sometimes still obsess about food quantities and the like. From the guilt over every non-necessity, to the anxious breakdowns over small deviations from a plan, to denying care for myself towards the goal of minimizing my spending.

If you’ll excuse the diet talk in the analogy, I feel like I was on a four-year heavy restriction cycle and when I hit my goal this past may, I binged financially. Literally in my money diary was trying to figure out monthly fun spending. And just with the big things it kept going up and up and up…

I think this is really where spending in line with your values comes into play.

Like let’s take food. I cut out alcohol recently. I just felt like I was generally drinking more than made me feel my best. And after about a month… I don’t miss being drunk anymore, and I definitely don’t miss the flavor of the drinks I would have many of just to get drunk. I found that after I didn’t need it as a crutch to deal with some trauma, I don’t value it enough for it to be part of my typical eating and drinking routine. Conveniently this crosses into the money territory because booze can be pricey.

But other things that after going without I don’t value: A certain club membership I had pre-covid. More than one video streaming service at a time. Going to theaters. These are all things that I will gladly continue to go without forever.

And in both food and spending, there are things that I have given up that are just not good for me, either physically or psychologically. I’ve given up carbs. Been there, done that, had the diarrhea and the keto flu, I’m good keeping carbs. I’ve given into the idea that default spending on yourself for fun stuff should be $0. Been there, done that, bought several thousands of dollars of a combination of worth it and not worth it shit this year, I’m good giving myself some fun spending budget.

I’m rambling but I also got like no sleep last night.


I’ll be following along here as I am interested in seeing how others - particularly others whose income is similar to mine - are thinking about this. I struggle with this a LOT. I’ll probably mostly be listening and seeing what I can learn.

When the retirement calculators tell me that at my present savings rate and given my current stash, I basically cannot retire ever, that makes me want to clamp down on spending. Not spending ever is not sustainable for me mentally. But then neither is working. I cannot see myself being able to grit my teeth through corporate America for another few decades - like, I literally CANNOT do it and stay sane, yet self-employment turned out to be an extremely poor fit for me.

So, I’m kind of stuck. Spend for my enjoyment and never retire? Or save the 75% of my income that the retirement calculator tells me I need to do in order to retire at 65? (Even that seems too far off, I cannot cope mentally with selling myself for that long.)

Thinking about it more, though, there are certainly some areas that I intuitively spend on. At The Other Place I got facepunched on occasion for not looking for an apartment with cheaper rent. However - this apartment has numerous features that have made our lives so much easier and even a little bit pleasant during this pandemic (namely, separate office spaces for both of us, a huge deck, space in the yard for me to garden, and walkable safe neighborhood close to the beach - things that, trust me, are NOT available all in the same apartment in Chicago at a $1500 price point!) and I’m so grateful that we were able to stay. So, I suppose that is spending in line with my values. Boyfriend and I just said the other day that if we’d been in any of our previous residences, covid would’ve been a lot harder on us mentally.


OOOH – so glad to see so many of you here! This is exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping people would post about for support/encouragement. I need to go get some lunch now (can feel that blood sugar crash coming on) but I will be back.


I’m seeing an unfortunate line drawn between eating and finances, and I’m hoping there’s a solution that shows that it isn’t a perfect analogy.

The socially accepted common “goal” of weight is to be in the range of what is considered a “normal” BMI or even lower. Some people will achieve that easily without making a conscious effort. Some people might not do it if they aren’t thinking about it but be able to reach it with sustained effort. Some will bounce toward and away from that goal their entire lives. Some will only reach and sustain it with constant vigilance and damage to their mental health. And for some will accept that it is either not possible or not worthwhile for them and not attempt to reach it

We have a socially common goal as well that everyone should save to retire. Again, for some it basically happens without them trying, some have to put in some effort, some will swing toward and away from the goal as they put money into their 401k and pull it out and refill it and pull it out as life happens, some have to save every cent not spent on necessities to make it happen, and some just shrug and go “not gonna happen, not worth it, oh well.” I thiiiink @anomalily has said somewhere that she’s accepted that actual retirement may not ever be in the cards for her, but I may be confusing her with someone else.

Those of us who are pro-HAES/fully anti-diet promote the shrug don’t bother mentality on pursuit of weight loss. This (minority?) group I’m a part of will applaud people for not trying to reach this statistically unlikely goal. But I don’t see people applauding the same in terms of money; the acceptance of the statistical unlikelihood of retirement given a certain set of life circumstances and job prospects.

This can again be the lucky judging the unlikely behind the guise of “oh, I’m just worried about your well being.” But if you can’t fix the problem, that doesn’t help? Like at all?

Maybe the solution is to cast off the assumption of retirement as a goal. But that’s hard with unknowns such as whether there will be a point where you can’t work anymore for health reasons, what you’ll do if you can’t mentally or emotionally do your current job anymore, and a number I’m probably not thinking of. I think though at minimum there shouldn’t be a sense of moral superiority towards “oh look at me, saving for retirement while dying inside, go me…”

There are a ton of things that if we could fix our country’s spending and wage expectations to take care of people’s basic needs it wouldn’t be so rough.

  • Socialized health care, so that people aren’t making the least money of their lives when they have the greatest expenses of their lives due to the need for that medical care and the obvious interference medical issues have on one’s work.
  • Disability benefits that actually pay for people’s basic needs.
  • An actual living wage for literally every full-time job. Heck, I would be on board for a living wage for everyone working 20 hours a week.

I think this would make it such that people could change to jobs that aren’t soul-sucking at any time because they would know they could still live on it. They know that while not everyone can retire early, if they are forced into retirement or sabbatical from illness or injury they are covered. And they don’t have to plan for, “well, I usually spend $20k a year, I’ll spend somewhere between $20k and $200k a year between ages 70 and 75 because of all the healthcare and living assistance I’ll need.”

End socialist rant…


I definitely agree Tris that your home environment is so important especially now. Even without a pandemic lots of time is spent there and it really needs to be comfortable and meet your needs.


I have almost definitely said that. My goal is to work as much as possible given health, but I still save for retirement because I expect to need to reduce my work hours as I get older and (presumably because I have a progressive health condition) less able to work.

I save not for “quitting work” but for “facilitating future work plans” (mostly making things/being able to take day job sabbaticals in order to make bigger things). I don’t know if this is healthy :joy:


I don’t know…I believe most soul-sucking jobs are at the lower paying end of the spectrum, based on my personal experience.


Hmmm, maybe just like… be able to change the flavor of awfulness at any given time?

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I know people in the lower-income side who feel stuck because their job provides health insurance, for sure. I really do believe that the #1 thing we can do in America is decouple health care from employment and make it so it is a right, regardless of your working status. The system is set up really poorly currently and it echoes out to SO MANY choices so many of us make.

I think when it comes to “intuitive spending” I tell people to think about if they’re spending (or not spending) out of a place of fear. So many LIFE decisions in the US are made out of a place of fear simply based on health care alone.

i.e. Trying to get health insurance for myself, and fear of my drugs not being covered, I could feel it ALL over my body. Terrified, because even a few months of paying for my medication without insurance would eat up my emergency fund (which is over $20,000). It’s a very bad system.


I guess that is why I put the Intuitive Spending idea first – I’m not so sure that in the case of finances a “health at every size” approach is the right metaphor.

I do think most people who really put some time/energy/reflection into it and are adequately resourced will find that if they are really in touch with their true needs and values they will find a way to spend that meets their immediate needs but still have room for saving for the future.

Intuitive spending is NOT necessarily the answer for someone who does not earn or have enough to meet their immediate needs.

But for those of us who do, we are constantly making choices about how to use our financial resources – do we focus more on immediate needs/desires or on future me? How much do we spend on ourselves versus giving to others? And most importantly for me – how do we weigh the pros and cons between different values that are all important to us?

The more I look at it (and @druidessie deserves kudos for recognizing and pointing out this tendency in his own thoughts/behavior) much of the ERE-style dogma some people on the Other Place spout is the disordered financial equivalent of anorexia. There may be some people who really truly value spending the absolute minimum and saving up huge piles of cash . But I think for many people that kind of behavior comes from a very dysfunctional place and encouraging it can really do people harm.

Similarly, people who are out of control with their spending and living beyond their means or going into massive debt are often living out another type of really disordered behavior/beliefs.

So I keep coming back to that core principal of YMOYL that has been so valuable to me – really looking at how your spending aligns with your values.

@TrisPrior can I use your situation as an example? I can delete if it is uncomfortable. But this is kind of what I was trying to get at in the comments about you feeling you could not afford more exercise classes. I know you have worries/fears about not having enough for retirement. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save for that. But you also stated that you thought more exercise classes were good for your mental health. I just want to nudge you a bit to experiment with that feeling. Pay for a few more exercise classes for a month or two. See how it affects both your physical and mental health. You may find that work is easier/more tolerable once your physical and mental health needs are being addressed more effectively. Give yourself permission to spend a little more on things you know you value/that you sense might have other spinoff benefits. Follow your intuition a bit more about your spending. See how you feel. If after experimenting you find you don’t get enough of a boost to offset how you feel about not saving, then revert to your old pattern. But to me, from the outside, it looks like you are not doing enough to nourish and care for your body and soul in the here and now.


Yes, this. I don’t have a chronic condition and I’m not on expensive meds but a lot of my money decisions are based on “how do I afford a 6-figure hospital bill, should something terrible happen?” (Which one of my closest friends just received in the mail. :confused: )

I agree with @Greyweld that I would feel a lot differently if we had any sort of safety net that actually functioned in a useful fashion. I will freely admit that I had moments of sheer panic this year when it was seeming like Trump was going to overturn the ACA and get rid of social security. And I responded to that panic by wanting to clamp down on spending even more.


I think this definition of “financial well-being” from the CFBI study which says NOTHING about exact numbers or precise steps, is a really interesting thing to add to the discussion esp as I think it’s relevant to HEAS



I make 35k and I’m in a really weird situation where I’m “trapped” in my first office job out of college that’s NOT in my field, because I have an insane amount of college debt and I also stumbled into having an insane amount of work provided life insurance because my job is in life insurance. Me getting into a freak accident is not totally unimaginable given the amount I bike in areas that are not safe, for necessity of transportation. My parents are co-signed on my loans, I have a younger sister who still needs to go through higher education, if something happens to me it would be a really, really, really bad situation. I don’t see myself here forever, and I’m not in this job on purpose for the insurance, but I always forget that it would actually be totally irrational to leave for quite a few years until my debt is manageable.


I think that the idea of intuitive spending doesn’t hold true for me because I think we all start out with a good ability to intuitively eat for our body’s needs. This is undermined when too much control is exerted over our food intake, whether by circumstance, someone else’s authority, or personal attempts at control in effort to be thinner.

I feel like money is kind of the opposite? You start out with no sense of the value of money. There are a lot of mental pitfalls when it comes to money - the tendency to “save” on something and then use that “savings” many times over to justify other spending. The fact that purchases with credit cards give people less loss aversion than handing over cash.

Though I’m probably putting too much pressure on the analogy to be perfect. I was definitely feeling in our household spending over the last few months, even before calculating for my journal, that we were “overspending” – not for our financial well-being, which is still fine despite the insanity, but at least for my personal values in spending, in spacing the luxuries and pleasures, and in balancing that with other aspects of spending, such as charity, gifts, assisting family, saving, etc. It’s less that I’m spending too much, it more feels that I’m acquiring too much too fast to appreciate it, while not getting “financial veggies” (things that feel good once you do them but are less appealing to the instant gratification monkey - getting the security of insurance, charity, etc).

And I could obviously tell when I was underspending for my well being and values, just I would fear getting facepunched at the other place for it, feared any threat that would move my FI time horizon, and thought that it was totally fine to suffer as long as I was doing it for my future, right?

Yeah seeing so much in line with how my overdoing it - underdoing it cycles with eating go too.


Do we really though? Maybe I need to learn more about this, but all babies and toddlers I know are terrible at picking foods. Maybe the intuitively understand portion size, but I have known a lot of babies who refuse to nurse or have such food avoidance as a toddler that they are put into medical programs.

I feel like family of origin has SO much influence on food understanding/care (I watched one woman I lived with have her children removed for malnutrition, she was a teen mom of a teen mom of a teen mom of a teen mom and had never learned these skills) and FOO also does so on money.