I’ve had similar struggles in the past, at least an unhealthy preoccupation with wanting to spend money and feeling guilty about anything I buy that’s not strictly necessary in a way that means ultimately I don’t even really enjoy the things I do buy. Honestly, what works best for me when my budget has room for it, is just giving myself permission to spend more money.
When I truly do not have the money, I can do austerity mode pretty well. For years I said no to many things I wanted, and knew that I had important reasons to say no. Once I started earning more money, I still mostly said no, but it was harder to stick to it, because I knew that I could, really, say yes if I wanted to. So I would agonize over every “fun” purchase, taking forever to make a decision and then feeling guilty that maybe the thing I chose was not the best possible use of that money. But saving $50 or $75 more per month out of a budget that already aggressively prioritized debt repayment and savings was not actually worth that kind of suffering. So I made myself a more detailed budget than my previous general categories of “basic living expenses,” “savings” and “all other discretionary spending.” I thought through what kinds of fun things I want most often, are in line with my larger values, and least likely to cause me some other kind of regret down the line, and then…gave myself permission and budget lines to buy them. Like, I’m happy to spend money on ebooks and digital downloads of various kinds, because they don’t clutter up my small living space and I value supporting writers, musicians, and other kinds of creators. I could spend absurd amounts of money on candy and junk food from the grocery store, instead I get treats a couple times a month from local businesses I like to support, plus it’s motivation to go out and walk around my neighborhood to counteract my hermit tendencies, etc.
Some of what I used to worry about, and I wonder if you do too, is that if I started letting myself buy whatever I wanted, then I would just want more forever. And actually what I found was that when I felt free to just pick up some things I like now and then, that buying them made me happy without guilt and anxiety, and I do in fact feel like I have enough. Not forever, but long enough that my spending is stable, and I’m not making impulse purchases I regret. The closest I come to bottomless desire is for clothing, especially around this time of year as I live in the PNW which doesn’t have dramatic seasonal changes from fall to winter to spring, it’s been cold and gray for so long that I am well sick of it, and the first manifestation of that is usually a desire for new clothes. But ultimately what I want isn’t clothing, it’s color and light and novelty, which is why buying clothes doesn’t sate the desire (sometimes also a desire to be a different kind of person as symbolized by the type of clothing this other person would wear, but that’s a whole other thing). I can get those other ways, like going out to museums, finding new music to listen to, or booking vacations to sunny places. Granted, that last is more expensive than buying new clothes, but it’s also more effective at cheering me up and doesn’t leave me with a box full of regret to haul to Goodwill later.