How to save money without feeling deprived


written by oz chen

get my weekly digest on psychology & money

There’s a common misconception that all frugal people must be penny-pinching misers.

This is because saving is often approached from a place of deprivation.
It’s literally in our financial vocabulary: cut expenses, spend less, tighten the budget.
Those don’t sound so fun, do they?

But there can be a different way. Actually, I’ll give you three – from the tactical to the philosophical.

Give each dollar a job.

Money, on its own, is just this formless thing. Numbers in your banking app.

You add meaning to money by giving each dollar a job.
30% of money goes to living expenses. 10% of goes to savings. So on and so forth.
Divide and conquer.

How do I know how much to save?

Instead of thinking you HAVE to save a certain amount just because some guru on the internet told you to, create money goals that excite you.

I started my financial journey by saving for something I love – travel.
I didn’t get excited about financial independence until I started buying myself one month of freedom at a time.
If you don’t know what you’re saving for, then it’s not that motivating to save.

Instead, put your money into buckets, give them a job, and attach some positive goals – or meaning – to money.

Build joy into your budget.

The only diet that worked for me included a clever trick: eat “Slow Carb” 6 days out of the week, but choose 1 “cheat day” to eat whatever you want.

This was pure genius, and it worked on me.

Other diets I’ve tried always felt like deprivation.
But I never had a diet that intentionally allowed for gluttony.
This contained chaos allowed me to stick with the diet while having something to look forward to.

We can do the same with money: make room in your budget for guilt free spending.

This is money you allow yourself to feel good spending.
Instead of restriction, it’s a financial hall pass you give to yourself.
This acts as both a psychological counterbalance and emotional release valve built into one.

This philosophy is already baked into the Mindful Money Map template, which you can download for free.

Tip: If you’re like me and never use cash, I found that guilt free money was more fun to spend in actual dollars. I’d often feel “loaded” with $100 in my wallet. There’s a weird childlike excitement I get from buying whatever I want at the grocery store, or leaving random cash tips.

Challenge the consumerist mindset.

I have a childhood memory of throwing a tantrum.

I wanted a toy, didn’t get it, and angrily kicked at the back of my mom’s car seat.
I quickly forgot what I even wanted (Transformers?), but I never forgot my mom’s tired, exasperated face.
Imagine if she caved in and got me those toys?

I would’ve learned the lesson that if I felt lack, I could react emotionally and get what I want.

…which would’ve reinforced a cycle of emotional consumerism.

Saving money can be reframed as a way to transform our relationship with consumerism.

What would does this look like?

  • Sitting with the feels of discomfort and desire.
  • Resisting the outsourcing of desire to consumer goods.
  • Cultivating an inner abundance that can’t be taken away from you.

I abhor the binary setup of there being no middle ground between YOLO irresponsibility and being-financially responsible-but-deprived.

Those extremes don’t make room to question the air we’re breathing in: consumerism.

The shocking amount of ads we see every day.
The glorification of monetizing everything.
The social media posts of glamorous lives that inspire financial envy.

So that’s my long way of saying…

Saving money doesn’t have to be an act of deprivation.

It can be a practice that feels good, grounded, and ultimately – healthy for your mind and money.

liked this article? tell your mom, tell your kids


Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.