Why Frivolous Expenses Don’t Exist and How My Opinion About How You Spend Your Money Is Irrelevant

One of the biggest hesitations clients have when they come to us for financial coaching is judgement. They are afraid we’re going to shame them for their past decisions. They think we’re going to judge them for overspending or their amount of debt or whatever it was that lead them to seek financial coaching. They assume we’re going to go over their budget line by line and cut any frivolous expenses.

You know the expenses. They’re the ones that traditionally are thought of as unnecessary or extravagant. The daily latte purchase. The weekly massage. The weekend spent jet setting when you *just* went on a trip.

When I see these expenses do I wonder “What the f*ck?”

Will I roll my eyes? 🙄

Nope. I won’t do either of those things.

And here’s why.

It’s Only A Frivolous Expense If You Think It Is

My opinion about any of your expenses does not matter. Financial coaching – good financial coaching, that is – is rooted in helping you to explore what you think of that expense, and then what you want to do based on what you think and feel. My opinion does not factor in. It’s not my money. It’s not about my values.

Let’s use something many people have very strong opinions about as an example: tithing.

I can personally consider tithing a fixed, variable, non-negotiable or flexible expense.

I can consider it to be 10% of your net or gross income.

I can have an opinion on whether or not there are other ways to “tithe” such as with time, or not.

The only thing that’s important, however, is what you think. What do you think tithing should be? How does your tithing align with your values? For some people, tithing 10% of their gross income is a non-negotiable expense.

One of the best things I can do as a coach is ask questions, especially when I think I know the answer. I’m often pleasantly surprised by what I discover about my clients when I throw all notion of what I think some expense should or shouldn’t be. Even when it’s based on what I assume I know about the client.

How to Determine If An Expense is Frivolous

Here are some questions, I might ask a client to determine what value they put on any given expense (which can be applied to any expense. Let’s use tithing again as an example:

  1. Tell me what [tithing] means to you?
  2. What value does [tithing] add to your life?
  3. When you see [tithing] on your budget, how do you feel? What goes through your mind?
  4. When was the last time you looked at it to make sure the amount is accurate?
  5. Is this an area of your finances you want to explore further or shall we move on?
What do you notice with this line of questioning?
  • I’m not assuming my beliefs on any particular expense are the same as yours. I’m inviting you to share with me your beliefs.
  • I’m not telling you that you should lower or eliminate the expense. My role is in helping you evaluate any expense based on the value it adds to your life, which is going to be different for everyone.
  • I’m accepting your answers as your truth, even if it’s not my truth.

It’s not my job to decide for you if ANY one of your current expenses are more or less important than the goal you’re trying to achieve. My job is to simply help you see, with clarity, the choices in front of you so you make a determination with confidence.

Even if you are cashflow positive every month, we still have failed at budgeting if every expense you have isn’t adding value to your life. My goal as a financial coach is that you’re paying for things not out of some sense of obligation. I want your expense tied to a place of joy and appreciation. And that means embracing whatever brings you – not me – joy or appreciation.