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Splurge to save: How Value-Based Spending Can Save you Hundreds of Dollars

Let’s cut right to the chase — university is expensive. As students, we’re expected to pay for hundred-dollar textbooks on top of our tuition and rent. And at the same time, we have a social life to finance. Coffee runs add up. Eating out adds up. So what should we give up?

A quick backstory…

Growing up, I was a very money-conscious person. I would save up my gifted money throughout the year and budget as tightly as possible so I could get Christmas gifts for my entire family. And if I wanted something for myself, it would have to be on sale before I could even begin to justify breaking out my piggy bank cash. 

Then, I grew up and started working. At 15-years-old, I worked full-time during the summer. By the following summer, I had almost run out of that money, so I took the same job again. I knew this wouldn’t have been enough to sustain my spending habits, so I also got a part-time position at a restaurant during the school year. 

Now, I was making enough money to buy whatever I’d want — and I did just that. I still remember placing massive clothing orders each week, feeling proud that I could finance my own purchases. But soon enough, I was also feeling disappointed in myself. Even though I wasn’t living paycheque to paycheque, I knew I was throwing away my hard-earned money for things I didn’t need (or necessarily want all that badly), just because I could. 

So, I stopped and figured out a better way to manage my money: value-based spending. 

What is value-based spending?

So, what is value-based spending? To be honest, I searched this up myself and got quite confused. Other people might define this differently and give you some sort of formula to calculate how much your purchases are actually worth; however, as someone who still uses a calculator to do simple addition, I’ll give you my own definition. 

To me, value-based spending is figuring out which purchases you value the most and allocating (or maybe even splurging) your money towards these expenses. On the other hand, this also comes with cutting down on anything you don’t value as much.

This doesn’t mean you need to opt-out of every social event on your calendar for the entire year so you can finally pay for that trip to Cancun this summer. Instead, it can be something as simple as splurging on a basic, but good quality tank top that you know will last you for years. Even though it may be more expensive, you won’t be constantly buying dupes of that first top, hoping to finally find one that flatters you the same way.

Figure out what you value 

It’s important to actually figure out what you value. Keep track of which purchases you use (or enjoy) the most, but also keep track of which purchases you regret making the most. You can also think about the long run — will you re-wear these boots later on, or are they just the perfect addition to that one dress you own? 

I had no regrets every time I splurged on a nice dining experience, a Starbucks green tea lemonade or a quality zip-up hoodie. Sadly, it took me about three years and 20 pairs of sneakers later to realize I didn’t need any more Nikes in my life (but now I know, at least). 

The sustainable factor of value-based spending

The thing that drew me towards value-based spending the most was the sustainability factor. By questioning every purchase I made, I was able to stop myself from overconsuming items that I only wanted for the short term.

Trendy vs. timeless: value-based spending and fashion

Value-based spending has changed the way I think about buying clothes, specifically. I remember purchasing anything (and everything) I saw on my Instagram feed when I was in high school. But all those leopard print pants, neon crop tops and pleated skirts weren’t actually my style — they were just trendy. Even though many of the pieces in my closet were also thrifted, I still felt guilty that I no longer used them. 

READ: What sewing my own clothes taught me about the fast fashion industry 

After cleaning out my closet recently, I’ve come to realize that I really only stick to the same few pieces, despite having so much to choose from. It’s made me realize which clothes I should buy when looking to add to my wardrobe and which ones I should remove from my cart. Straying away from what’s on Pinterest can be a difficult task, but personally, I try to limit my colour palette and pick basics that will match what I already own.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, Emma Chamberlain recently talked about the idea of trendy vs. timeless on an episode of her podcast, Anything Goes. It was a great listen and definitely something worth contemplating further. 

Should you set a value-based spending limit?

Although value-based spending is a form of budgeting, I don’t set myself a monetary limit in the same sense as a traditional budget. I like the fact that I don’t need to constrain and squeeze in all my expenses, but rather trust myself to make the right decision when choosing what to buy. At the same time, if I set a budget too high, I can definitely see myself making more impulse purchases, just because I can. 

But that’s not to say that my method is the right method. Everyone has different spending habits, and value-based spending is only one way to save up. If you work better with a traditional budgeting tracker or would like to combine value-based spending with whatever you normally do, it’s a win — as long as you’re trying your best to save what you can. 

Splurge consciously – it’s a privilege

Having the extra cash to make purchases when I want to is most definitely a privilege. Yes, I do work for my own money, but I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities that have allowed me to do so. So if there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that splurging is okay — but splurge consciously. 

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Jessica Ho

Ryerson '24

Jessica is a Creative Industries student at Ryerson University, specializing in business and journalism. When she isn't listening to Folklore or coping with stress through crochet, she enjoys watching her favourite show, The Blacklist, while urging everyone else to watch it too – but seriously, watch it.
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