While my husband and I worked on paying off $127,000 of debt (mostly student loans), I was on a four year spending ban.  I know, I know…nuts, right?  I promise it’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Anyway, I learned a lot about frugality and minimalism during those four challenging years, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would learn after quitting my spending ban.

Have you tried a spending ban for any length of time?  What did you learn from the experience?  Share in the comments!

Here are four surprising lessons I learned.

Spending Money Requires Time and Energy

It’s no secret that a spending ban will simplify your finances.  I didn’t even need to use a budget during this time because I had only two spending categories: fixed bills + the remainder (which all went to the debt snowball).

I knew I was making my life easier financially.  Yet, I didn’t realize how much I was also simplifying my life in terms of time and energy.

Not buying anything EVER frees up time as well as brain space.  Making fewer decisions leads to less decision fatigue.

Now that I have a certain amount of money set aside each month for fun/spending, fast food, and outings/date nights, I see how much time I’m spending making decisions about what to buy.

This is quite a privileged problem to have, but nevertheless, it’s still a problem.

Did you know that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions each day?  It’s no wonder that we feel tired and overwhelmed much of the time.

Large purchases are particularly draining.  We do research, read reviews, review endless options, and consider what we could buy with that money instead.  You might spend days, weeks, months, or even years obsessing over a big purchase.

This requires a significant amount of mental energy…energy that’s not used at all when you’re on a spending ban.

Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

I’m not going to pretend that a four year spending ban was super fun.  I enjoy spending money on fun experiences and I always imagined that I’d be happier when I had extra money to blow.

Guess what I’ve found?  Happiness is not created by stringing together a bunch of fun, pleasurable experiences.

No amount of date nights, amazing food, or outings with friends will make you happy…because happiness isn’t determined by your circumstances.

Happiness is created by your thoughts.

Problems are Forever

To expand on that last point, problems are forever.  There is no place or life stage you can arrive at that will be problem-free.

I’m living the life I dreamed about for a long time.  I’m married to my best friend, we both have good jobs, we finally own our first home, and we have two adorable pugs, Herbie, our lazy three year old, and Hazel, the world’s most energetic pug puppy

There was a time when it seemed like these things would never happen – back when we were up to our eyeballs in debt.  We now have everything we’ve ever wanted, but that doesn’t mean we feel happy all the time.

We still have problems…because problems are forever.

That may sound depressing, but it’s actually fantastic news.

It means that happiness is available to you right now, so matter where you are in life.  You don’t have to wait until you achieve a certain goal to give yourself permission to be content.

You can be happy right now by changing your thoughts and managing your mind.  Check out The Life Coach School Podcast to learn more about how to do exactly that.

Lessons Learned

Over the past several months, my life has changed drastically in many ways.  One major change was quitting my four year spending ban, and I learned so much along the way.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that money can buy fun and security, but it will never buy happiness.

No matter what financial situation you’re in right now, it is possible to be happy with your current circumstances while working toward the future you want.

Just remember that you won’t be any happier when you get there…so give yourself permission to be happy right now.