Why We Dig Spending the Bare Minimum

If money seems to eat up all your time and energy, consider a spending fast. It's virtually impossible to cut out buying things completely, but we all know there are places we can cut back. One personal finance writer has been doing this every February for more than a decade, and she's learned some things 10 years in.

NerdWallet's Liz Weston began her Frugal February project as an experiment, aided by the fact that it's the shortest month of the year. By cutting back on the things we tend to regret later, like drinks, dining out, and impulse purchases, she's found that not only does she save money, but she gains more than a little peace of mind. Rather than indulge in mindless retail therapy or give in to relentless and ever-present advertising, Weston says she has a lot more time to actively choose activities she enjoys. "I'm reading more library books, taking more walks and spending more time just hanging out with my family," she writes. "It's a change of pace I could get used to."

While paring down your spending is a useful and informative goal, it's important to remember that the reason you're pursuing this goal is balance. When we get too caught up in frugal living for its own sake, for the aesthetic or for some kind of unspoken competition, these habits can get in the way more than they help. You are absolutely allowed to make "wasteful" purchases — including when you've examined the choice and know it makes you happy.