Deserve is a Dangerous Word

Pretty PennyHow often do we use that word, “deserve” to justify spending money? Trent Hamm wrote on this on the Simple Dollar recently—

I deserve to go out and have a nice dinner.


It’s a word that implies a pretty high opinion of oneself. It means that you inherently believe that you have done something or have the qualities worthy of a particular reward.

I deserve a shiny, fancy car.

It’s a word that says that you believe whatever sacrifices and choices you made in life ought to result in some sort of a greater reward than what you have already achieved.

I deserve that promotion at work.

It’s also a word that is perhaps the most damaging of all to one’s personal finances and one’s career progress.

First of all, it often ties itself to a reward that will cost you in ways you’re not seeing in the moment.

Let’s say that you’ve decided for whatever reason that you “deserve” a new car. If you go right out and buy that car, you’re taking on a big expense. You’re also likely taking on an auto loan, which will gobble down even more money in the form of interest, and you’re also probably seeing a bump in the cost of insurance.

That money gets taken away from the other goals you hold dear in life. If you go out and buy a new car because you “deserve” it, you’re not receiving that new car as some sort of bonus in life. You’re just stripping money away from other things in your life out of a sense of “deserving” a new car.

In that sense, “deserve” becomes something different. It becomes a reason to indulge greatly in something, even if it causes financial damage in the rest of your life.”
Hamm goes on to explain the two problems with this thinking.

  1. That it justifies spending money when very likely it is not necessary to spend money and doing so may deny the opportunity to use that money in a better way.
  2. That it betrays a scarcity mentality.

He cites two quotes from Stephen R. Covey about scarcity and abundance mentality. If you think there is a scarcity of things and you are not getting or do not have your share you have a scarcity mentality. This can generate the “I deserve” thinking.

If you have an abundance mentality you believe there is plenty of potential out there for all of us. Your focus is not on what you do not have but what you do have.

This is not to say that you should never splurge or enjoy things in life. It is OK to treat yourself now and then as long as you do not frame it as what you deserve. It is not about what you deserve. It is about what you choose to spend your money on. Spend it on this and you cannot spend it on that. It is about choice.

It is also not about denying what you truly deserve. You deserve certain things in life like respect from others, love, and those other things that other people ought to provide. You do not deserve things and you do not deserve a new car or a nice dinner out. You may well choose to buy those things, but not because you deserve them.

The danger with the “deserve mentality” is that it can cause you to spend money you do not have, to incur debt unnecessarily, to fail to save and invest and other decisions that do not serve you well. You deserve to take care of yourself. You deserve to do what is wise. You deserve to be responsible for your own fate.

I think that is Hamm’s point and it is well made. Thinking about what you want and calling it what you deserve is just a clever way of justifying spending money in ways that may not be financially wise. Next time you catch yourself thinking that you deserve something think about that.

Read all of Hamm’s post here.
Learn how to manage your money, eliminate debt and build wealth in my book, Your Financial Success.

Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to post your comments or questions below or if you want to contact me privately you can do that here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.