Intuitive Spending — Get in control of your finances without budgeting

Aug 31

I want to introduce you to the intuitive spender…

But before I do, I want you to meet the intuitive eater (she’s the intuitive spender’s cousin.)

The intuitive eater

The intuitive eater is someone who’s slender and is in good shape.  She’s able to maintain her physique because she eats when she’s feeling hungry and stops when she’s full. She doesn’t believe in dieting and enjoys having a banana split once and a while — without feeling guilty.

Now that you’ve met the intuitive eater say “hello” to the intuitive spender.

The intuitive spender

Just like his cousin, the intuitive spender is in excellent “financial” shape — he’s debt free, pre-saved for his vacation to Italy,  and his retirement savings are on track.

The amazing thing is that he (the intuitive spender) doesn’t believe in budgeting. He views being restrictive as “silly.” That’s because he has an innate sense of what he can spend and not spend his money on without having to check in with a budget.

The intuitive spender can tell the difference between his needs and wants. And even when he sees a “want” — like the latest designed Salvatore Ferragamo silk tie — he feels it and tries it on. He’s not afraid of a moment of weakness that’ll make him buy it. Nope, if he really likes it and has the money available, then he’ll buy it. No guilt attached. And if he doesn’t have the money — it’s no biggie — because he’ll save up and buy it later. The intuitive spender is happy with what he purchases and never get’s buyers remorse.

The bottom line: The intuitive spender acts normal and isn’t extreme with his finances. Adiós budgeting.

The differences between the intuitive spender and eater

Even though the intuitive eater and intuitive spender are cousins — and are similar — they are different in one distinct way.

The intuitive eater has a built-in hunger/full gauge. In other words, there are internal cues for hunger and fullness — tummy rumbling and feeling satisfied. For example: Think about a nursing baby.  When their hungry, they cry and cry until you feed them. And when a baby is full, you can’t feed them another ounce — no matter how much you try. The cues are all built-in.

On the other hand, the intuitive spender isn’t born with internal cues of how much they can spend. Nobody comes out of the womb knowing the costs of pampers and pacifiers.

And because we don’t come into this world with budget spreadsheets preprogrammed in our brains, to become an intuitive spender you have to build your financial intuition and learn when you should buy and when you should save up. In other words, you need to master to differentiate between your needs and wants.

Why budgeting doesn’t work

Both dieting and budgeting can be exciting in the beginning stages. It’s equally exhilarating to moving over your belt buckle one notch as it is seeing your visa bill get smaller.

But unfortunately, when the newness of the diet/budget wares off, the feeling of restriction kicks in. All of a sudden, you can’t picture yourself being so rigid with your food or money for the rest of your life. You start to feel tight and claustrophobic. The next thing you know, out of frustration, you’ve polished off a tub of Hagen-Daas, and you’re cookin’ it down the highway to go shop at Saks. AKA: You’ve fallen off the wagon — and you’re not getting back on anytime soon.

And that’s normal. People aren’t built to be artificially restricted for long periods of time.

The intuitive spender never thinks of a budget as something that he’s going to do forever. Instead, he views budgeting as a tool to learn his spending cues that’ll eventually lead to becoming money smart without any external controls. In other words, the intuitive spender view budgeting is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

And that paradigm mindset shift — to view budgeting as a means to an end — is the difference between forcing yourself to budget (which doesn’t work well) and looking forward to becoming an intuitive spender.

FYI: Not all budgets lead you to become an intuitive spender — in fact, most don’t. But I’m not going to get into that here because that’s a whole article unto itself.

Final thoughts

The goal of this article isn’t a how-to guide, but instead to introduce you the intuitive spender — a novel state-of-being that’s very rarely written or discussed in the financial world.

Most people believe that they needed to stick to a budget — forever.

Now you know better.

The takeaway: To become an intuitive spender, you need to stop believing in budgets and start believing in yourself.

Q’s for you…

Q1: What resonates about becoming an intuitive spender to you?

Q2: What do you think the benefits of being an intuitive spender would be to you and your family.

Let me know in the comments below…

About The Author

Hi, I'm Avraham (pronounced Av-Rum.) I'm a reformed spender, financial coach, and the founder of Avraham Byers Financial (I'm better with money than coming up with company names.) In a funny and non-preachy way, I teach people how to take control of their finances without giving up their smoked butterscotch lattes.


  1. Terumi
    September 4, 2018 at 2:26 pm ·

    An intuitive spender to me sounds like someone who is really “in-tune” with their finances. I am someone who is a fairly intuitive eater so I can relate in some way. Sounds like a great way to live!
    It naturally leads to the question… what kind of budgeting is good budgeting that leads to intuitive spending? 🙂

    • Avraham Byers
      September 4, 2018 at 8:49 pm ·

      Terumi, I knew someone was going to ask the Q on what’s a good kind of budget that leads to intuitive spending…

      There are a few out there (of course Magic Number is one of them.) I think I might write a post on that one day, so stay tuned.

      Budgets that don’t work well are ones that make you dependent on micro categories and don’t let you experience spending freely. Unfortunately, most budgeting falls into this category.

  2. Lisbeth
    September 4, 2018 at 2:33 pm ·

    I love this approach. I like to have a baseline for the essential spending and then more leeway for the fun stuff. This speaks to my budgeting style!

    • Avraham Byers
      September 4, 2018 at 8:54 pm ·

      Lisbeth! That’s so great! I’m happy that intuitive spending is your style. 😉

  3. doreen cutonilli
    September 5, 2018 at 9:22 am ·

    never thought of my spending habits as ‘intuitive’ before, though i like the term a lot. i think it defines my spending style well. i really like the comparison you made between intuitive spending and eating, too – thanks for the inspiration!

    • Avraham Byers
      September 5, 2018 at 2:07 pm ·

      You’re welcome Doreen! I’m so glad it was inspirational for you.

  4. Françoise
    September 5, 2018 at 11:09 am ·

    Thank you for sharing Avraham.
    What I’m learning from your article is, that a budget in fact is usually used as a shortcut to avoid learning to become an intuitive spender.
    It’s also interesting to see how sometimes the dichotomy of two different concepts can keep us in the straitjacket of one of both, leading us to for example to define wants as needs or vice versa when we have to press them into a budget.

    • Avraham Byers
      September 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm ·

      Françoise! Thank you for coming over to my blog. It’s so great to see you here!

      I love how you read between the lines and mentioned that budgeting is “usually used as a shortcut to avoid learning to become an intuitive spender.” The truth is I’ve never thought of it like that before. What an insight. Boom!

      The main issue, I think, is that people don’t even know the concept of becoming an intuitive spender. Most people are looking to budget — and to stick to one forever. The problem is that’s not realistic. Like dieting, most people start and stop them without any long-term results. I’d even say that “budgeting” is less successful than dieting because it’s more esoteric in nature and takes more time to set up (think spreadsheets). So as a result, most people don’t even start. And those that do, a lot of times they can’t stick to it.

      Françoise, your last comment got me really curious. Tell me more about “…the dichotomy of two different concepts can keep us in the straitjacket of one of both.” Could you expound on that for me? I’d love to hear!

  5. Françoise
    September 5, 2018 at 10:33 pm ·

    So true Avraham, people don’t know the concept of an intuitive spender! I didn’t think about it prior to your post and learned a lot from it.
    That’s why people think that a budget is it and that they need to stick to it. In business it’s the same – we establish a budget and then the CEO has to explain what happened if he couldn’t stick to it. Depending on his personality he’ll stick more or less to it. But along the way and after having regularly established a budget, that CEO know what’s possible for his business, what’s useful and what’s complicated. He’s getting used to the budget and the guidelines he established for himself and why. Your first budget never is realistic, just as the first todo list we write will have a better fit in a month than in a day (which we planned for) or just as the first agenda we wrote for a meeting which will stretch the meeting way beyond the initially planned time.
    It’s the learning of what’s realistic that the exercise of budgeting will help us to become aware of.

    In a further step it will also help us learn more about the dichotomy between want and need (sticking to that example – but it’s valid for anything we try to divide into two categories). Usually we assume that it’s simplistic to decide what a need is and what a want is – it can work out – but … The question is much less to know what a need is and what a want is, than to become able to decide what need we’ll be able to pay for and what want is exaggerated. That’s one of the points budgeting will teach us, as every item on the budget becomes an adjustment of both.

    What I’ve learned about or through dichotomies is, that once we set them up we start to believe that there is a correct or perfect solution we need to find. We believe that it is “either-or” and that distinguishing both is clear and easy. To me this isn’t the case, there are usually way more variables and nuances to it.

    Take this question for example: Do I want to buy this seminar or do I need to buy this seminar?

    Well, if I want it I’m quite sure that I’ll be able to find a very logical reason why I actually need it.
    And if I need it, I’ll start struggling if I’ve really evaluated all the right reasons and couldn’t do my work just as well without buying the seminar.
    If we’d try to make it fit into either “want” or “need”, we’ll probably end up wondering how to fit it into either one.

    What we actually have to do is assert if that seminar is worth it and if we’ll make it worth it.

    Want & Need can serve to help find a direction and are very valuable in that sense.

    Does this make sense? Feels a bit like midnight rambling 😉

    • Avraham Byers
      September 5, 2018 at 11:41 pm ·

      Françoise, this makes TOTAL sense (sorry for the caps). Not rambling at all!

      First, thank you so much for the business analogy. That makes everything so clear.

      And tweaking the to-do list — wow, that’s exactly how it works!

      All those were out-of-the-park points, but your comment on “needs” vs “wants” got me super excited.

      Note to readers: If you’re reading my comment now, jump up to Françoise’s comment above. It’s full of wisdom.

  6. Eliana
    October 29, 2022 at 6:52 pm ·

    I love this so much!!

    I definitely would love to learn how to be an intuitive spender.

    One thing:

    You say:

    The intuitive eater is someone who’s slender and is in good shape. She’s able to maintain her physique because she eats when she’s feeling hungry and stops when she’s full. She doesn’t believe in dieting and enjoys having a banana split once and a while — without feeling guilty.

    Mostly correct, but intuitive eating is NOT about maintaining a slender shape. It’s focused on building a healthy body image, making peace with food, and listening to the body. There’s no link to size or weight. It’s NOT a tool for weight loss or gain.

    If someone is talking about intuitive eating as a means to manage weight (whatever that means) then they are not talking intuitive eating…they are talking dieting!

    P.s LOVE your website.

    • Avraham Byers
      November 3, 2022 at 4:16 pm ·

      Thanks for the clarification, Eliana — totally agree with you that intuitive eating isn’t about maintaining a slender shape. Thanks for the feedback!

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