After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, just about everyone is ready to let loose and shake off the pandemic cobwebs. But treating yourself shouldn’t be restricted to once a year. Let’s look at why the occasional splurge is such an important part of an effective budget – and how to keep yourself from going overboard when indulging.
Why splurging is important
People on a strict diet often allow themselves cheat meals, usually once a week, where they can eat anything they want. For one day, they don’t worry about carbs, calories, or grams of sugar.
Splurging is a similar concept. Whether you’re dieting or budgeting, allowing yourself an occasional indulgence can help you avoid burnout. If you can add in a financial treat day here and there, you won’t feel like your budget is always the enemy.
Plan your splurges
It’s fun to be spontaneous, but when it comes to treating yourself, it’s best to plan ahead. The best kind of splurge is one you won’t regret a day later. Instead of buying the first thing you see, start collecting a list of splurge ideas.
Use the goals feature in the Mint app, a notes folder on your phone, or the wish list function on Amazon. You can also keep a physical wishlist in your wallet to use when you’re shopping in person.
Anytime you want something that’s not in your budget, add it to the list. When you’re finally ready to splurge, refer back to the list. This ensures that you’ll really treasure what you buy and will get a lot of use out of it.
Make it meaningful
When possible, splurge on an experience or a memory, like a day trip with your partner or an evening at a karaoke bar with friends. Research shows that people are happier spending money on events than on physical items.
This largely depends on what matters the most to you. If you love interior design, buying a new rug for your apartment might mean more than a weekend outing.
Create splurge rules
Even though splurging is important, you should still follow some basic rules. Never use a credit card or loan to finance an indulgence. A splurge should be something you can afford, not something that requires going into debt.
If you want to splurge, look at your budget first to make sure you can afford the expense. If you can’t, brainstorm ways to make more money like selling something you own or starting a side hustle.
Some people find it helpful to create simple rules governing their splurge habits. For example, allocate 10% of every windfall for a splurge. Windfalls can include tax refunds, bonuses from work, rebates, and birthday checks from Grandma.
Having rules in place will ensure that you don’t go overboard, which can be especially helpful if you’re also trying to pay off debt or save for a down payment.
If you work overtime, freelance, or have a second job, you could dedicate half of those earnings for fun and the other half for long-term savings.
Always stick to the rules you create, even when you’re tempted to break them. They’ll help you strike a balance between splurging and saving.
Avoid splurging too often
When we’re stressed, tired, or anxious, retail therapy seems like an easy answer. But be wary of using moral licensing to justify frequent splurges. Moral licensing is the concept that you deserve to do something bad if you’ve previously done something good.
For example, if you’ve been working until 9 p.m. every night, you might decide it’s OK to buy a $200 purse. But working hard doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford a $200 purse.
Remember, splurges are like dessert. If you eat dessert as a fun treat, you might get a little sugar rush, but you won’t gain any weight. If you eat dessert three times a day, you’ll probably see a drastic change in your health.
If you do fall off the wagon, be kind to yourself. Remember that one shopping trip doesn’t undo all your good habits. Offer grace to yourself just like you would with a friend. Go through your budget and see what changes you can make to rectify the mistake, like scaling back on take-out or other bonus buys for a couple weeks.
Space out your treats
If you feel like you’re treating yourself too often, you don’t have to go cold turkey to reset. Keep the same rewards, but try spacing them out farther apart. For example, instead of getting a manicure every two weeks, dial it back to once a month.
Prioritize your splurges. Make a list of all your non-essential expenses and rank them from what brings you the most joy to what brings you the least joy. Ask yourself how sad you would be if you had to eliminate or reduce each particular expense. That will help you figure out what splurges really make you happier.
Don’t bring a friend with you
It might seem counterintuitive, but having a friend with you won’t help your splurge. They may encourage you to buy more and exceed your budget. Plus, if you see them shopping without remorse, you might start to wonder why you’re budgeting at all.
Shopping by yourself gives you more time to think and consider if you really want something. If you still want to go with a friend, pick someone who’s not afraid to call you out. Let them know beforehand what your budget is and ask them to help you stay on track.
Zina Kumok (130 Posts)
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.