How to Know When to Treat Yourself

Trisha Miller

Shopping trips, dining out, weekend getaways, and other random events commonly come up last minute. I believe that any financially happy individual must have some wiggle room for “fun money.” However, just because you have the means to spend a little extra now, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. How do I know if my finances are starting to slip away from me? Well, if you have to ask yourself, “where does all my money go?”, you feel like you’re drowning in debt, and you can’t seem to nail down exactly what it was you spent it all on this month, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your budgeting and splurging habits.

Should I Feel Guilty About Spending Too Much?

It’s easy to think that when you have a little bit of extra money, now is the time to go shopping! You may be thinking, “but I don’t spend that much money.” However, often times it’s actually the smaller, more frequent purchases that get us into trouble. Spoiling yourself from time to time is essential for any financially sound individual, but when is the best time to do it? Think about this: where are you getting the money from? Are you budgeting a few dollars here and a few there or are you charging it all to a credit card? If you’re having to accumulate more debt than you can handle in order to make yourself temporarily happy, it’s probably not the best financially sound decision for you.

Listen, each of us does it and has done it in the past. We thought our budget allowed a little bit more spending this paycheck and so we buy a few things here and some more things there. All of the sudden, we look at our bank statement and…oops! Now, we’re a little bit tight until that next payday. You shouldn’t feel guilty for being human and wanting to treat yourself now and again. Yet, you can always decide to make things a little bit easier on yourself and plan ahead. You can achieve this by budgeting and not relying on things like credit cards to lean on when you’ve gotten yourself into a tight space.

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to feel guilty, because you’ve already prepared for what you’re going to spend. You might not know exactly what you’re going to spend it on, but you’ve got the money set aside for this exact occasion. You might decide to go shopping or treat yourself to an expensive dinner, but since you’ve already budgeted in some “fun money” you’re not worried about overspending.

When Should I Save?

Always. You should always be saving as much as you can comfortably afford. The reasoning for this isn’t to stifle your fun, it’s just to prepare you for those unpredictable events that could happen. You never know when you might have to have some repairs done to your car or your pet has to go to the vet or your house needs a new air conditioning unit. These are unnecessary stressors that can all be avoided by simply bulking up your savings account. This way, you’re not pinching pennies when it comes to the things that really matter — all of your bills.

In addition, I suggest that you start saving for any goals you’d like to meet during the year. Common savings goals include: saving up for a new car, planning to buy a home, and chipping away at debt. However, you can also make savings goals that are a little bit more on the fun side (although those are all pretty exciting to me, if I’m being honest). For example, you can save for a vacation or that new TV that you’ve been eyeing. Or how about saving for a day to pamper yourself? However you decide to spend your money it is just fine, but you’ll definitely want to start saving and calculating these costs into your budget so that you don’t take money away from all of your necessities.

It’s important to also think about what you’re investing in when you spend your money. If you’re choosing to invest in a home, education, or vehicle you’re probably making a good spending choice as long as you have the financial means to back it up. Buying more than you really need is not a good financial decision; for example, buying a much larger, more expensive house than you need or buying a new car every year or two. These decisions might feel like a treat, but they can get you into financial situations that are hard to recover from.

When Should I Spend?

Here’s the important part: you’ve created a budget and you’re saving accordingly. You’ve got an emergency fund set aside and your savings account is stacking up exactly how you want it to. When can I feel good about spending a little bit of extra cash? When should I pull the trigger on a “treat yourself” kind of day? I’d say, if you’re thinking about spending a significant amount of money, let’s say on that new TV you want, double check and triple check that it won’t affect anything else you have going on financially. This means, “will this purchase make things difficult for me next month?” or “will this drain my savings completely?” or “”will this purchase ruin my monthly budget?”. In other words, if you make this purchase are you going to be one small emergency away from being broke? If so, the most financially sound thing to do, is to save a bit more. However, if you think you can comfortably make this purchase and still have money left over for your budget and any of those unexpected things that come up last second, go for it!

I recommend spending only when you have collected a “fun money” budget. I know this is easier said than done and sometimes the temptation is just too strong. Although, if you’re like me, you’ve had one too many close calls and you’re just sick and tired of feeling like you’re losing money. In that case, set a goal and stick to it. Work on your savings for a little bit and then think about treating yourself. Remember, if you can help it, don’t take away from the rest of your savings account or your emergency fund. You should be setting aside separate funds that you can frivolously spend how you please and not feel guilty about it.

Treating yourself can snowball into a much larger issue if you’re not careful. Remember, some types of spending can be seen as investments. Going shopping and charging something to your credit card isn’t a bad idea, but you should know that you have the money to pay it off quickly or else you’re just going to spend a fortune in the amount of interest you have to pay back. You’ll end up paying back two or three times what you actually paid for the item itself. What’re more, it’ll feel like you’re paying and paying on your credit card and not getting anywhere. That’s simply money wasted.

The goal is to be able to do all of the fun things you want to do. Now that you might have a little bit of extra money, you want to be able to spend the way that you want to spend. On the other hand, you don’t want to repercussions of spending the way that you did when you had no idea how to balance a checkbook. The great news is, you can have everything that you want. You can save properly and you can treat yourself whenever you feel like it. If you budget properly and plan ahead you can save no matter what your financial situation looks like.

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