How to be a Smart Splurger

Spending Diet update! You can track how my own savings are progressing here.

Time to come clean…

For all the money advice I’ve been dictating to you guys, all the pep talks and enthusiasm I show, I’m actually a pretty poor role model. When it comes to discipline and resisting temptation… I could use some work.  In fact, sometimes, I can be pretty damn irresponsible about my money.

Sometimes my slip-ups are totally avoidable. Like buying lunch at work because I was too lazy to make a sandwich that morning. I usually regret this stuff immediately (sometimes I regret spending that money BEFORE I spend it…which probably says something terrible about my self control).

Other splurges are more justifiable for real or imagined reasons: the cute dress I bought for that hot date, the discount wine tour tickets, a last minute flight out to San Francisco to help my friend celebrate her birthday. These expenditures are few and far between, but seemed absolutely essential at the time.

Worth. It.

When I count up all the things I’ve unnecessarily wasted money on in the past two years, I’m fairly certain I could have surpassed my savings goal by a healthy amount. But I refuse to beat myself up for it. I think that in a lot of ways, serious saving is comparable to dieting. You have to feed your impulses once in awhile or you are just going to binge later. That plane ticket was like a gooey piece of chocolate cake that prevented me from attacking the whole fridge in the middle of the night.

I think we all have to splurge sometimes, if only for our mental health.  The key than is to manage your splurges in a healthy way, so that the only thing growing fat is your bank account.

A few tips I’ve picked up:

  • Prioritize– we all have certain things that are just really important to us- no matter the cost. Maybe it’s getting an expensive haircut, or seeing live music. For me it’s doing fun things with my friends, and the occasional weekend trip. I need those things to stay sane, so I allow myself to spend a little extra money even as I stash most of my paycheck away.
  • Look for deals– if you’re going to spend money, at least try to cut that price tag down by looking for a discount. Thanks to the Internet deals are shockingly easy to find.
  • Be honest– that’s really the key here. It’s important to be realistic with yourself and with your budget. How much can you happily live on? How important is what you’re saving for?  What are your limits? For example I had to quit online shopping cold turkey because I do not know when to stop.  It’s okay to let yourself spend a little extra once in awhile, but you still want to keep your eye on the prize.

This post is not permission to start running your wallet like a crazy person, spending to your heart’s content. The point is that you need to be honest with yourself about your needs. You do have to make sacrifices to get where you want to go, but ultimately life is about living, and living well if you can manage it.

What smart splurges do you make?

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32 thoughts on “How to be a Smart Splurger”

  1. @Ash: You can get many magazine scripts for free nowadays online. I have free one year subscriptions to Shape and Maxim. The only magazine I buy is US Weekly (my addiction)

    Off topic, and I dont mean to be a pain in the ass but I am trying to win this trip so can anyone reading this please vote for me?

    No signing up required. Thanks

  2. Keeping an eye on your expenses is always a good idea, but people need to remember that money is actually just paper. It doesn’t bring you the same hapiness as the things you buy with it will bring…
    I feel worse about the things I didn’t buy because I was feeling cheap at the moment than about the things I did buy.

  3. We were very frugal when saving for our trip and cut pretty much everything out, but there are times when you need to splurge (ours was generally food). I agree that it’s about prioritising. We found it helpful to set a ‘fun budget’ for the month and that way you can enjoy anything that’s within that budget guilt free. Two years before the trip the budget was reasonably large but it got smaller and smaller as we got nearer to leaving. It’s easier to be frgual the nearer you are to leaving (with the exception of the goodbye parties!).

    1. I use a similar system. I put a fixed amount in savings, and spend a fixed amount. We travel because we believe in living life to the fullest, so I’m definitely for keeping the pre-departure self-flagellating to a minimum. 🙂

  4. We all have time when for as you stated we need to splurge for mental health or an actual emergency. The most important thing is to get yourself under control as quickly as possible. You can’t let one little slip put you on a down hill slide to financial ruin.

  5. While you may feel a little guilty about the San Fran tix, I really think that it is imperative for people to invest in their friends.

    You probably made her birthday phenomenal and I’m sure she’ll hold it dear for quite some time. Completely worth it.

  6. I’ve had to do this for a while. Unfortunately, my interests tend towards the pricey end (printmaking, horse riding, liking NICE food, travel) so I have to choose between hobbies and “oh shiny” moments. Pedicures, magazines, shopping, and yoga have had to take a back seat to $6 a sheet printmaking paper, co-op fees, furniture to make our apartment look less like a dorm, and loan payments. At least it becomes a way of life after a while. Saving for our wedding led me into a much less frivolous spending mindset. We like our food and the odd concert, so we can nix movies and technology upgrades (except the iPad, that was SO worth it). But actually living within our means means we can go to Ireland almost every year, not have any credit cards bills, and potentially have tickets to Turkey or Egypt soon.

  7. You know what I was just having this thought process yesterday in regards to my last year of college–seeing as after I graduate I’ll want to do something that costs a lot of money…or at least I’d just like to not being living in a cardboard box…so I agree that budgeting for things that I want to do (like concerts, riding horses) makes me much happier than completely depriving myself. I know what you mean about online shopping! So so tempting especially when I have had something saved in my cart forever….

  8. I think you also need to keep a budget that allows for a bit of splurging otherwise youll never keep to it. When I saved for my RTW I first wrote down everything I spent for the week and then determined what I could reasonably cut back on without feeling like I was being deprived of a life.

  9. Like you, I also choose areas which matter and then cut the fat from those that don’t.

    For me, getting my hair professionally done is much needed me time, and something I am utterly unwilling to cut. In light of this, I have gone from buying 2-5 magazines a week (don’t ask!) down to maybe one every few months (and this could easily be eliminated if it ever got to that point).

    I have also gone from buying lunch every day to buying lunch approx once per fortnight. In doing so, this allows me to have the odd coffee date with friends.

    So much like you, my smart splurges have to do with keeping me sane whilst focusing on the long term goal (something I have never been good at- I am all about instant gratification, baby!).

    Perhaps the best technique I have for this is telling myself what it could buy while I am away. Say I want a MAC eyeshadow (AU $32.OO). Why would I buy it here when it would buy me two when I am in America in a couple of months?!

    BUT back on to splurging, deals are definitely the way to go. I have been depriving myself of new makeup all year for my holiday savings (and cosmetics is one of my all time favourite things). However Priceline (a local “drug store”) recently had a sale for AU $7.95 Covergirl Lashblast (save AU $10). This was enough to tide me over through the tough times- but remember it is only a deal/bargain if you actually need/genuinely want the product!

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