Have you ever made a purchase that has thrown your monthly budget off-kilter? Or maybe you’ve put financial restrictions on yourself that push you away from spending on things that bring you joy. The phrase “treat yourself” has been trending for a while, and the good news is there’s some benefit to it!
Placing money in your budget for splurges is important, but setting aside too little or too much can set you off the path of your financial goals. Here’s your guide to budgeting for the occasional splurge.
Why setting aside splurge money is important
There is a myth that all splurges are negative, and that inner dialogue people use to shame themselves, or conversely, to ignore overspending, can be detrimental for financial goals. Giving yourself the flexibility to enjoy your earnings reduces restraint. Financial psychology is a growing field that studies this very topic.
Dr. Brad Klontz, psychologist and founder of the Financial Psychology Institute, explains this as a result of your “money scripts,” or your beliefs and emotional connection to money. Klontz tells us that humans do not thrive in a state of restraint, as it will cause exhaustion and lead to irrational purchases down the line.
It’s like putting yourself on a diet and expecting to never, ever have a cheat day.
It’s an important step to realize you can and will spend money in a way that’s “not necessary.” In fact, it is necessary, and more experts are saying the same. Restraining yourself is not conducive to a healthy relationship with money that will satisfy long-term goals.
How to determine your splurges
An appropriate splurge looks different for everyone. Evaluate and be honest with yourself about what you find to be your weaknesses in spending. Perhaps you like getting coffee out or frequenting local restaurants with friends, and that’s perfectly fine. Make a list of those activities and items that bring you happiness, and allow yourself to set goals that maintain a lifestyle of saving and splurging for these. Here’s how to determine what your splurges should be:
Take a glance at your bank account records. This can be a daunting task for some, but financial goals sometimes need that tough love of transaction analysis.
From the items and activities you’ve identified, tally how often you purchased them in the last thirty days. If you feel the last month may have been atypical, try the last sixty days. You may be surprised by the frequency of these purchases.
Ask friends and family
An outside perspective on any situation is a valuable tool to deploy. Talk to your closest friends and family to get an honest idea of what they perceive you to be splurging on most often. These should be people you live with or talk to frequently. People can be more observant about other’s spending than their own, and therefore are readily equipped to give honest feedback.
Budgeting for the splurges
The amount you set aside for splurges is up to you. Only you know what a comfortable limit is, and therefore you shouldn’t compare yourself to anyone else. It can be difficult when your splurging doesn’t match your friends and family; this can result in comments that you’re too frugal or too careless with your cash. However, once your budget is in place, it can be helpful to let friends and family know your goals so they can be supportive. If you’re married or in a joint-income household, it is best to have this conversation together!
There are two effective time frames for setting up splurge budgets: weekly or monthly. Any longer than a month, and you may not be able to keep track easily.
Calculate your after-tax monthly income, and if this varies, give your best estimate (it is always better to under-estimate). From there, use the 50/30/20 rule.
Fifty percent goes to needs, like rent and insurance, while thirty percent goes to “wants,” and twenty percent toward debt. That thirty percent of “wants” should be where you focus your splurges.
Remember, this may not be a suitable method for you, so talking to a trusted financial advisor will help you reach your personal financial goals.
Methods to keep on track
Creating a budget is half the battle, the other half will be staying on track. These methods can help!
The print and zip
Take your weekly budget and withdrawal it from an ATM. Put your cash into a zippered bag or pouch, and keep it handy in your purse or another safe place. When the money from the bag runs out, you’ll know your weekly allowance for splurges is finished.
Set up a handwritten tracker that shows an overview of the month. Write down any purchases and check it daily so you know how much is left.
Apps like Venmo and Cashapp have options for a free debit card that works similarly to a pre-paid visa. Transfer your weekly or monthly fund to the card and you’ll be able to see the balance easily and won’t be able to overspend it.
Talk to a trusted financial advisor about your goals for splurges to get expert advice for staying on track without sacrificing what you want.