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The Ultimate Guide to Treating Yourself Without Blowing Your Budget

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“Treat yourself” and “YOLO” (you only live once) are popular mantras to justify all kinds of discretionary spending.

But how can you splurge on yourself without feeling guilty? Or worse, wiping out your bank account in the process?

Consider these five tips for smart splurges.

Build them into your budget

Rather than waiting until you get a year-end bonus to splurge, build them into your budget on a regular basis.

Depending on your financial situation, it might mean 5 or 10 percent of your after-tax income once you’ve taken care of necessities and put away some money for retirement.

Budgeting for splurges hopefully means you won’t feel deprived and wind up blowing your entire bonus or randomly draining your bank account without thinking it through.

Putting money aside for these special purchases also removes any guilt you might feel about splurging because you’ve already planned for it.

If you’re purposeful in how you spend that money, you can avoid mindlessly frittering away $5 here or $10 there. As long as you’re not going over the amount you budgeted, splurge on whatever makes you happy – and whenever it makes you happy.

Focus on experiences

Research shows that money spent on experiences brings us greater happiness than material things, so don’t automatically equate splurges with fancy cars or expensive watches.

Some of my favorite splurges have been experiences like seeing a Broadway show, dinner and drinks at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo (where much of “Lost in Translation” is filmed) and a New Year’s trip to Washington, D.C. with friends.

The other benefit to spending your fun money on experiences is that there aren’t associated ongoing maintenance costs. A pricier house not only means a bigger mortgage, it often also comes with spending more money on landscaping, heating and cooling and furniture.

Memories made through life experiences don’t require oil changes or dry cleaning or sprinkler systems to keep them running.

Make splurges sporadic

If you’re dining out every night of the week or constantly buying shiny new shoes, then these splurges quickly lose their appeal.

Behavioral psychologists call this “hedonic adaptation,” where you adapt to a flashier lifestyle, and it ceases to give you the same satisfaction it did at first.

If you’re splurging more sporadically, it feels special when you do indulge. You might save a set amount for special purchases each month and use that money for a different small splurge each month.

Alternatively, you could save up a few months’ worth of splurge money for something bigger.

Research your options

Often, there’s more than one path (and more than one price) to the splurge you want. You can often get what you want for less by searching out Groupons, discounted gift cards, online promo codes and sales or by traveling during less popular times of year.

For some people, it doesn’t feel like a true splurge if they’re painstakingly searching Google for promo codes or comparing prices.

But for people like me, a splurge is that much sweeter knowing I did my homework and got the best possible price.

Sleep on it

A smart splurge is one that you remember and treasure, not something you buy impulsively and later regret. 

There is something to be said for spontaneity, but to avoid buyer’s remorse, give yourself time to reflect before you buy that designer bag or imported car.

One of my favorite tips for thinking through purchases is to create a secret Pinterest board of things you want to buy. Pin the item now, and if you still want it 24 hours from now, go ahead and treat yourself.

You’ll often find that you don’t really want the item that much anyway. A variation on this is to add the item to your online shopping cart and then close your browser without checking out.

You might get an email the following day urging you to check out and offering a discount code. However, you’ll need to be able to distinguish genuine desire for the item from the allure of a discount.

More to explore:

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