It’s OK to spend money on yourself - really
People who spend too much outnumber, by far, those who spend too little. But the methods that therapists and financial planners use to help “underspenders” can guide the rest of us about when it’s OK to splurge and when we should resist.
Chronic underspenders can be so terrified about running out of money that they put off health care, ignore needed home repairs or descend into hoarding, says financial planner Rick Kahler of Rapid City, South Dakota.
“‘Spend’ is not a good word to a frugal person,” says Kahler, author of “Conscious Finance: Uncover Your Hidden Money Beliefs and Transform the Role of Money in Your Life.” ”It connotes waste.“
Planning also helps those who are trying to handle money better by paying off debt, building savings and investing for retirement. High-quality experiences or purchases that give lasting pleasure can stave off burnout and “frugal fatigue” that might otherwise cause people to abandon their money goals. Here’s how to walk the line:
Have a budget. You don’t want to splurge one month and wind up short on rent the next. Find out where your money is going now and what upcoming bills you need to cover. Your justfor-fun spending will come out of the income that’s not already spoken for.
Decide how to invest in yourself. Experiences tend to give us more lasting pleasure than things, but the right purchases also can be an investment in happiness. If you’re learning to play music, for example, upgrading your instrument can contribute to your well-being every time you lay hands on it.
Don’t wait until you’ve arrived. Paying off credit cards and building emergency savings can take years. Investing enough for retirement will take decades. And you only live once. As long as you’re on track with your goals, you should be able to afford the occasional splurge.
What does it mean to be on track? Generally, it means that you’re saving enough to replace roughly 70 per cent of your income in retirement and that you’re scheduled to pay off all your toxic debt, such as credit cards and payday loans, within the next five years, while making all required payments on any mortgages, auto loans and student loans.
If you’re not on track, your splurges should be on the smaller side until you’ve got a better handle on your money. Not sure? Consider a consultation with a fee-only financial planner .
Save the full amount before you spend on fun. This one habit can stave off a world of regret. Online banks and some credit unions let you set up multiple savings sub-accounts that you can name, so you can have ones for “vacations,” ”guitar,“”new wardrobe“or whatever else you desire.
Finance carefully. Even if you know better than to finance the fun stuff, you can find yourself overspending when borrowing for big purchases such as cars or homes.
One way to make sure you can really afford what you’re buying is to first stick to conservative loans, which means a fixed-rate mortgage that lasts 30 years or less, or an auto loan that lasts four years or less. Then add the expected payment to all your current “must have” expenses: shelter, food, utilities, transportation, insurance, child care and other minimum loan payments. If the expected total is 50 per cent or less of your after-tax income, you can probably afford the new payment.