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How to Treat Yourself Without Going Broke

Shopping spree bags.

If you're struggling to get out of debt, to create a budget you can stick with, or to save for future financial goals, smart money management is key meeting these challenges. But, as with any other financial challenge, simply knowing what you should do and when you should do it isn't enough. You also have to reward yourself.

Does that sound counterintuitive? It shouldn't. Have you heard of "cheat days" when it comes to dieting? According to a variety of experts, including the well-known Dr. Oz, too much deprivation on a diet actually leads to more cravings, and more cravings could snowball into a complete loss of motivation. "Sensible cheating" not only helps keep you on the straight and narrow, it is also said to boost your metabolism as well.

Sticking to a money plan is similar to sticking to a healthy eating plan. Occasional and well-thought out splurges can keep you stay sane and motivated to continue making positive financial decisions.

Here are a few tips for treating yourself without going broke in the process.

Understand Your Splurge Triggers

When you see something you want, do you find yourself saying, "I deserve to have that?" If so, then it's time to stop that thought process.

Coming from a place of feeling as if you deserve something actually only hinders your ability to think through the purchase carefully with the bigger picture in mind. This isn't a matter of someone on the outside saying you don't deserve something, this fight is really only between you and you. The you who is trying to create a better financial future and the you who believes material things prove your worth.

If you go with the you who believes that material things prove your worth, the you who has been working hard to reach certain financial milestones is the one who suffers.

Are you tempted to splurge when certain emotions arise or when you're in a specific environment?

Then it's time to become acquainted with what those emotions or environmental triggers mean.

Splurges that happen on a whim are often times the ones we regret the most because they cater to a need or feeling that might only be temporary. This is one of the easiest ways to see a larger goal – i.e. a vacation or car – slip out of our fingers because several small purchases added up far quicker than we realized.

It's all about being mindful – thinking splurges through in a time frame that allows you to recall the bigger picture and what impact this one thing might have on it. That in and of itself is half the battle.

Appreciate Small Allowances

What comes to mind when you think of splurging? Is it a trip on a private yacht? A sushi dinner? Something in between?

If you were anywhere near the private yacht idea, it's probably time to reel in and reshape your concept of treating yourself.

Think of things that are obtainable in the near future that won't seriously hinder your overall financial health or progress. Did you cut back or cut out a hobby or activity once you started sticking to a budget? Then maybe that could be something you treat yourself with.

The more you appreciate these small allowances, the more satisfaction you'll be able to get out of splurging and gaining control of your finances in general. This mindset will help you stay on track while making big financial changes and long after the need for strict spending has passed.

Frequency Matters

If you're a parent you probably know that using some type of reward system with your kids only gives the desired results if the rewards are few and far between. Reward too often and it becomes expected – igniting that "but I deserve it!" mentality.

You might be older than your kids, but your psychology works much the same way. If you allow yourself a splurge often enough to where it just becomes commonplace then it's no longer a splurge -- it's an expense.

The less something happens, the more we are able to look forward to it and appreciate it. It might sound like a trick, but even being able to see behind the curtain won't stop this from working in your favor.

Maybe it means planning for one big trip a year, two fancy dinners out every six months, or one $5 coffeehouse drink a week. What it looks like and how much it costs will depend entirely on your personal financial picture.

Make sure that the splurge is significant enough that you will want to continue to work towards it, and allow that excitement or anticipation to build. If you pick something that doesn't seem all that exciting to you then this whole concept falls flat (obviously).


Don't make staying on track financially feel restrictive and suffocating. If you do, the chances of you ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel are slim.

Treating yourself doesn't go against your financial goals, it's simply just another tool to help you build a strong and stable foundation.

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Kayla Albert is a proud Colorado native and personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a company that is helping Americans manage and pay off debt online. She enjoys sharing tips on saving money and getting out of debt. You can follow @ReadyForZero and @KaylaAlbert33 on Twitter.

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