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You’ve had a torturous week at work and Friday afternoon happy hour is calling your name. What do you do? Say screw it; I deserve a cocktail and a basket of truffle fries? Or jump on the bus, eat your pre-planned dinner (with a large side of wine) and take a long hot bath?

I can’t tell you exactly why, but scenario one is way more tempting to me. Maybe it’s the social aspect or the fact that I have a thing for overpriced cocktails, who knows. What I do know is that no matter how much better scenario one sounds, scenario two will leave me happier in the long-run.

Blame Parks & Rec if you want, but the ‘Treat Yo Self’ phenomenon is no longer an annual tradition (as touted by Tom Haverford) but an everyday excuse for irresponsible spending. Look I get it, we all have good days and bad days, but not every event is worthy of a celebration. Sometimes you don’t deserve it.

Spending Guilt

I don’t keep a strict budget. I have a general idea of how much I should be spending in different categories and then stick to that as closely as possible. Some months are better than others, but after a few years of tracking every penny, I’ve developed spending habits that mostly manage themselves.

That doesn’t mean I’m not tempted to spend on things I really shouldn’t. And 99.9% of the time those things are food-related. Saying no to eating out is not a skill I’ve developed, but I’m continually trying to be more conscious about it.

It’s not that eating out is terrible. I know what I like, so I rarely have bad experiences at restaurants. The problem comes when I blow off a pre-planned meal because I’m not feeling it. Why would I want to eat this chicken caesar salad when I could walk two blocks and get delicious tacos! My tastebuds will be happy in the moment, but I won’t feel great about it on the walk home. Even a reasonably cheap restaurant meal for the bf and I will run about $40-$50. That adds up REAL QUICK if you’re doing it more than once a week. And as delicious as it is, restaurant food is heavy, and my portion control sucks.

Eliminate spending guilt by sticking to a plan and ensuring the plan includes some fun stuff!

Think Of Future You

Present you may have had a tough week, or got a big tax refund, or hit your annual bonus or any other scenario that has you screaming ‘Treat Yo Self’ from the rooftop. But present you isn’t thinking about future you. And future you is going to be hella mad when there’s no money for future good times.

Being good with money is all about balancing your spending in the present with saving for the future. You can’t have it all now and all later, but you can have enough now and enough later. You just need to figure out what that means to you. Prioritize your spending on the things that are most important to you.

Future Math

Since we’re talking about future you, let’s put a dollar value on that. Real numbers can be helpful when you’re trying to talk yourself out of spending money.

If you invest $1 (assuming an average 7% rate of return and 2% inflation), it will be worth $4.20 in thirty years. Now those $40 ($168 in thirty years) tacos aren’t looking so great. Let me tell you, doing that quick math calculation in your head (on your phone) will have you thinking twice about what you spend your money on.

Money Doesn’t Equal Happiness

I know you’ve heard the old cliche ‘money can’t buy happiness’ but is it true? Well, not exactly. Studies who that once you hit an annual salary of about $75,000 your happiness doesn’t increase with more money. That makes a lot of sense. Once you can afford all the essentials with a bit of cushion, the extra spending doesn’t add much to your life.

Type of Spending Matters

It turns out the best way to spend your money isn’t actually on things. If you want to get the most happiness bang for your buck, then you should be spending your money on experiences and other people. The problem with spending money on material goods is that you get an instant boost but soon forget about it. By spending on experiences, you get to relive the memory forever, and just like a good cheese, the memory often gets better with age.

Sometimes You Do Deserve It

Who am I to quash all your fun when clearly I’m not always taking my own advice! I want you to feel good about your money, so yes, sometimes that means overpriced cocktails. You aren’t going to ruin your future if you partake in happy hour every once in a while. You can if you do it every single time. Why 'You Deserve It' is bad advice and how you can better manage your budget and still have fun!

One of the strategies that works well for me is to substitute an expensive ‘treat yo self’ with something more affordable. Instead of going out for drinks, why not invite a girlfriend over for a night of Veronica Mars and homemade Sangria. You’ll get the upside but at a fraction of the cost.

And hey, if you get a work bonus for kicking some serious ass, take a percentage of it and spend it on whatever the hell you want. You’ll feel good about setting the rest aside for later and still get the instant gratification. What won’t feel great is blowing your entire bonus and having nothing to show for it.

On that note, can we have a conversation in the comments about your most regretful purchase? I’ve made bad purchases more than once, but they’re usually small amounts. The one thing that stuck with me is “lending” money to a dud of a boyfriend back in high school. I should have listened to my mom on that one, but don’t tell her that!

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Image Credit: Kim Daniel

2 Comments

  1. As far as money regret goes for me it’s more of a death by a thousand cuts. I can’t think of any one major money regret. That doesn’t mean I don’t have money guilt.

    Often times it’s those quick just grab something out to eat instead of going home to prepare a meal that gets me. When it’s a quick convenience meal the food never tastes as good and I instantly regret it after.

    I like your idea of future worth. I might have to try it to see if it will help to deter me the next time I’m looking to opt for convenience.

  2. Great trigger to think of Future You as you make decisions — would work for making good wellness choices, as well as money choices. My biggest money regrets were opportunities I didn’t say Yes to (I’m a real estate investor). On the flip side, I have jumped in too far with different business or investment ideas. I am pretty risk averse so it’s less about losing money and more about losing time and feeling bad about spinning my wheels. I also agree with the earlier comment about death by a thousand cuts! I love flea markets and definitely spent too much on “great deals” that I didn’t need.

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