In one of the most memorable sketches ever on the NBC show Parks and Recreation, Tom meets up with Donna for a day they celebrate annually. They call it, “Treat yo self,” and for them it’s all about being frivolous. It’s a day for rewarding themselves.
Clothes? Treat yo self. Fragrances? Treat yo self. Massages? TREAT YO SELF.
The video above pretty much tells the whole story.
One day every year, these two throw their financial worries aside and simply enjoy spending. Surely it relieves stress. Everyone likes feeling like they’ve earned nice things — especially those who work particularly hard and devote whatever extra cash they can squeeze out to others. (Moms, you know who you are.)
My Method: Sneakers, Coats and Glasses
I have a different approach when it comes to the idea of “treat yo self.” For me it’s all about shoes, glasses and coats.
Whenever I want to treat myself, I always purchase one of these three things. Because of their nature, they aren’t things I’ll let myself splurge on too often — I get a ton of joy out of buying them but they don’t wear out quickly enough to do it often. I say “no” to coffee at Starbucks, random clothing purchases and lunches out. But these three things, I say “yes” to.
In my mind, these are okay things to spend extra on — or even buy on impulse. My justification is all about the per-day cost…
When I splurge on a pair of glasses and spend $100 more than I planned, I don’t feel so bad, because I know I’m going to wear them at least 700 days. That extra $100 of cost (from my savings) turns into an additional 14 cents per day, roughly. No big deal, right?
Meet the Expert: Neal Frankle
To help me decide who has the best treat yo self strategy — me or Donna and Tom — I hit up my buddy Neal Frankle, a Certified Financial Planner in California. While he mostly works with wealthier clients, he blogs for the rest of us on his site WealthPilgrim.com; I knew he’d give us some good advice about when to treat yo self and when not to.
Neal’s view? Treating yo self is okay, if you recognize that reaching your long-term goals is really the best treat out there.
According to Neal, smart splurges require the following recipe. They’re things you’ve:
- budgeted for rather than buy on impulse
- thought about
- saved for
By that description, I’m not doing too well.
Sneakers, glasses and jackets are things I rarely budget or save for — they’re impulse buys. (Don’t worry; when it comes to anything but these things and emergencies, I am a budgeting fanatic.)
You might think my sneakers, coats and glasses rule is fine, because these are things I need, versus things I simply want, but Neal says that’s not good enough. I should be planning these purchases.
The Final Verdict: Me vs. Tom and Donna
Ultimately, Neal seems to think it comes down to whether Tom, Donna and I can really avoid treating ourselves too often, and whether we spend more than we budgeted when we shop.
“I think it’s really important to see how often one splurges,” he says. “If it’s often or a person is often behind the eight ball when it comes to their budget, these are not splurges but living beyond your means.”
None of us seem to be living beyond our means by rewarding ourselves…
“Some people budget by simply saving what they need to save to hit their goals,” Neal says. “There is nothing wrong with this kind of budgeting and this, in fact, is how I do it. If you hit your savings goal for many consecutive months and have accumulated a nice savings buffer, there is nothing wrong with splurging once in a while.”
Smart words from a smart guy. My new plan? Treat myself on the things I like to splurge on only when I need them and have truly budgeted for them. If I need a pair of glasses and have budgeted for them, I’ll still spend a little from my slush fund for nicer ones if I like them more — I just won’t take that money from savings.
How do you treat yo self? What rules do you follow to make sure it doesn’t get out of control? Please share below!