Got the Urge to Splurge? Use These Strategies to Fight It (or Not)

This just in: Sales of bleach and fertilizer are down, but U.S. consumers can't seem to get enough of cosmetics and wine.

According to a recent New York Times article, we're also buying more shoes, handbags, premixed cocktails, and meat pies. (Meat pies? Who knew?) Cheesecake sales are up by 22%. Vacuum-cleaner bags are down by 19%.

We'd rather eat, drink and dress up than clean the house? There's news.

Continued economic doldrums mean we're comforting ourselves with sweets (again: stop the presses!) and indulging ourselves with things like purses and watches. One department-store exec said the latter may actually be a cost-cutting measure. As counterintuitive as that sounds I'm inclined to agree: When you can't afford a new wardrobe, accessorizing your existing duds can make them look different. Those who work in appearance-conscious industries know this.

(Those who are freelancers or home-based workers, please join me in a silent prayer of gratitude: Thank you, God, for making it possible for me to work in my underwear — and since I don't leave the house, it doesn't even have to be my good underwear.)

Self-control only stretches so far
Nevertheless, the article indicated that some of those splurges amount to budgetary rebellion: I've been good for six whole months! And besides, these shoes are too cute to resist!

“In a poor economy…there's only so far (that) self-control energy can be stretched,” says Kathleen Vohs, a University of Minnesota professor whose specialty is spending behavior.

In other words, you're totally normal to want more Stuff. But you're not powerless.

Meet the urge to splurge head-on. I came up with a list of five Rs (why stop at three?) to use as weapons in your war against overspending.

Note: You may not always win. And that may be okay.

The first R: Recognize the urge
Do you start twitching when you see a nail salon or a sporting-goods store? When a friend puts a shot of his new car on Facebook are you stricken with auto-eroticism? As your roommate shows off her mall gleanings do you feel overwhelmed by the desire to apply for every store credit card extant?

Welcome to the cult of the completely human. We're hunter-gatherers by nature, so it's natural to be distracted by bright, shiny objects. Oooh! Pretty! Want one! Want two!

What you don't want is unnecessary debt. Nothing takes the luster off a hot sports car like the cold reality of half a decade's worth of monthly payments. And wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to do your own nails? (Apparently some people think so: Nail-polish sales went up 10% in the past year, according to that Times article.)

Once you've recognized the urge, it's time to deal with it by considering…

The second R: Remember your plan
Why did you cut spending in the first place? Perhaps you're paring expenses to meet a specific goal, such as paying off debt or saving for a down-payment on a new home.

If the splurge you're eyening isn't moving you closer to that goal, take a step back. Take a deep breath. Take time to call a friend who will talk you down. (Don't have a splurge sponsor? Get one.) Just don't take out your credit card and notice an error in your credit report later.

It's not that you can never, ever have fun again. (More on that below.) It's that you need to pick your spots.

Then again, you may not have much of a choice. Some people choose austerity, and some have it thrust upon them by unemployment, medical bills, or a salary that's outpaced by inflation and/or the needs of a growing family. If that's you, you may be awfully sick of the pared-down life. Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • You're tired of being so good all the time.
  • You're tired of saying “no” to your kids.
  • You're tired of wishing that you could give your spouse the world.

My advice may sound like a trio of platitudes, but here goes:

  1. Sometimes, being good just stinks. But try to remember the advantages you have. Water comes right out of the faucet, and it will almost certainly not give you cholera or typhoid. You have access to food, even if it's government cheese when you'd prefer The Cheesecake Factory. Soldiers from neighboring countries don't sneak across the border to steal your stuff and try to kill you. Etc., etc. (Remember, too, that the folks who seem to have it all might be up to their hairlines in debt. Some of them might lie awake at night wondering if they can ever pay off those credit cards or fearing that a foreclosure notice will be nailed to the door the next morning.)
  2. “No” is hard to say. But sometimes you have to say it anyway. Hearing this word won't kill your kids. (Unless you're saying “No, I won't pay for your insulin.”) Don't send them to school in rags and don't neglect nutrition or health care. But don't go deeply into debt trying to meet every “need” dreamed up by a marketing-driven society.
  3. Love with your heart, not your wallet. If you love and respect your spouse and show it everyday, then you already are giving him or her the world. Or the part of it that matters, anyway.

If you're really down and out, see “Unemployed? Underemployed? Here's how to get help” for information on programs that might ease the burden.

It's normal to feel shortchanged, and it's hard to stay on the straight-and-narrow for months or years without any relief in sight. But if times are already tough, overspending won't make things easier.

Whether your simplicity is voluntary or involuntary, you still need to take the next step.

The third R: Redefine it
What constitutes a splurge
? Maybe what you want is actually necessary but you feel guilty about spending money.

Take it from me, a slowly reforming tightwad: It's okay to meet basic needs. It's also okay to spend money on some of your wants. (I'll get to that soon. Honest.)

But to meet your long-range goals, you need to spend mindfully. Which brings us to…

The fourth R: Redirect it.
So you need or want new slacks for work, a replacement school backpack for your kid, that luscious cheesecake in the bakery window. Mindful spending will let you have these things, or something quite like them. Why pay retail when you can use frugal hacks such as:

About that cheesecake: Look online for inexpensive recipes, especially if they're for smaller versions. Otherwise you'll need to replace your work clothes a second time. You could also compromise by baking up something similar, such as cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting or a cheese-filled pastry.

Fun fact: Sales of “refrigerated baked goods” went up 16% this year.

Of course, you also might take the bold, bold step that is…

The fifth R: Revel in it (sort of)
To paraphrase Tom Cruise's character in Risky Business, sometimes you just have to say “what the heck.”

You, too, can have a few non-essential items now and then. You can even enjoy them! Just do it — yep — mindfully. When possible, use the frugal hacks noted above to get the most bang for your buck. But do part with a few of those bucks now and then. It's the little extras that make life fun.

Bonus: The smallest of treats will seem much more luxurious precisely because you don't indulge yourself constantly.

When overcome by the urge to splurge, think it over. Decide what, when or whether to buy. Perhaps you can do without. Perhaps you'll decide you really do need it, in which case you can find ways to meet that need without breaking the bank.

Or perhaps you'll realize that sometimes it's really okay to indulge. Man does not live by bread alone. Sometimes he needs refrigerated baked goods, too.

More about...Psychology

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Tom
Tom
8 years ago

I have not bought a vacuum cleaner bag for two years…not because I’m a slob, but because I have a bag-less unit. It looks like various manufacturers are jumping on the Dyson bandwagon, so I would expect the trend of lower bag sales to continue.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Hadn’t thought of that! In fact, my own vacuum is bag-less.

Becky, in GA
Becky, in GA
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I have a commercial hoover that is OLD, but so very reliable.. my newer, bag-less, model one bit the dust within a year. Back to the old, reliable and buy a few bags.

Kris
Kris
8 years ago

I just feel so lucky that I was not born with the desire to spend. Well, I take that back. If I am having a bad day, I might want to go to Starbucks and have a cocoa and read a book, but heading to the mall is the last thing I want to do when I am grumpy. Just by looking at my spending habits and those of some of my friends, I do think spending is somewhat innate. I guess it is just a coping strategy for some, and I just got lucky in that regard. (That’s ok,… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Kris

Thanks for your kind words.
My own splurges tend to be buying stuff for other people (especially my daughter, my niece and my great-nephews), and wanting to get massages every week. Fortunately I’m able to control these urges. Sort of. If I ever win the lottery I swear I’ll have a massage twice a week.

Kris
Kris
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

If I win the lottery, I will get frequent massages and eat chocolate at the same time… 🙂

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Kris

Some spas have hot stone massages. I think there should be Cold Stone massages, i.e., you get to eat ice cream during the rubdown.

priskill
priskill
8 years ago
Reply to  Kris

“Cold Stone Massages” — Hah! Great witty article!

javier
javier
8 years ago

This post comes really handy now to me: When I do not have big trouble with the most of my Spanish peers (the economy is pretty rough here and many of them are still studing or unemployed so I am a bit Jones for my best friends) apart of the mobile phone issue or the more time to get very fit wish I’m suffering this with my English ones. One’s looking to buy a house, another one’s got a shiny Alfa Romeo (a premium Italian car), other one has gone to China for holidays, etc. And I keep in touch… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  javier

Fight the good fight, Javier. (¡Viva la lucha!)

javier
javier
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Thanks!

National Christian
National Christian
8 years ago

Sometimes you just have to splurge to stay happy, but when I mean splurge it is just for one or two things. If it turns into a habit then you have a problem. Saving money is tough but make spending it tougher.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

Yep. That’s why I indicated that the little treats make life swell.
I have an automatic savings withdrawal every month to an online bank. This holds me accountable, as it were, to living on what’s left. That money is technically available but it would take a couple of days to get it back. The whole point is to leave it right where it is.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

I am a big fan of the Redefine it R, particularly since losing a bunch of weight some years ago. What used to be normal weeknight eating (a monstorous serving of store bought brownie ala mode for dessert) has been replaced by once a week strategic splurges (a fine bar of chocolate and a glass of wine). I’d argue vehemently that the latter is much more enjoyable than the former. Its better for me and its cheaper. The experience is augmented by streaming Netflix for $10 a month vs. the constantly on cable that was $65. Its the same relaxation… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

The really good chocolate once a week becomes a ritual — and anticipating it is part of the pleasure. Plus you might be around to enjoy it longer if you cut out the more-frequent bowls of ice cream. I say that even though I *love* ice cream. But I don’t routinely keep it around, precisely because I would binge on it. Sometimes when there’s an irresistible sale and I have coupons I’ll get a pint or one of those not-quite-quarts. I’ll enjoy it immensely over the next week. And I won’t buy ice cream again for six months. Exception: Frozen… Read more »

E. Murphy
E. Murphy
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Funny this should segue into food. We have noticed that past middle age the pounds jump on you when you walk past a restaurant.

We can no longer keep treats in the house, so we splurge occasionally when we are out, like a great cinnamon roll at the mall, or an ice cream at Costco. It costs more than buying at the grocery store, but we do it so seldom that it’s actually cheaper……and better for our waistline.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  E. Murphy

That’s one reason I don’t keep stuff like ice cream around all the time: Because I’d EAT it. All the time.
I think your compromise is sane and actually frugal — you’re spending a little more but you’re looking out for your long-term health. (Also not having to keep buying new clothes as your new friends The Calories wrap themselves around you.)

Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)
Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)
8 years ago

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little splurge every once in a while, even if you’re in the process of getting out of debt. You can splurge and still stick to your plan if you plan for the occasional splurge. Just put a little money aside each month just for that purpose. When you do that you are still being “good” without feeling like you are torturing yourself because you feel like you can’t have any fun. I teach people in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course that you have to have a little reward for all your hard work,… Read more »

Catherine
Catherine
8 years ago

Is anyone else tired of this guy pimping his own services on every single post? Lighten up, dude.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

He should be paying for the advertising. I’m at the point that when I read his name, I skip to the next post.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Instead of making a smaller cheesecake, I make a bigger one. I can make a 14″ cheesecake for less than the cost of one slice at Cheesecake Factory, and it tastes better. I keep one small slice for myself, and share the rest with family and friends, thereby increasing the goodwill I have coming towards me. Yes, everyone wants to be my friend.

Vanessa
Vanessa
8 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

He makes me miss LifeAndMyFinances.

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago

Regarding your second “R,” Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals to encapsulate the latest scientific research about reaching goals. I was interested to read that people are more likely to reach will power goals by keeping the big picture in mind, as you suggested. I tell students in my home buyer classes to keep a picture of their dream house in their wallet or wrapped around their debit/credit card to keep themselves on track. For myself, when I have an urge to splurge, I try to figure out what I’m really looking for and ask… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

You could walk the dog *and* your husband! Win-win.

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

My bad day spending has moved from the malls to Amazon…which is good and bad. Good because I know I won’t get it for a few days at least = no instant gratification which diminishes desire to hit “Place Order”.

Bad because it’s nearly impossible to come home from a night out of fun and go drunk shopping in a mall, yet Amazon doesn’t have a breathalizer test…

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

Nor will it seek one. White wine and shopping online are a potentially deadly combination to the consumer, but a major boost to merchants.

J
J
8 years ago

I clicked on a few links to read the relevant older posts, but none of them worked.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  J

If there were a problem it’s been fixed, I think, because I just clicked on about a dozen links and they all worked. Thanks for flagging it.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

I found it really neat that you included “you’re tired of being so good all the time”. This is something I really *really* struggle with. I have a good career, I work hard at it, I have the house (with pre-payments already built in), the husband (generally happy), the dog (very cute). I try to be a gracious host, a good neighbour, friendly co-worker. And yet, sometimes, it just DRIVES ME CRAZY. What does it feel like to be “bad”? I’ve occasionally been walking to work and wondered what it would be like to break a window of an abandoned… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

i hear you. i don’t necessarily want to break windows, but i HAAAAATE not spending money on stuff and being responsible all the time. my bff and i both make pretty much peanuts- i got it drilled into my head to save for retirement early (i’m 28), so i’m always whisking my extra money away to my retirement account or my credit card bill or insurance or dentist or SOMETHING boring and responsible (i was just telling my husband, i hate that wealth these days means i can go to the dentist. i wanted a jet plane!). meanwhile, no fault… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

I just interviewed Robert Brokamp for my MSN Money column. Among other things, he mentioned that homo sapiens is not hard-wired for long-term goals, but rather for immediate gratification. So it’s tough as hell to think, “Hey, 50 years from now I’m gonna be sittin’ pretty and BFF is gonna be saying, ‘Welcome to Wal-Mart’.” The urge to run around wild with credit cards is totally normal. You’re young and you want to have what other people your age have. Heck, I’m in my 50s and some of my peers flash the plastic every time something catches their attention. But… Read more »

Jaime B
Jaime B
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

So two things are going on in this statement that tend to bother me a bit. 1) Couching things in a dichotomy, when they aren’t necessarily that way. and … 2) Gaining more satisfaction in your own actions (or only being able to gain satisfaction in your own actions) because yours form the positive side of the dichotomy. Like here, you’re telling her to take satisfaction from the fact that through her careful budgeting she’ll enjoy a retirement nest egg that her more spendy friend will not. Grasshopper & Ant fable. We don’t know that this is true though AND… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

@Jaime B: Actually I was reacting to her own decision to be responsible. It may have been “drilled into” her head but now she has the option of not being responsible. If she’s concerned about retirement, she’ll ultimately feel safer knowing that money is being put into that account regularly. (And the fact that she mentioned her credit-card bill indicates that she has some discretionary spending ability.) We don’t know if she’ll enjoy her retirement more than her friend. What I’m saying (and apparently didn’t say clearly enough) is that she will have some cash set aside, which eases her… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

donna, you are my new favorite blogger, it is really cool that you go through the comments 🙂 i agree, i do need to budget in some more fun money. writing out my comment i felt like a miser, forgetting about today to try and have some assurance for tomorrow. all the news lately is so doom and gloom, i get a little freaked out sometimes. is my generation really this screwed? my mom had a house and kiddies by now, but we’re just chipping away at huge debts in a little apartment. sorry, different sob story! my retirement account… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

oh, obvs, the bad behavior. i like to think i’m pretty kosher nowadays, but i went through a couple years where i just went bonkers. i’m not super proud of some of the stuff i did, and i have the unfortunate baggage of memory and guilt over things i wouldn’t have done, had i thought it over properly.
so it’s fun to do the bad stuff, but it sucks if you have a change of heart, you have to remember all that shitty stuff you did :\

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

Gosh, I’ve never made a mistake. I wonder what it feels like??? 😉
Seriously: That way madness lies. You messed up. You’re trying not to do it again. It’s done, it’s in the past and you need to stop torturing yourself over it. Please. It’s not good for your stomach lining.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

thank you donna- i really needed someone to tell me this. <3

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Sometimes I wonder, “What would it be like to eat every meal out? To buy any book I wanted in hardback? To fly first-class all the time?” I always come to my senses — but I do wonder. It makes me wonder how I’d change the way I operate if I ever *did* win the lottery. Fundamentally I’d stay the same but I probably would fly first class because it would feel so luxurious. And I would have made a ton of charitable donations so I wouldn’t feel too guilty about paying so much more for a ticket on the… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Once when I was 19 and got angry, I threw a milk bottle(this was England 1973) against a wall. I thought that was a bad thing-but it didn’t make me feel better(and I had to clean up the glass)

Stellamarina
Stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Are you by chance a first-born child? The child who is always the older responsible one who gets totally sick of playing that role in middle age and throws it all to the wind!

Kate
Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Stellamarina

Yup, guilty as charged!

PawPrint
PawPrint
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Oohh, go to Home Depot and ride one of their carts. Stand right where it says “don’t ride on the carts,” and get someone to push you. It’s fun, and you’ll feel like a rebel without doing anything illegal! And the clerks really don’t care. 🙂

Mary
Mary
8 years ago

I copied my financial system and our spreadsheets onto a cute USB drive that clips to my keys. It’s a constant reminder to me of our plan when I’m out and tempted by pretty, shiny things.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Nice! I presume that there aren’t any identifiers among the data, e.g., bank account numbers?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

(Those who are freelancers or home-based workers, please join me in a silent prayer of gratitude)

Ok, then:

Thank you, Satan, for making it possible for me to work in my underwear – and since I don’t leave the house, it doesn’t even have to be any underwear at all.

😛

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Well, that’s a vivid image.

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I don’t get this…can someone enlighten me??? Is Nerdo a devil-worshiper or does he think he’s being bad by sitting around the house in his underwear?

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Yes.

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
8 years ago

Why oh why did you publish this now? I am a collector of Amaryllis bulbs. Whiteflower Farms has one that I really, really want. I usually buy barerooted bulbs from them but this one only comes in a pot, which raises the cost of the bulb and shipping to $52.00. Why am I agonizing over this purchase? The money will come from my Christmas club (holiday plant, Christmas club money – get it?), their bulbs are far superior to anyone else’s, with the care I give them they last for years and even produce babies, and if I wait too… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  ImJuniperNow

Isn’t it obvious? I published this now to ruin your budget. And now my work here is finished. [[re-holsters pen, dusts off hands, rides into the sunset]]

TinaPete
TinaPete
8 years ago

Well, I do like to spend, particularly when something is out of whack with my life. It’s distracting but not really satisfying. Of course, that’s why I read this blog regularly, to keep on track & remember my long term plan.

Like the idea of a buddy to talk me down from the big expenditure. Am thinking about who that could be….do have some good tightwad friends.

BTW, heard you on Marketplace Money, Sunday evening. Congrats!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  TinaPete

Well, shoot: *I* didn’t hear me on Marketplace Money. I wonder if I could find a podcast? (And did I sound like I had spinach in my teeth?)

K.C.
K.C.
8 years ago

We splurge at a thrift shop in a small town near here. The last week of the month, they put everything on sale for 10 cents per item of clothing. When we want to spend, we go there. On our last trip, we left with two trash bags full of lightly worn clothing and one new item (tags still on it) for less than $2.00. We keep some for us and give some away.

Another outlet for us is to go to a Goodwill store and buy VHS tapes of old movies for a buck each.

Donna
Donna
8 years ago

Thanks for a great article, Donna. I always enjoy reading your posts!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna

Thanks, Donna.
— Donna
P.S. All the best people are named Donna, aren’t they???

Tanya
Tanya
8 years ago

I appreciate your point about small luxuries feeling like splurges. Indulging all the time – even if it’s just a fancy cup of coffee – stops being satisfying after awhile because it’s an everyday thing. Little things can bring a lot of pleasure when we save them for occasional treats. That’s a wise thing to remember.

min
min
8 years ago

I thought this article may have been somewhat limited in insight, in that many of the “splurges” it attributes to exhausted willpower or a failure of self-control might be more appropriately characterized as sensibly chosen alternatives to larger purchases that have been eliminated from people’s budgets. For instance, my husband is going out less and having friends over more often. We are spending more on wine and snacks, but far less on overall entertainment. Similarly, my brother and his girlfriend decided not to replace their second car. My brother bought an ipod touch to entertain himself while riding the bus,… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  min

I sort of hinted at that, i.e., “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to do your own nails?” And what you call “lack of insight” is what I call “having about 1,300 words rather than an entire white paper’s worth of room to address ONE possible reason for the changes in spending habits.”
We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

jeffeb3
jeffeb3
8 years ago

Previous G.R.S. advice included a 30 day list for spending. This is a great tool for curbing splurges. Especially if you are in the last “R”, and really want to buy something. Finding the right something, taking time to research it, and discovering the true value will really make a difference. I don’t think a 30 day list, and comparison shopping will work for cheesecake, but it definitely will for bicycles, coffee machines, computers, etc.

PB
PB
8 years ago

I was in a car accident this summer and although I was not hurt, walked around for about 10 days in something of a fog. On the 11th day I realized that I had bought a new chandalier, leather chair, and ottoman for the living room. Now I had actually been planning to do those things and had most of the money set aside or planned for, so perhaps this was not technically a splurge. However, buying them moved up in the timeline because I was thinking, “If I had been killed in the car accident, I would never have… Read more »

elisabeth
elisabeth
8 years ago

when my husband and I were in graduate school we were really poor so we didn’t go on many “dates.” Instead, we scheduled our grocery store trip as a weekly “date night,” when we would go out to the store, buy all the necessities on our list AND one or two tiny treats (maybe a jar of olive pate and a baguette, or a bit of fancy cheese, or a pint of good icecream) which we took home and immediately enjoyed. It worked for us, in fact, we still go to the grocery store together most of the time and… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  elisabeth

What a nice way to look at grocery shopping. I bet your purchases are a lot more intentional than the folks who just fling stuff into the cart and rush out of the store.

Wealth Management
Wealth Management
8 years ago

I like to create blockades for myself that keep me from spending. Leaving my credit/debit cards at home or at my office is a big help. If I can’t reach in my pocket on a whim to splurge, then that money ends up being saved. If you’re a splurger, try caring only cash on you during the week. Once you spend that, you have to wait until the next week to take more out.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

I wonder how many people would re-think buying a round for their friends on Saturday night if they had to open their wallet and remove $20 bills instead of a little piece of plastic.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
8 years ago

The smallest of treats will seem much more luxurious precisely because you don’t indulge yourself constantly. Oh yes! Back in the day, when I had a decent full time salary and worked in a library, I used to buy books all the time – 2 or 3 week – and not even read some of them because there were new, more exciting books to read first. Over the last few years of self-employment, I’ve cut back and cut back, and this year I’ve bought maybe a dozen, almost entirely second-hand. I bought a couple last weekend and my nose has… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

When I leave the library with a book, or the thrift shop/secondhand bookstore with a new-to-me book, I want to run all the way home so I can start reading sooner. It’s a physical thrill that’s hard to explain but that other readers understand.

Debbie
Debbie
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

The library is my go-to treat when I’m feeling the urge to splurge without the money resources to pay for it!

I fill a big tote with dvds, magazines and all sorts of books – I can indulge in whims of reading fancy, and return them unfinished if they turn out to be not so great after all(and it’s free if I don’t return them late!)

Kathy F
Kathy F
8 years ago

I am laughingly relieved to know that I am not the only one who has “good” underwear and “not- so-good” underwear. Not-so-good: not a good fit anymore or maybe too ragged. The not-so-good underwear only get worn at home or at night in bed. I am too cheap to throw them away yet.

Brenton
Brenton
8 years ago

Donna is fast becoming my favorite author here on GRS.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Brenton

[[blushes, modestly scrapes toe across ground]]

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

Donna, you tirelessly preach extreme frugality, which admirable. I personally both love and loathe the frugal lifestyle. I admire it b/c consciencious spending and saving puts one in a secure place money-wise AND gives one the ability to pursue their personal goals – savings, hobbies, etc. I strive to follow those principles and practices. However, I chafe under the strict rules of this frugal game though. Not only are you supposed to spend less on everything, you actually need to spend nothing as often as socially/personably allowable in order to truly meet all the regulations and stipulations of wearing the… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Back up a second. I didn’t say a word about regulations, stipulations or a frugal badge. You’ve been listening to the wrong gurus. My belief is that you should do what works for you, while being reasonable. If you really want the nice underwear, by all means get it. Just don’t buy 200 pieces of lingerie and then wonder how you’ll pay the rent that month. My oft-repeated mantra is “I save where I can so I can spend where I want.” That’s what I suggest you do, too. There are ways to reduce the cost of those pretty undies:… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

It is tiring to be good all the time. I haven’t been good lately. Eating out with friends more than I like. I just bought my son an expensive toy! (He didn’t ask for it. he’s too little, but he had a rough week and I thought it would make him happy. Horrible logic, I know.) I bought me an expensive fall (unpractical but pretty) jacket. But I look at it this way, when I’m bad, I am simply hampering myself. I’ll be spending less on myself and eating more out of the pantry. And I won’t be able to… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I’m glad this was helpful.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago

Instead of making a smaller cheesecake, I make a larger one. I can make a 14″ cheesecake for less than the cost of one slice at CF, and it tastes better. I keep one small slice for myself and share the rest with family and friends, thereby increasing the goodwill that will come my way. Yes, everyone wants to be my friend.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

*I* want to be your friend. What time should I come over for the cheesecake party?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

The Cheesecake Factory is a horror show of pretentious bad food. Their cheesecake is like one of those that you make from a jello box. Here a little extra reading for your amusement: The Cheesecake Factory Must Die If you want to *buy* cheesecake, fly to New York and shop at Junior’s. Otherwise, just make it at home. If you’re in a a mood to hate on bad food chains, here’s even more: http://www.splicetoday.com/consume/the-wal-mart-of-fine-dining I say if you have the urge to eat out on the cheap, visit your local Vietnamese restaurant– a bowl of glorious pho will set you… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

The pho shop I frequent (Than Brothers, University District location) brings you a small cream puff along with your glass of water. 🙂
And $4.85 gets you a bowl of pho big enough to bathe in, plus the usual accompaniments of sprouts, lime and basil. Squirt in a little of that hot sauce and start splashing around in the rice noodles.
OK, now I’m hungry.

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Oh I know it’s out of fashion to say so, but I love the Cheesecake Factory. Maybe it is because they don’t have one in my neck of the woods. I eat there once every decade or so when I’m in a city with one.

I haven’t had cheesecake there in a long time. But they make a damn fine meatloaf. Yah, I make a good meatloaf. Theirs is better.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne
DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Thanks for the Junior’s tip, I’ve saved it to my must visit restaurants when I travel.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

I’d skip the restaurant part and stick to the buying of cheesecake. A few years ago I bought a whole one at Grand Central for… I think it was $40. Massive. no toppings. I ate most of it in a few days, haaa haaa haaaa. (Make sure it’s winter, when you can use the calories). Real New Yorkers can probably recommend better delis though.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

yeh, if there is a junior’s in grand central, get it there. i live out in brooklyn and getting to the original junior’s is a PITA even for me.
but then again, i usually end up at the first patisserie i hit. there aren’t many bad ones.

Krantcents
Krantcents
8 years ago

I can easily resist the desire to spend! When I do I make it into a game to find the lowest price. Whether using online shopping bots or going to a discount store.

Debbie
Debbie
8 years ago

When I get the urge to shop and can’t shake it, I go to the Dollar Store. I can shop to my heart’s content and the total still comes out to less than $30.

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

The last ‘R’ – ‘Revel in it’ is what keeps me in a frugal mindset. Although I don’t revel in purchases, just in the idea that I DO have the willpower and that retirement will be here before I know it.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Me, too, also — except when I *do* indulge (see “frozen custard,” above) it’s that much nicer because it’s a treat that I don’t often get.
Retirement will be here before I know it, especially since I’m already in my 50s — but I’ve finally realized that right now matters, too. So I look for frugal splurges as well as for things that don’t cost money, like those library books.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

Donna, this was the ultimate pick me up today! I LOVED this article – I actually laughed out loud in my little cubicle at work at the good underwear comment. Our office has an extremely loose dress code (techies) and so even though I’m in an ‘office’ it is not unheard of to see a coworker in what appears to be pajamas – thankfully I haven’t run into anyone in their underwear though. In addition to the comedy – the article was SPOT ON with the desire to splurge and some really great coping mechanism. One of my big ‘splurges’… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

“…thankfully I haven’t run into anyone in their underwear though.”
That could happen, on REALLY Casual Friday.
(I want to be on your team, too.)

tg
tg
8 years ago

Regarding the uptick in shoes: maybe I am just thinking about myself, but those are the sort of items that I would put off another year and another year, and then suddenly, I cannot get one more month out of them. And since they were all bought around the same time, they wear out around the same time. Or my feet shift sizes. I’ll buy some shoes / boots used, but not sandals for sanitary reasons. Also, with the wine I wonder if it’s the dollar total or number of bottles. I can get great <$4 bottles at Trader Joe's;… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  tg

Ah, wine at Trader Joe’s yessss!!!! They were recently selling boxes of some Australian Shiraz for $10– 3L per box– the equivalent of 4 bottles. $2.50/bottle! And it’s a damn nice wine, not three-buck-Chuck (it hasn’t been two bucks for a while now). I would have paid $10 per bottle for similar quality just a few years ago. So hell yes– the TJ wizards encourage me to drink more, better wine. No vacuum pumps, no cork-sniffing, no ceremony, no hole in the wallet, just open the faucet and enjoy. If you want delicious mind-blowing stuff you can get it for… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Let’s hear it for two-and-a-half-buck-Chuck!

BB
BB
8 years ago
Reply to  tg

I think the latter. None of my leather shoes need polishing, but they need cleaning/conditioning with a leather care product (one $5 bottle lasts almost forever).
Husband polishes his black dress shoes with Kiwi shoe wax; maybe that doesn’t count as polish?

Amy Suardi @ Frugal Mama
Amy Suardi @ Frugal Mama
8 years ago

What a delightful article, Donna! I love how it is so light-hearted (totally agree on the hilarity of the underwear prayer) and yet sensible. I love how it is balanced and humane. (Giving us credit for abstaining, but not making us feel guilty if we slip up.) I’ve lived a frugal life for many years and one thing I do to keep my spending in check is to treat each little purchase as a treat. Need a calculator or a planner? I hold that errand or online shopping trip over my head as a carrot for getting work done. p.s.… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

And now I’m answering yours. Thank you for your kind comments.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

It’s better to eat a piece of chocolate every day than buy a new outfit every week.

Teinegurl
Teinegurl
8 years ago

donna is becoming my favorite too! i’ve learned a lot from your articles in the past few weeks. lol i want you to write faster! (JK) anyways i was able to get free coupons for ice cream and other things from the other article about free stuff for your birthday! it may not be alot but it is cool to have a treat and not have to pay for it! love the article

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Teinegurl

I like a good birthday freebie myself. And thanks for your kind words.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

Excellent post, full a right thinking. Thanks. Bookmarked for rereading when needed.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Michelle

I hope it helps if re-reading is necessary.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

auto-eroticism?
ow ow ow ow ow

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

No pun too low.

MelodyO
MelodyO
8 years ago

Hearing this word won’t kill your kids. (Unless you’re saying “No, I won’t pay for your insulin.”)

LOL! This might be the funniest line I’ve ever read on GRS. Great article. :0D

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  MelodyO

Why, thank you.

The Business Run
The Business Run
8 years ago

The wealthier you are, the bigger the splurge. Change your lifestyle. I have to wake up and say to myself, Nobody wants me to have that car. Nobody desires to see me with a new watch. Sadly, nobody really cares about your stuff, but you.

Monte
Monte
8 years ago

Great post. I love helping others save money and reading your article just made my day! It is difficult sometimes to stay “no” to things we want to buy or think we “need” now, but a little discipline now will make for a better future. Keep up the good writing and I will definitely be back for more.

Stellamarina
Stellamarina
8 years ago

I forgot to say “Yay!!!!” for meat pies. Comfort food for any of us from England, Australia or New Zealand.

John
John
8 years ago

The part about the small treats is a good one. If you keep a don’t splurge often

on large items but occasionally buying small things like an ice cream cone or

bacon on a sandwich it still feels like a rare treat. However if you always do

these then once it becomes the norm, you need to do something more to achieve a

slight bonus again

BB
BB
8 years ago

In my experience, when trying to save money and keep weight off, you are better off having that 1 slice of cheesecake out in a nice setting– it’s the portion and cost control. If you make the cheesecake, you might eat another slice then another, then maybe make another cheesecake to keep around; after all it’s so cheap to make just one more cake, right? Pretty soon you’ve spent more than the one slice cost and eaten too much as well. The husband and I no longer buy ice cream in half-gallons, no matter how tempting the price. We buying… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
8 years ago

“(Remember, too, that the folks who seem to have it all might be up to their hairlines in debt. Some of them might lie awake at night wondering if they can ever pay off those credit cards or fearing that a foreclosure notice will be nailed to the door the next morning.)” It’s nice to pretend people doing better than you are sweating it more than you are, but for me there are plenty of folks I interact with who can easily afford a heck of a lot more than I can and frankly are doing pretty darn good. Be… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

I’m not “pretending” some people are worried, because I know that some people are.
Yours is a good strategy. It’s one that I share, actually: I don’t begrudge other people’s successes. I decide what I need (and don’t need) and take it from there.

Iris
Iris
8 years ago

When I am tempted to buy something I don’t need, I go to amazon and add it to my wish list. It feels a little like buying the product, plus when friends and family ask what I want for my birthday or Christmas, I just direct them there. That way, I have a chance of getting the item. With about four pages of products and counting I am still surprised when I receive the gifts and I save a lot of money on impulse buys.

Cat
Cat
8 years ago

Donna – loved your comment about underwear and working at home! I had a job I could WAH frequently and I do miss those days. Nothing beats working in your PJs!

Household Budgeting
Household Budgeting
8 years ago

Impulse spending, the Achilles heal of effective household budgeting.

I teach my children to wait for three days before spending over $5. The majority of the time, they have mentally moved on to something else and thank me for this rule.

Ru
Ru
8 years ago

Lately I’ve been splurging on food! So bad. I need to take my own lunch into uni to save money. But I’m commuting from my parents house (1hr 30 each way) and it’s killing me. My parents have gone away for 3 weeks, there is no food in the house, and the last thing I feel like doing is grocery shopping, or cooking. So I’ve been buying lunch, but the uni canteen is horrible and crowded and I can’t cope with it (I have had crowd anxiety in the past, and it’s starting to come back). Sometimes I go and… Read more »

bemoneyaware
bemoneyaware
8 years ago

Great strategies if only they were so easy to follow 🙁

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  bemoneyaware

If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. And I’d be out of a job. 😉

Paula+@+Afford Anything
[email protected]+Afford Anything
8 years ago

“new car = auto-eroticism” — LOL, Donna, you crack me up. That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all week.

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