We all feel the need to indulge sometimes. Even the most disciplined budgeters occasionally feel the need to spend on something that’s not in the budget, just for the heck of it. The occasional indulgence is fine as long as you can absorb the loss. Even so, some people still feel guilty about spending on something that isn’t necessary.
I’m one of those people. Sometimes I feel a little guilty when I spend on something unplanned. I’ve learned a little trick, though, that makes me feel a little bit better. When I feel the urge to indulge in something and I can’t shake it off, I try to buy something that will serve more than one purpose. I call these things “smart indulgences.” While I might be spending money unnecessarily, at least I’m getting more bang for my buck because the item has more than one use. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.
Books: Books are a big indulgence for me. If I find myself in a bookstore, it’s hard to resist the siren call. If I’m going to give in, I try to get something that is educational or work-related. Sure, I could get the latest novel, but I’ll only read it once and then donate it. A good reference book or something that covers a new skill I could use at work will be something I’ll read multiple times and has a use beyond just a quick read. I also try to get something that I know I can’t pick up at the library or the local used book store. I try to get something that is specialized and hard to find for free or used. That way, I don’t feel like I’ve overpaid.
DVD’s: I used to buy a lot of DVD’s until I joined Netflix. However, I still sometimes feel the urge to buy something. In that case I try to go for something educational. I’ll try to get a good documentary or nature series. At least I’ll learn something from my purchase. I also try to get something I know I’ll watch more than once. That’s why nature series are good for me. I love just looking at the pictures when I’m trying to relax so I tend to watch those more than once.
Clothes: It’s rare that I feel a need to indulge in clothes, but if I do I try to go for something classic that I can wear for many seasons and for many occasions. Sure, those bright red shoes with the trendy heels are cute, but I can’t wear them often and after one season they’ll be dated. The classics may not be thrilling, but I know I’ll get my money out of the purchase.
Food: If I feel the need to go out to eat I will do one of two things. First, I might go to a place that I know serves large portions for a good price. I know I’ll have leftovers so I’ll get two meals out of my one indulgence. Second, if I can talk myself out of going out to eat but I still want to indulge, I’ll go to the store and buy the ingredients to replicate a favorite restaurant dish. I’m still spending more than I typically would at the store, but less than I would at the restaurant. Because most recipes make large batches, I’ll have plenty of leftovers and ingredients left to make the dish again sometime. That’s a good indulgence for me.
Of course, some people would argue that the whole point of indulging is to get something completely frivolous. That may be fine for some people, but buying things like that makes me feel guilty and like I’ve wasted my money. The only time I tend to buy things like that is when I’m on vacation and I find some silly souvenir that I just have to have. Otherwise, I prefer to make smart indulgences. I’ve still spent money I didn’t plan to which satisfies the urge to indulge, but I’ve avoided the guilt.