Treat Yo Self
I’ve tried many different spending challenges over the years – not buying clothing for a year, setting up a budget for specific categories, not eating out for 100 days, aiming for a certain number of $0 spend days every month. I can’t argue with the results – last year I reduced my spending by $7,000 and paid off $30,000 of my student loan debt. This year I’m trying something new.
I’m giving myself permission to buy whatever I want.
Yes, I’m surrendering to the treat yo self mentality. I am acknowledging that I am a human and that my wants are valid. I’m setting myself free to buy anything that will add value to my life – as long as I make the actual purchases later.
I created a list called Things I Want To Buy – In 2020. At that point, if all goes well, I’ll be debt free. After I increase my emergency fund and ramp up my retirement contributions, I’ll be free to spend the surplus. Note that I said surplus, meaning that I can spend whatever I want after my savings goals are met and without borrowing money to do so.
I don’t know what I’ll want to buy at that point, but I’m off to a great start. My list contains everything from the banal to the luxurious, from a can opener and a sheet set to a $250 pair of boots and several international trips. I’ve got a section for physical items, and a separate section for travel & other experiences.
As time goes on and my desires change I fully expect to add and remove things. I might even save various versions as miniature time capsules of the items and experiences that occupied my thoughts.
For list lovers, this exercise has an obvious draw. By recording all of the ideas floating around in your mind, you’ve allowed your brain to remove them from the forefront of your consciousness. Often I’ve felt overwhelmed by multiple tasks and then relieved when they seemed to shrink in number just by being captured visually.
For completionists, there’s the comfort in finishing something – ideally the list of potential purchases will replace the urge to buy an item in order to get it off of your mind.
For impulse purchasers, the act of recording and then waiting should allow the rush of novelty to pass. You’ll be able to remove the item from your list later, without it ever manifesting physically in your life. No buyer’s remorse, environmental impact, or feeling like you should keep things you no longer want simply because they cost money.
For rebels, saying “yes, but later” to your wants feels so much more gratifying than saying “no.” Often when we deprive ourselves we simply move the pendulum too far and then let it loose to swing wildly in the opposite direction. When we say “yes, but later,” we allow ourselves to find balance more easily.
I can identify with each of these personas, which is why shopping mindfully has always been a challenge for me and why I hope this new exercise will help me make even better choices in the future.
Will I still make purchases over the next two years? Of course. If something I use often breaks or wears out and can’t be repaired, I’ll replace it. If an item stays at the top of the list for months and I decide I don’t want to wait anymore, I’ll probably buy it. There might even be a few impulse purchases in there, if I’m being completely honest, and that’s okay too.
The point of this exercise is not deprivation. It’s realizing that while some things are worthwhile to purchase now, others can wait.