My Money, My Choices
Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.
A good budget includes pleasure with the pain
Take care of the details so you can go shopping guilt-free, writes Gail Vaz-Oxlade.
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I have a line on my budget called “Pleasures.” It’s where I put the money I spend getting a massage, buying those delicious ginger/peach candles and anything else that I want to splurge on in a month.
I guess I should put all the wonderful teas I buy under this category, but I put them under “food” leaving more space for self-indulgence (as long as I stay within my pre-set parameters for both).
Journalists are always asking me what I spend money on, I guess because I’m The Debtonator (my sound-guy, John, came up with that one), and I’m constantly singing the “don’t spend money you don’t have” song.
But there are things I love to do, so I budget for them. And I set some money aside each month for things I just feel like splurging on: fresh tulips on my kitchen counter, fabulous cheese, a new house plant.
As long as you’re not going into debt, and you’ve got all your bases covered — including long-term savings, your emergency fund, your insurance needs – you can spend your money on anything you want. Want to travel? Go. Want to drink expensive coffee? Do it. Want to buy a new sumthin’ or ’nother? Go ahead.
You work hard for your money and you should enjoy all the pleasures it can bring you.
The only time spending becomes a problem is when you do it unconsciously and it interferes with your other goals. You can’t eat out four nights a week if you want to save up a downpayment on a home. And you can’t buy everything your heart desires if you have no emergency fund.
Take care of the details so you can go shopping guilt-free.
Keep in mind that for your pleasures to feel like pleasures, you can’t do them too often. If you love picking up a magazine at the checkout to enjoy with your Saturday morning tea, grab the mag.
But if you aren’t reading those magazines, or just flipping through them quickly because you bought them — so there’s no real pleasure — stop buying.
You need to go without for a while so you can reset your pleasure meter.
Being able to take pleasure from the things money can buy is part of having a balanced financial life. Don’t take the desire to enjoy too far and you can keep enjoying for a long time.
And if you have to forgo a treat for a couple of weeks because things are a little tight, your pleasure will be all the sweeter the next time you indulge.
What if you’re still experiencing pangs when you buy yourself the extras? It could be a couple of things:
• Maybe you’ve been in austerity mode for so long you need to readjust to the idea that you can afford to splurge now.
• Maybe you shouldn’t be buying what you’re buying because there are other, more important things that should come first.