When a Little Bit of Strategic Splurging is Okay

It may or may not surprise you to hear that this year’s college graduates are the most indebted in history. With the average indebted graduate owing $35,000, there’s no doubt that those entering the job market this year (and within the past several years) will need to manage their finances intelligently.

First and foremost, us twenty-somethings need to spend our paychecks wisely by paying our bills in full and on time, saving up for retirement, and putting away for our emergency fund. If we can manage that, then there’s no reason to feel guilty about splurging every once in awhile. In fact, allowing ourselves to occasionally deviate from a strict budget, may actually encourage us to stay on track.

We all define “splurging” a little differently based upon our personal financial situation, but as long as we “act our wage,” splurging can be a perfectly acceptable treat. Check out our favorite ways to splurge below.

1. Investing in a long-term hobby or passion.

Many of our passions and personal interests can quickly escalate into expensive endeavors. While it can be tempting to go on a shopping spree for top-of-the-line watercolor paints while on an art kick, or purchase the trendiest designer bag, don’t let your urges get the better of you. Instead, invest in a hobby that is truly meaningful to you in the long run.

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When I discovered my passion for hiking two years ago, I quickly learned that a standard set of backpacking gear costs several hundred dollars. I ended up spending a large chunk of my income on my gear, and had to save elsewhere, but I haven’t regretted it once. Although the gear was pricey, I strategically bought items that will last me a lifetime. The hobby itself isn’t expensive, and I’m confident that the purchase will quickly pay off.

2. Taking a meaningful class.

This can manifest itself in several ways, whether you’re looking to improve your artistic skills by taking a course at the local arts college or learn a second language with a tutor.

Late last year, I decided to begin practicing yoga. Purchasing a small package at a local fitness center has already more than paid for itself. By practicing in a public class, I’ve been able to learn the basics with integrity and take this knowledge with me to cultivate a home practice. I now combine the skills I learned in class with excellent (and free!) resources online, like the Yoga with Adriene series on YouTube.

Whatever your topic of choice, taking a course can be a great way to learn the basics and then enhance your skills utilizing free resources.

3. Find a smarter way to feed your consumerism-fueled weaknesses.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does occasionally buy us things that make us happy. For me, this means books. Lots of books. When I realized that I was cultivating a nasty habit of purchasing more books than I could read in a timely manner, I decided to change my ways. I’m now enrolled in a book club where–for a fixed price–I receive one brand-new, soon-to-be-released poetry collection in the mail. Aside from review copies and gifted literature, I limit myself to that single purchase, so I always know how much I’m spending on books each month. The book club is a little treat to myself that encourages me to spend less money.

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This strategy can be interpreted in several ways. The key is to recognize where your extraneous income is going, and find creative ways to manage it more strategically.

4. Travel, travel, travel.

Traveling may not be a priority for everyone, but there’s no doubt that it has excellent benefits, from enhancing your worldview and perspective, to teaching extraordinary life lessons, and being just plain fun. The fact is, traveling is an experience.

With some careful planning, traveling is doable even on a budget.  Whether it takes a month or several years, and whether your dream vacation is around the globe or right in your home state, allow yourself to splurge a little on a new experience.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to get serious about managing your finances. Keeping track of your income and expenses, and following a budget are great starting-points for taking control of your financial life. But don’t forget that sometimes a little bit of careful splurging can really pay off, and provide a much-needed reward!