More Money, Less Problems

Fourth Estate / Billy Ferguson

Take Back Treating Yourself


It starts as a frappuccino. Then, a new pair of jeans. Then, a weekend trip away. In the end, treating yourself is putting a hole in your wallet. 

Treating yourself means gifting yourself little pleasures to ease pain or celebrate success. While helpful in theory, we often go too far. These small — or large —  expenses add up. You do not have to stop completely, but you must be responsible. Here are ways to treat both yourself and your bank account. 

Keep track of your treats. 

There is nothing wrong with buying a $5 shirt or a $7 sandwich. The issue only arises when you buy them multiple times a week. Write down when you purchase these nonessentials in a calendar or budgeting app. When you see how often and how much you spend, you’re more likely to cut back. If using a budgeting app like Mint, you can also see what percentage of your budget these treats are. The number may shock you. 

Have no treat weeks.

Break out that calendar app and set aside chunks of time where you do not buy any non-essential items. No matter how badly that test went, you cannot spend money on treats. It will be difficult at first, but soon you will find other ways to cheer yourself up.  

Set a limit.

Decide what is worth a treat. By setting the bar high, you will spend less money as fewer events will qualify for a treating session. Finished studying? Wait. Passed the test? Almost. Got a B on the midterm? There we go! 

Understand why you’re treating yourself. 

Ask yourself why you grab a chai after a solid interview. Is it because you want to relax and reflect? Recognize the purpose behind your treats, be it relaxation, fun or catharsis. Then, find a low-cost or free way to get that same effect. Read a book in Fenwick’s fiction section to relax. Attend the Muay Thai or yoga club to relieve stress. 

Treating yourself is mostly about mental comfort, but there may be something else under the surface. Consider if you’re treating yourself as a Band-Aid solution for something else. If you buy a new purse after a fight with a parent or splurge on sushi after a poor chemistry grade, it is more helpful to address the root problem. 

No matter how much joy these purchases bring you, that root cause will come back eventually. Escape the cycle. Notice your spending patterns. What happens directly before or after you buy? Mark these causes down in a diary app like Daylio and look back on them. Identify the cause of your problems and apply real solutions, not just new makeup. Stop treating yourself to objects and start treating yourself right.