Treating yourself after hitting a financial goal doesn't have to mean spending some of that hard-saved dough!
We tend to talk about the “vegetables” of finance here on the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog. You know, articles about the stuff you should cut out of your budget, how you can stay out of debt, how to use credit cards and personal loans responsibly, and information about good financial habits in general.
But life isn’t only about the vegetables! Sometimes you want some dessert, and that’s OK! How else are you supposed to reward yourself for all of the vegetables you eat?
You still need to be careful, however. You don’t want your reward to wipe out all the progress you were rewarding yourself for in the first place.
So what are some rewards you can give yourself for fixing your budget that won’t break your budget all over again?
We spoke to the experts to find out!
Create a reward space at home.
If you’re the sort of person who enjoys drinking responsibly, you might consider a night out on the town as a reward for a week of financial discipline. But depending on what you’re drinking and what city you’re drinking it in, you could be blowing a LOT of money on reward booze. Especially because once you start drinking, your judgment can become impaired, and you might start paying less attention to your tab. After all, that’s not much fun, is it?
While there are good reasons to limit drinking, if you like to celebrate by drinking responsibly, you can still do so in a much more affordable way.
“If going out for a drink is one of your favorite ways to celebrate, consider creating a home bar instead,” suggested Logan Allec, CPA, owner of personal finance website Money Done Right. “You can often buy the ingredients you need to make your favorite cocktail several times at home for less than the price of a drink or two at a bar.
“Invite your friends over, and ask some of them to bring ingredients for their own favorite drink and others to bring snacks. You and your friends might even decide that this is actually more fun than going out for happy hour!”
Create free rewards.
Not all rewards cost money!
“Really consider if the reward needs to be monetary,” offered portfolio manager Pauline Yan of Sunday Brunch Cafe. “Are you personally motivated by getting ‘things?’ Or are you rewarded with something else? Praise? Or a day ‘off?’ A good meal?”
Using vacation days, if you have them, as a reward to yourself is nothing to sneeze at! Sick days are what you should be sneezing at. Deploying vacation days strategically can make for a “free” reward.
“If you’ve been working long hours and pulling all-nighters to get to where you are financially, it may be time to indulge in a few days off of work,” recommended Beverly Friedmann, content manager for ReviewingThis. “You can easily reward yourself for your good financial behavior by taking a few off days off, or a long weekend to relax, if given the opportunity.
“This doesn’t mean you have to splurge on a pricey trip, instead you can use the time to have a fun and rejuvenating ‘staycation.’ Spending some time with friends and family to take a much-needed and deserved break can be an excellent way to celebrate success. If you’re not able to get time off of work, even taking an evening off to spend time with friends and family and watch a movie or spend a night in can be very rewarding.”
That time off could also be a chance to try out future free reward possibilities.
“If you’ve had recent work successes and your finances are in good shape, you may be tempted to splurge on pricey Groupon packages or the latest weekend spa deal you find online,” warned Friedmann. “While there is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, you may not want to negate all of your recent hard work.
“If you have a favorite activity or hobby you enjoy, it’s often easy to get involved for free or at a very low cost. Local meet-up groups in your area are a great opportunity to meet new people with shared interests while trying out new hobbies. You may even want to take a trip to your local park or spend weekend hiking. Free and low-cost leisure activities are both an excellent reward for good financial behavior and a perfect way to decompress.”
Keep the reward in mind as a motivator.
If you work the idea of your chosen reward into your everyday budget efforts, you’ll have something to focus on besides how annoying it is to bring your own lunch every single day of the week. Or whatever budget concessions you’ve been making.
“I have a ‘sunny day fund’ that I add to over time,” recounted Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “It’s kind of the opposite of a rainy day fund. I contribute money there that would have normally been spent on smaller, splurge purchases like lunches out, and use it to buy myself something great in the future. I think focusing on saving for something in the future keeps you from spending more today. It gives you something to shoot for and focus on.”
If you’re the artsy type, you can even create some visual aids to help your motivation.
“By using spending trackers and motivational charts, you can reward yourself for good financial behavior by seeing the fruits of your own labor and continuing to make gains over time,” advised Friedmann. “It’s akin to making a gold star chart for rewards for good test scores as a kid. It may seem silly at first, but you may find it incredibly helpful.
“It’s useful to see your own progress in real time, and to set new goals for the future. It may be as simple as jotting down two divided columns on a piece of paper, one with financial goals and one with corresponding rewards. This way you can track your own progress and stay motivated in the long-term at the same time.”
Enjoy the relief of being financially secure.
OK, we’re sort of ending this article with a little more vegetables. But you can have vegetables for dessert! Ever had candied yams? Yum yum!
“Paying off any outstanding debts is a great way to relieve any worries and a perfect reward for good financial behavior,” suggested Friedmann. “While it may not be the same as a trip to the Bahamas, getting rid of any accrued debts can provide feelings of relief and help your credit score. You’ll likely find it incredibly rewarding and any upcoming fears about receiving calls from credit agencies will be assuaged. Debt relief can be incredibly rewarding, and you won’t have to worry as much about future bills piling up.”
As with any indulgence, too much dessert will be a problem. But no dessert at all? Well, that’ll leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Logan Allec (@moneydoneright) is a CPA and owner of the personal finance website Money Done Right. After spending his twenties grinding it out in the corporate world and paying off over $35,000 in student loans, he dropped everything and launched Money Done Right in 2017. His mission is to help everybody—from college students to retirees—make, save, and invest more money. Logan resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife Caroline.
Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
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