This site has already seen a great post on the basics of personal finance. As the article explains, its all quite easy. However, the one challenge that faces all of us personal finance masters is balance. We can max our retirement accounts, we can save over half of our income, we can even live on a budget that is so tight we know where every dollar will be spent throughout the course of the year. BUT, and that’s a big and bold “but”, there comes a time when you just have to forget about being responsible, and just let loose and tell your finances to “Suck it”.
How will you know it’s the right time to throw caution to the wind? Well, I can’t tell you with absolute certainty. I will venture a guess that the timing will likely be a moment that will appear as quickly as it will fade, where you look back and say “why did I just blow that money?”
For me, I rarely covet. On the other hand, I certainly do allow myself whimsical decisions. I shall use my most recent “why did I just do that” moment to orchestrate my point.
Case Study: Booze, Women and Dances = Empty Wallet
On a recent trip into New York City, I found myself with close friends in their home town. Well, what do guys do when they are hosting someone? They look for the closest gentleman’s club. (You may be asking yourself, “Why the hell is Brian telling us about this?” Well, J. Money so amazingly outed me already on twitter and maybe it will explain more why girls don’t talk to me.) So, being a frugal guy, I walk into a strip club with the attitude of “look, but don’t buy” (for those never have been, I am not buying people, just dances). However, one’s best intentions are rarely good enough when you mix age old friends, booze, and hot women. After a while, I ended up giving in and spent a ridiculous amount of money on alcohol, dances, and just overall male debauchery (or douchebaggary, however you choose to see it).
After leaving the club, I started to add up the total cost of the night in my head. As the bill went in excess of $200, I started to get a knot in my stomach. My thought process went like this:
- I can’t afford to be throwing away this money
- I am already close to being over budget for the month as it is
- That $200+ could be over $5000+ in 30 years if I put it in a retirement account
Luckily, I have some great friends. One of them must know me too well as he pulled me aside and said, “Did you have a good time?” My answer was, “Yes, of course”. He responded with the truest thing I had heard all night, “It was worth every penny then.” The money that I worked so hard for was gone in just moments, but in those moments, I certainly had a whale of a time with some of my favorite buddies. The memories I will have of a wild night spent on vacation will last a lifetime, and are priceless in my mind.
Now, everyone’s spontaneous or planned splurge isn’t going to be something of almost no value, such as buying dances at a gentleman’s club. Maybe for you its getting a massage, or buying a new pair of sneakers, a new purse, or even a quick weekend getaway. Without a healthy dose of these things, we will forget why we are on this earth, to live.
Life is so short, and sadly, can be taken away on a moment’s notice. Yes, be smart with your money, but don’t forget to spend part of your 20s and 30s being reckless, foolish, wasteful and giving the middle finger to your finances. The stories you will have in your 40s and 50s are going to be much more entertaining.
What is the story of your most recent spontaneous splurge, and how did you feel about it afterwards?
Brian, I really enjoyed reading your article! Occasionally, I do also need the “suck it” attitude. Otherwise I feel imprisoned in my own personal finance delirium. Great written article, there are only few personal finance articles where I had to laugh out so loud. Thanks, Brian!
Pedro Sobota says
I bought one guitar exactly like this one
So i went thru a whole month of necessity, and now it’s over and I’m fine again and when I play that thing it gives me a smile for the beautiful sound it has.
While I have been very disciplined in 2010, my usual splurge is going out to dinner with friends. This is something my fiance and I absolutely love and value spending good, quality time breaking bread with friends and family. To us, the splurge is completely worth it.
Ted @broketofree says
Even though I would avoid the ‘gentlemen’s’ establishments- I love the concept.
I think of this concept when it comes to birthday and Christmas. We do not go out and buy the great most expensive thing in the world- but if I can’t drop $100 bucks on my kids birthday because I am too frugal, I need to reorganize my priorities. We budget $15 a month for movies/dvd rentals. I am going to blow it by taking my daughter to a movie on her birthday and buying her a big old popcorn. Of course, we will go to the cheaper theater but that will go past my $15. Suck it- my daughter will love her birthday.
I don’t think there’s a problem with splurging once in a while, but it’s the intention that matters. If you go into a strip club planning not to spend much, and walk out (presumably inebriated) having spent more than you planned to, it’s not a good idea. Planning to splurge and doing it is a lot different than losing control of your spending. I’m not trying to be preachy – I’ve been there, done that – but it’s a slippery slope from there to justifying a lifestyle that you can’t afford simply because you want to “enjoy life.” I spend plenty of money to enjoy life but I always am in control – not just getting lost in the spending moment.
Jonny | thelifething.com says
Mate if you can’t control money you become a slave to it.
Dinners/drinks with friends our my favorite splurge. The price is worth it for good times with good people.
Nice post, Brian!
Austin @ Foreigner’s Finances
My latest splurge is more about opportunity-cost. I’ve agreed to six months of volunteer work where I beg for sponsorship money and live on hardly anything.
But six months of teaching primary school at an orphanage in Uganda is the priceless experience of a lifetime. Or so I hear.
There’s nothing wrong with splurging every now and then. And I totally agree that living life is important and some experiences are priceless. But it doens’t mean you throw a budget out the window. Your expense still has to be paid for somehow.
I’ve had too many spontaneous splurges in my youth. It took a long time to pay them off.
(oh, and if you only spent around $200 in NYC then you really didn’t do that bad)
Yeah, i was resisting the urge to spend more. Money doesn’t stay in your wallet too long there.
I’ll be the first one to admit that my spending isn’t on lockdown like a lot of the PF bloggers out there. We certainly aren’t rich, but I’d rather just enjoy my money. I’m weird like that. And, I’m pretty good at justifying my purchases. I recently bought two 23″ monitors for my desktop (4 monitors in use total). While I can legitimately say there is a use (web development), it’s more for my comfort than anything else.
Oh man, i wish i could have that set up. I just got a 23″ at my workplace. I am really debating about making a purchase for my desktop at home. Can only imagine what 4 of them look like. You ever submit that set up to Lifehacker?
I’ve been pretty loose with my spending lately, it’s time to round it up so I can knock out a few of the bigger purchases I want to make before the income goes bye-bye. Can’t say I regret any of the smaller purchases I’ve made lately, but can’t keep doing it forever. 😛 (Sadly, it was mostly splurges on myself as a “congratulations” for paying off my car. Time to get back to buying stuff *for* said car. :D)
One or two loose months isn’t a big deal. Its when it becomes a habit. I am really pleased after an expensive January, i had a really cheap February. Being snowed in for a week helped. Congrats on paying off the car. If you spend a bit in celebration, well, you earned it!
I definitely do not want it to become a habit, that’s for sure. I may also be too tight with myself, because I’m always worried that, “I deserve it…” will become a justification way too often, even though it hasn’t.
My most recent big splurge was a new camera lens for my DSLR. I love it though. It’s a few classes above my camera body… I may have to splurge again for a new camera body just to take advantage of the full wondrousness of the glass.
If you love it, then its absolutely worth it! If you’ve got your finances in check (as you do) then you are good to splurge… or splurge twice!
Bought a new snowboard (+$450) so that now I have a choice of two boards for different mountains, conditions. Still happy with my purchase even though there was some small guilt initially. Every time I land a jump I know why.
Then I just travelled a few cities in Europe and Scandinavia last month. Frugally, though.
All this while I’m in the midst of being laid off and starting my own business. Sometimes you just have to remember what money is for. THE SMALL MOMENTS WHEN IT DOES ACTUALLY MEAN HAPPINESS.
It is all about the small moments. Because you know what, you lose yourself in those moments. You forget about the debt, the job, the stress of life, the fact your girlfriend is sleeping with your best friend (wha?)… you are just in the moment and nothing can be better.
Good thing you didn’t say “suck it” at the strip club because then you really would’ve gone broke.
I think every young person can in a sense relate to this post because we’ve splurged at one point or another. Temptation gets to you and years of financial education gets thrown out the window. You live, you learn.
As for my splurges– I love my trips and visits to family across the province (yes province, not state).
Absolutely. But the a small transgression isn’t the end of the world. Thats the important thing to remember.
Oh, what’s a province? 🙂