Is It Okay to Splurge When Your Budget is Tight?

If you are working with a tight budget and wondering if it’s okay to splurge a little, keep reading for tips, including financial recommendations from a Certified Financial Planner™.

It’s no secret that many people are struggling in the current economy. 

Media coverage is full of headlines of layoffs across the board, from the tech industry to companies like GrubHub announcing the need to cut down on staffing. 

Coupling that with the fact that the price of just about everything has skyrocketed over the past year, saying money is tight for people would be an understatement.

But after several years of stress and overwhelm, many seek ways to enjoy life a little more.

People wonder, “Is it okay to splurge on a tight budget?” 

I asked Lauryn Wiliams, 4x Olympian turned Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of Worth Winning, to shine some light on the issue.

Is it Okay to Splurge on a Tight Budget?

Let’s start by looking at what it means to “splurge”?

If you use the Merriam-Webster definition, it means “to indulge oneself extravagantly.”

In addition, Williams mentioned that when people use the word, they often refer to something they want to spend money on that they didn’t plan for in their budget.

So, you have a budget that includes some discretionary funds, and you’re wondering if it’s okay to spend it on something fun and “unnecessary.”

With that in mind, is it okay to splurge if your bills and basics are covered? 

Williams recommends, “The first thing you should ask yourself is, ‘If I splurge, how will I feel afterward? How will I feel a week later? A month later? And a year later?’”

Before jumping into splurging, consider if you’ll regret it later.

There is a saying that “hindsight is 20/20,” so this strategy helps you do some forward-thinking to avoid that moment of regret once your splurge is over.

If you don’t think you’ll regret it, there are several strategies you can use to splurge without it hitting your pockets too hard. 

Look for Ways to Adjust Your Budget

If you’re really wanting to splurge on something for yourself but don’t have room in your budget, 

Williams suggests you ask yourself where you can save money elsewhere.

For example, you can look for deals on other things you’re spending money on to make additional room in your budget so your splurge doesn’t feel as painful.

Another option she recommended to lessen the impact of splurging is to create additional income by selling things you own and don’t need or use anymore. 

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So if you’re looking to splurge on a last-minute trip with friends, Williams recommends seeing what you can do to offset some of the additional expense. 

You may not be able to recoup all the money, but you can deplete the financial pain of splurging.

Another option would be to increase your income before splurging.

When you’re shifting funds from one part of your budget to another to splurge, she recommends finding ways to make up for it financially before you splurge.

Choose to Save and Plan For Your Splurge

Years ago, my husband and I wanted to take our daughters to Disney World.

Money was tight at the time, but we really wanted to do it for our kids—and let’s be honest—for ourselves too!

We couldn’t afford a spur-of-the-moment trip, so instead, we chose dates a year out and started saving up for the trip.

While it would have been fun to jump right into it, we could save for all of it, and some extra, before arriving at the most magical place on earth.

This additional time also gave us something fun to discuss and do throughout the year. 

We researched how to make the most out of our trip. 

We did monthly Disney-themed dinners and movie nights at home with our kids. 

And we created a fun countdown leading up to our departure. 

Ultimately, I believe we enjoyed the experience so much more because we delayed, saved, and planned for our splurge instead of spending money that wasn’t planned for the trip.

It became an annual trip we did for years after.  

Affordable Ways to Splurge

While the word “splurge” may make you think of spending lots of money, there are many affordable ways to splurge on yourself without breaking the bank.

Split the Cost with a Friend

You can lessen the impact of splurging by dividing the costs among another friend or a group of friends.

So say you’re ready to get away from home and take a trip; you can split the costs of a hotel or vacation rental instead of covering the total cost yourself.

Of course, this option won’t work for every kind of splurge—after all, you’re probably not going to split a new outfit with a friend—but it’s a great way to save while splurging in the right situation.

Take a Budget-Friendly Vacation

There are plenty of places and ways to enjoy traveling on a budget, even if you’re not sharing the cost with friends.

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For example, you can explore many low-cost international travel destinations, from Peru to Southeast Asia.

Another way to save when traveling internationally is to stay off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Connect with locals and learn what they recommend instead of hitting the tourist hotspots.

Or if you want to take some time off work but don’t have the room in your budget to splurge on getting away, do a staycation. 

This allows you to save on lodging while exploring your local area by becoming a tourist in your town.

Comparison Shop

Another great way to save while splurging is to compare prices at multiple locations.

You can save a lot of money simply by looking for the lowest price instead of buying at the first place you go. 

There are plenty of apps to help make this process easier and faster for you, too:

  • ShopSavvy
  • BuyVia
  • Amazon
  • Price Grabber
  • Now Discount
  • Scan Life

Or, if you enjoy the experience of shopping, hit several stores to see where you can find the best price. 

This allows you to indulge in the experience in addition to the item you want to purchase. 

Enjoy the Little Things

Splurging on yourself doesn’t mean you must take a fancy international trip or buy a designer bag.

Instead, it could be through little things that help you enjoy your daily life more. 

This could include things like:

  • Buying fresh flowers to keep at your desk
  • Giving yourself a facial and mani-pedi at home
  • Doing a free trial at a new gym
  • Taking a walk to watch the sunset with your friends
  • Using a mental health day to relax at home
  • Do a movie night at your house with friends—go all in on the snacks and stream it
  • Pay for the cheap seats to watch your favorite sports team
  • Hire a babysitter and get out of the house alone—or with your partner—for a few hours

Look for ways to improve your day and boost your mood that can easily fit into your budget.

Is it Good to Splurge on Yourself?

There’s good news if you’re still looking for permission to splurge!

Multiple studies have found splurging can help boost your mood, which we can all use at times.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

Your Budget

For starters, financial stress is one of the leading causes of stress. 

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If you truly don’t have room in your budget, splurging on something for yourself will likely lead to additional stress down the road instead of easing your stress.

Remember, Williams recommended making sure you wouldn’t regret your splurge.

Putting yourself in debt to enjoy an experience or item right now will likely only produce a short-term benefit with potentially long-term consequences.

Make sure you can afford your splurge, or practice delayed gratification and spend something you can afford now and wait for the more significant expense until you have room in your budget.

Even planning for potential splurges can be something to enjoy as you plan and anticipate the day you can enjoy it.

What You Choose to Splurge On

Before spending money, think about what will benefit you the most now and later. 

For example, splurging on experiences, like a trip with family, may have bigger benefits than buying a material item, like a new pair of sunglasses.

Eventually, material items will wear out and be tossed out, but the memories created from an experience will last a lifetime. 

So if you’re limited on how you can splurge, consider what will make it the most worth it for you.

Think About Others

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Giving is better than receiving.”

You may enjoy the experience of using the money you were going to splurge on yourself to splurge on someone else instead. 

Giving to someone less fortunate than yourself can also help you see your situation through a new perspective, which may remove the desire you feel to splurge in the first place. 

But don’t think this is saying you should never spend on yourself; it’s just one more thing to consider as you plan your budget and create space to enjoy the extras occasionally.

Final Thoughts on Splurging on a Tight Budget

If you’re still wondering if you should take the leap and splurge or not, here’s a quick recap for you:

  • Consider if you will regret it next week, next month, or next year
  • Look for ways to adjust your budget or bring in more money to make it easier
  • Find an affordable way to splurge
  • Make sure you won’t break the bank
  • Choose carefully
  • Think about splurging on others sometimes

And then, most importantly, enjoy it!

We all need something to look forward to and enjoy at times.

When you decide to splurge responsibly, allow yourself to enjoy it to the max!

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