How much money should you spend when “treating yourself”? We got expert advice

Being a responsible grown-up means having to prioritize expenses like bills, rent, and groceries. You know, the basic necessities. But arguably, the best thing about making money is having the ability to spend it however you want. It may seem like it’s not, but treating yo’ self is important. You need to do things that make you happy. It’s all part of self-care. So just how much should you be spending on treat yourself activities? And how often should you do it?

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, we asked experts. As Ellie Thompson, CEO of financial consulting firm Money Therapy, tells HelloGiggles, you should be treating yourself every single day. Seriously.

"Treating yourself should be a daily activity because your finances should revolve around what you want and need," Thompson says. "Most millennials get into overspending and financial difficulty because they purchase things they just feel so-so about. Sit down with your budget and determine how many items or services truly bring you joy and how many are non-essential."

What you’ll find, she says, is that you usually end up spending anywhere between $100 to $500 on objects or services you didn’t particularly want or need. In other words, it’s those small impulse buys that can get you into trouble. “Once you have eliminated what you feel so-so about, you have a buffer of income that can go towards what truly brings you joy and allows you to ‘treat yourself,’” Thompson says.

How much of your budget should go to treat yourself activities?

According to Thompson, your budget should be a percentage of your income. “My clients follow the 50/20/30 Rule,” she says. That means, 50 percent of your income goes toward fixed expenses like rent and utilities, 20 percent goes towards savings and retirement goals, and 30 percent goes towards guilt-free spending. Your “treat yourself” income should come from that 30 percent.

“Sticking to percentages instead of a line item budget makes you feel more free and in control of your income,” Thompson says. If you need help, she suggests using money management apps that can help you track your spending and make any adjustments as needed.

The best way to stick to your budget:

Saying you have a budget is one thing. Actually sticking to it each paycheck is another. Even if your afternoon pick-me-up brings you absolute joy, a latte a day will add up. But as Chris Whitlow, CEO of workplace financial wellness provider Edukate, tells HelloGiggles, “If you make a concerted effort in your budget, you can build in these smaller ‘treat yo’ self’ activities.’”

Small impulse buys like espressos and candy bars are tied to emotions and should be guilt-free, Whitlow says. Following a simple mantra can be the best way to ensure you won’t make too many of these impulse buys. For example, think “Taco Tuesday” or “Starbucks Sunday.” These mantras let you have something fun to look forward to while eliminating the need to buy it right this instant. It’s pretty genius.

"The most important thing is taking a proactive approach and building these activities into your budget," Whitlow says. "If you know you like to treat yourself often, plan for it in your budget. When planning a bigger splurge, like a beach weekend, cut the lattes and save that money instead. If you have an upcoming tax refund, piggybank a portion of it toward the splurge and the rest toward your budget for smart financial planning.

Spending some of your hard-earned money on yourself is important. While budgeting may seem like a necessary evil, it doesn’t have to be difficult. So be sure to treat yo’ self. You know you deserve it.

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