When I was a college student, I rewarded myself after Finals Week with one fashion magazine and/or one favorite food. The favorite food was never anything expensive. For someone subsisting on ramen and fast food, any “real” food was a luxury. After years in the real world, it’s hard to remember that carefree state of mind, a time when I could truly enjoy the simple things in life.
One of the most frequent justifications for spending is the “I work hard and I deserve it” argument. We all want rewards for acing an exam, finishing a difficult project or just after a tough work week. Many PF bloggers urge you to resist this sense of entitlement, and rightly so. If you justify each and every ‘want’ as a reward for hard work, you’ll likely live paycheck-to-paycheck for the rest of your life.
However, as I was reflecting upon my college days recently, I wondered if it’s better, and easier, not to fight against this impulse entirely. Instead of not rewarding yourself, come up with one or two things that can qualify as inexpensive luxuries. Instead of rewarding yourself with a designer purse or Wii game, reward yourself with something that costs $5 or less. Yes, give in to that overpriced latte!
Food is probably one of the easiest area to find cheap rewards. Instead of treating yourself to a sushi dinner, think of a favorite food item that doesn’t cost much. For example, there’s cuban restaurant near me that sells mouthwatering potato balls for $1.25 each. I can get a delicious Argentinean empanada for around $2.50. A cup of gelato, that piece of cheesecake in the bakery window, there’s a bounty of inexpensive yet delicious foods.
My other favorite reward, magazines, isn’t going to work now that I subscribe to a ton of these. However, it can work as a reward for many and there are plenty of good magazines under the $5 mark. If magazines aren’t your cup of tea, you can pick up the Sunday paper or find a cheap book in the clearance section of your local bookstore.
I think that once you get creative, you can re-channel a sense of entitlement toward cheaper thrills. Remember, it’s important to limit your rewards somewhat — say, after a particularly grueling week at work or to celebrate the end of a project. If you reward yourself every weekend, that defeats the purpose.
Who knew that my 20-year old self could give important financial lessons to a 30-something person who is supposedly older and wiser?