You might not think that splurging and budgeting belong together but life can be boring without a bit of fun along the way. Here are some tips on how to budget for a few extravagances – and how to make your money stretch even further.
The splurge fund
When some people see the light about the importance of saving early and investing wisely to benefit from compound interest, they can become extreme on the frugal front. While from a purely mathematical standpoint it can make sense to go hard early, it’s rarely sustainable. For one thing, depriving ourselves to save for the future can lead to us questioning the point of saving in the first place. What’s the point of having lots of money if you can’t enjoy it? And an extreme savings regime can exclude you from social activities. Think perpetual lockdown with no friends and no end in sight. Not fun.
It is therefore important to build in a bit of money for splurges along with your savings plan. The problem is that it can be easy to get carried away on the tide of the “you deserve it – just treat yourself” sentiment.
When shopping, whether it was pre-COVID in a big shopping mall or (more commonly now) online we get a dopamine rush when we make a purchase. It feels good – at least for a while. The problem is that too much retail therapy can mean big consumer debt plus clutter from too many purchases we didn’t want or need to begin with. As KonMari trained stylist Sally Flower shared, she spends hours with clients throwing away stuff that they’ve bought but haven’t thought about – and all of that stuff being thrown away is cash.
One way to reduce overspending is to have a splurge fund. This can be as small or large as your budget dictates. But say you allow yourself $50 or $100 a week for coffees, lunches out and shopping trips. You can do whatever you want with your splurge fund. It’s yours to spend how you like. But once it’s gone, it’s gone.
For couples, having a splurge fund can be a great way to ensure you balance financial independence while pursuing joint financial goals. It’s empowering to have your own money that you don’t have to ask permission from someone else to use. And it’s also handy when you want to buy a secret present for your significant other. (Yep, it can be hard to hide presents from joint credit card statements.)
How to splurge wisely
We are talking about wants rather than needs, so a splurge is pretty much anything you like. The trick to making it meaningful is to think about what you want. I’m talking about what you really, really want, not what you think you might want.
With so much consumer choice, it can be easy to buy too much. Just because something is cheap, or on sale, doesn’t mean you need it. As fashion stylist Janie Allen said, if you don’t think you love an outfit enough to buy it at full price, why buy it on sale? It will just end up being clutter that won’t bring you long-term joy. The same holds for all our consumer purchases.
As consumers, we also have a role in using our splurge purchases for the greater good. Whether it’s helping the environment or supporting our local community through the current economic challenge, every dollar counts. If you want a vibrant community filled with friendly baristas, quirky gift stores, local handmade markets and vibrant florists, it’s important to support these businesses.
Seven ways to get the most from your splurges
Want to make your splurge fund stretch? Here are some tips to get the most from your budget.
1. Get cash back for your purchases
Did you know that you could get cash back for online purchases? Sites such as Cashrewards, ShopBack and Super Rewards offer deals where you can get a cash reward for purchases (with the latter, it goes into your super). Consider downloading browser extensions so that you will never miss an opportunity to get cash back.
2. Buy a Groupon
Have you got a Groupon lately? They have some amazing deals, including for local products and services. Even in lockdown. You can also combine Groupons with cashback offers (where applicable) and they often have a discount for new users. For example, at the time of writing, there was 10% off your first Groupon plus 5% cashback with Cashrewards, an effective saving of 15%. There are also other businesses that offer similar schemes – sometimes they offer even better deals than Groupon.
3. Find a promo code
Buy anything online and towards the end of the process there will be a window allowing you to input any promo or other code. These are special codes that are given out for promotions. But anyone who has the code can use it. Before finalising your purchase, spend a few minutes searching for promo codes online. I don’t find working codes all the time, but often I do. There are also sites, apps and extensions that will search for promo codes for you, including Honey.
4. Use frequent flyer points
Remember the time when we travelled regularly on airplanes? Good times may be coming again, but until they do, you can also use your frequent flyer points for a range of other products – including for splurging on yourself. Make your points go even further by buying items on sale.
Extra budget tip: Qantas is offering 1,000 points to members who provide evidence of COVID vaccinations.
5. Buy a gift card – on sale
Why pay full price for a gift card if you don’t have to? And who says a gift card must be used as a gift? You can buy discounted gift cards through apps such as Stocard, The Entertainment Book membership, NRMA and salary sacrifice businesses.
Extra budget tip: Buy with a credit card that has low or no fees and a good frequent flyer point program to potentially get even more freebies.
6. Join a membership program
Many online stores – and increasingly smaller businesses as well – are providing incentives for membership. The most famous of these is probably Amazon’s Prime paid membership, which gives customers access to video streaming services, music streaming, some online books, expedited shipping and special deals.
Kogan now also has a membership program, as does Catch. And some physical stores such as QBD also offer membership perks for in-store purchases. If you use these services regularly, the rewards can be worth it. But if you only use them at Christmas time, you might need to question whether it’s worth paying for the services all year round.
7. Support local businesses
Buy local and often an unexpected reward is that karma will come around. For instance, if you regularly support your local florist, they are more likely to make your arrangement extra special. Further, your local businesses are likely to remember your support during tough times. People rarely forget a good deed.
Cover image source: JKstock/Shutterstock.com
About Serina Bird
Serina Bird, also known as The Joyful Frugalista, is a former diplomat, author of The Joyful Frugalista, host of The Joyful Frugalista podcast, and a money coach.
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