Slowly Sipping Coffee

When Should You Treat Yo’ Self? Guest Post by Mrs. Picky Pincher

Today I have a guest post from Mrs. Picky Pincher who runs a blog about frugality without sacrificing the good life. Something I’m a huge fan of. 🙂  If you haven’t checked it out yet head on over there for some great articles, frugal tips, and recipes. Yes, recipes! Her post today is about “when should you Treat Yo’ Self”. Spawned by Parks and Rec the “Treat Yo’ Self” Day came about when Tom and Donna celebrate one day a year to “Treat Their Selves” and essentially splurge on all the stuff they don’t buy the rest of the year. While picking one day a year to splurge on yourself may be the best idea ever, Mrs. Picky Pincher has some great ideas on how to be able to “Treat Yo’ Self” and not just limit yourself to only one day a year.  Take it away Mrs. Picky Pincher!



Ahhhh, treats.

There’s nothing like the feeling of a new shirt on your back, the freshness of a hip haircut, or the taste of a decadent slab of triple chocolate fudge cake.

While I’m known for treating myself (and maybe a little too often…), the treat yo’ self attitude can be dangerous when you’ve committed to a frugal lifestyle. For me, it was REALLY hard to determine when I was making prudent financial decisions by avoiding something pleasurable or when I was depriving myself.

I think the line between an unnecessary treat and a good, occasional treat is different for everyone, but I’ve found a few ways to draw a line in the sand between “casual frugal treat” and “treat yo’ self hedonism.”

Here are a few times when it’s all right to treat yo’ self!

Treat Yo Self - to cupcakes!

Treat Yo Self – to cupcakes!    image from Parks and Rec wikia


You have a budget for it

I used to treat myself aaaaall the time. I had a new piece of jewelry every week. I wore the latest fashions. Hell, I bought hair extensions that I didn’t even use!

And that’s how I spent $1,000 on Amazon crap, my friends.

It’s easier to have treats (and not feel the financial pain of them) when you have a budget.

When I was a fledgling adult I factored in a $20 treat yo’ self budget every month. I kept this amount small because I was barely scraping by at the time. I think it’s important to factor in little goodies here and there so you don’t feel deprived. Even though I only gave myself a $20 budget for fun money, I was still able to go to the movies, grab a chocolate bar, or pick up a new scarf each month.

By setting a budget for treats and keeping it small, I was able to rein in my spending.

More than anything, though, it’s important to learn how to treat yourself without spending a lot of money. Frugal living is all about enjoying life’s little momentsand being content with what you have, not going on a Gucci shopping spree.

Factor in a few small, fun things you enjoy that won’t break the bank—which means you can do them more often!


You know the difference between wants and needs

There was a time when I couldn’t distinguish between needing a new pair of shoes and wanting a new pair of shoes.

If you asked me at the time, I would have vehemently said I needed the shoes to live!

While I’ve reined that in quite a lot, it can still be a challenge to know when you need something or just want something.

For example, we recently bought a food processor. We made plenty of explanations for needing a food processor, like being able to chop things more efficiently or preparing dinner more quickly. Plus food processors were just neato!

But the bottom line is that we didn’t need a freakin’ food processor. We just had a gift card and we wanted a food processor!

It’s all about kicking the excuses and explanations and justifications to the curb.

To be honest, we very rarely need a particular item to survive. If you take the approach of “Do I need this to live?” suddenly most purchases become meaningless. While I’m not saying you should stop buying fun things, it’s important to realize they add too much clutter our lives while making our wallets lighter.


You establish a waiting period

When I was learning money discipline, I had to establish a waiting period before I bought anything unnecessary. If I wanted to buy a new handbag, I would simply walk away. That didn’t mean I didn’t get the handbag; it just meant I had to think it over at least a day first.


Because it gave me time to cool off and think about the item from a long term perspective. It broke me out of the “gimme gimme” mindset that I revert to the second I see a cute pair of shoes. What value would I get from this item in five years? Is my money more important than this item?

Usually I never went back to buy the purse. I realized that my money was more powerful when it was put to use paying off debt, building my meager savings account, or contributing to my Roth IRA.

Waiting periods ensure that you don’t make the mistake of an impulse buy while acknowledging that well thought-out treats are okay every now and then.


The Bottom Line

While I love lavishing myself with fun things, the reality is that we don’t need to treat ourselves most of the time. We don’t “deserve” anything for getting through the day as functional adults—that assumption got me into Debt City.


We live in a treat yo’ self culture that encourages spending and excess. Be different. Be completely weird. Create a few barriers to the convenience of treating yourself and appreciate what you already have. That will make treats all the sweeter!


Thanks for the tips and the guest post, Mrs. Picky Pincher! Do you “Treat Yo’ Self?” Do you have any rules to keep it reigned in? Or do you act like me and realize you’ve overspent again when your credit card statement shows up?  I’d love to hear about it!

16 thoughts on “When Should You Treat Yo’ Self? Guest Post by Mrs. Picky Pincher

  1. Financial Panther

    The great thing about budgeting is that it creates a waiting period automatically. Often, when there’s something I want, I’ll budget a certain amount to save away for that thing over the course of a few days, weeks, or months. By doing that, once I get enough money, I’ve already set a waiting period and can really think if its something I actually need, or just something I want and don’t really care about too much.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s a great point that budgeting helps out with a built in waiting period, usually for big purchases I find myself in the same boat, because I’ve saved for it so long already that I know I definitely want to spend that money on that item.
      I still find myself getting caught in “impulse buys” though so for me it still takes being mindful to try and avoid that.

  2. Steven Goodwin @ MyFamilyOnABudget

    I completely agree with this. Before our family started tracking our finances and doing a budget, we had a total misunderstanding of needs and wants.

    Once we started learning more about them, it was just a matter of learning to limit the wants until we saved up enough for them. It’s funny how over time our wants have changed to including our retirement savings goals, experiences over things and also keeping a fully funded emergency fund.

    The materialistic things that we used to value much more is something that we are just making do with what we have more and more since we are learning to get by with what we have so that we can afford the things we really want! Thanks for sharing your story and how it changed your outcome thusfar!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      For us redefining needs vs wants was huge in our savings and cutting out needless mindless spending. It’s amazing how just that simple question can change things. Is this a need or a want?

      Combine that with tracking your spending and it’s a real powerful tool to use.

  3. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies

    I was so guilty of frittering away money that I really buckled down and stopped spending on virtually everything. To the point that it was almost harmful. And definitely dumb. Now, I try to be more cognizant of balance. We work our “treat yourself” money into our general spending for the month. $300 covers everything from prescription and doctor visit co-pays to me getting my hair highlighted (once every few months) or some game thing that I still don’t understand on my husband’s computer. Some months we can do a lot of treating, and other months we really don’t. It seems to work well!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Yep, we found if you go too far one way or the other it gets detrimental. Finding your optimal balance between spending too much and saving too much is key. The beauty is that everyone’s “perfect” is different.

      It’s nice you guys found a way to work those treats into your budget. ?

  4. Mrs. COD

    Oh, so right! I fear the “treat yo self” mentality really hurts most of us because we make it too regular an occurrence. We think we need to go out for dinner every week (or more). We think we deserve a massage or new clothes or video games or whatever it might be. These things may be fine in moderation, but that’s the key: moderation. Too often I let stress and fatigue convince me I “need” these treats all the time, instead of as a rare splurge. I like the idea of budgeting for your “treats” so you never lose sight of more important goals. I need to work on making splurges, whether fun junk foods or shopping or anything else, a rare treat so they’ll be special again.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s definitely a key distinction is remembering that they’re treats and not “everyday” things we deserve. If you do it everyday then like you said it loses its special treat quality. We found that led to more treats and more spending and lifestyle creep started creeping up. Fortunately we didn’t do that for more than a year or so when we first got our “good jobs”. We definitely let things get out of hand those years before we started making things “treats” again.

  5. Mrs. BITA

    The other harmful effect of too much of ‘treat yo-self’ (other than spending too much) is hedonic adaptation. You get used to the treats, they no longer are as satisfying, and you have to up the game (shop even more! eat out more often! fancier!) to get the high from your spending. Realizing this was an eye-opener for me. I then looked back on my childhood and remembered really enjoying treats because they were so very rare – we just couldn’t afford them. I’ve found that limiting my spending has the nice side effect of making me much more appreciative when I do spend – I simply enjoy it that much more.

    The other tool I use to curb spending is “How many minutes of my future time is this $ saved going to buy me” (I currently stand at 3.04 minutes for every $ saved. You can find the formula to calculate this on my blog in a November post entitled ‘Fun with FIRE Numbers’). I find framing a purchase in terms of minutes of freedom makes a lot of purchases unappealing.

    1. Mrs. COD

      I love your calculation idea! It sure puts spending in perspective when you frame it by what it costs you in time (as well as in the interest you lose on anything you spend now versus investing for later).

    2. Mr SSC Post author

      Oh yeah, the comfort level of “I need this” keeps getting bumped up and bumped up and just costs more and more to achieve that same feeling of something “special”.

      I like that calculator idea of how much time would this buy me. For me it was between 5-7 minutes depending on my interest rate assumptions. Nice tool by the way!

  6. Go Finance Yourself!

    I like to give myself a waiting period for big purchases. I tend to get really into things and do them 100%, which sometimes can lead to spending money on a bunch of stuff for which my enthusiasm then dies a few months later. Waiting helps me determine if I still really into it or if it was just a phase and shouldn’t waste my money.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Hah, you too?! I’m guilty of this as well and find a self imposed waiting period for new hobbies, big purchases and stuff like that helps keep me from ending up with a lot of stuff I may not use much later on in life.

  7. Freedom 40 Guy

    Nice article here. I’ve never been much of a budget-er myself, rather I approach it from the other side of the equation by setting an aggressive amount I want to save and then put it into an account that I don’t touch. This works by forcing me to work within what remaining money I have. If it’s hard enough, this has the added benefit of encouraging me to figure out how to make more money so I can go buy the things I want, while still saving the pre-determined amount. At any rate – keep rocking on! Sounds like it is working for you!

  8. Mrs. Groovy

    Sorry I’m late to the party on this one! All great tips. And who can go wrong using Parks and Recreation as a basis for reasoning. It should be used for everything!

    I think budgeting for something is key. But I still have trouble purchasing wants, especially something like my iPad that cost over $200. I searched for months for the best price and amount of storage and still had trouble pulling the plug.

    The problem for many are feelings of entitlement – “I work so hard, I deserve this.” Too bad the more you buy, the longer you’l be working hard. It’s mostly an excuse to splurge.

  9. ZJ Thorne

    I’ve found that having the treat budget also lets me know that I’ll be ok. I don’t have to spend the budgeted money, but knowing that I could brings a lot of emotional benefit to me. (See deprived early life)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *