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By Michaela Ross
June 18, 2015

We’ve all been there: The excitement of a big splurge purchase can turn into feelings of guilt or even disappointment in as much time as it takes to walk through the checkout line.

But believe it or not, splurging done right can actually be good for your happiness and even your budget.

“Allowing yourself to have a splurge and enjoy it can actually keep you on track with your other budgeting goals,” says Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, and a MONEY contributor.

Thursday is National Splurge Day, a faux holiday created by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith about 20 years when she came up with the idea for the celebration – you guessed it – on a whim. But with a little thought, you can make the most of your splurges today.

Splurge on Experiences

One way to get the highest happiness out of your splurge buys is to spend on experiences, says Michael Norton, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.

An evening out with friends or a vacation is a more reliable way to get the most bang-for-your-splurging-buck. And the happy memories from the experience usually last longer than material goods.

“The key pitfall of splurging is that when we splurge, it tends to be on stuff: TVs, clothes, iPhones,” Norton says. “But research shows that stuff fails to pay off in much happiness.”

Splurge on Others

There is a new body of research that shows the tremendous emotional rewards of splurging on other people, says Yarrow. Simple gestures like taking someone out to lunch or buying them something they’d never get for themselves can help you feel happiness in your connection with them.

“There is a rich reward that you get back from treating somebody else,” says Yarrow. “You can’t buy that level of emotional reward for yourself.”

Splurge Within Your Budget

But what about splurging on a budget? A virtually sure-fire way to feel guilt after a splurge is to spend outside your budget. Norton notes that worrying about debt has an enormous negative effect on your mood.

“When splurging, committing to stop before you go into the red helps to ensure your purchases will increase rather than harm your happiness,” Norton says.

Smaller, planned splurges will also help you stay in your budget, adds Yarrow. “Think of shopping like dieting: If you’re in deprivation mode for a long time, it ultimately leads to an unplanned binge.”

Splurge Without Spending

And you can always “splurge” on things that don’t cost a lot, or are free. Make time for yourself to do something you enjoy, like taking a run with your dog or watching a movie with loved ones.

With a little planning this National Splurge Day, you can feel like you treated yourself with no price tag attached.

 

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