- You’ve been putting in some long days at work.
- You’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
- Work is asking so much from you.
- You missed your friend’s birthday dinner because you were stuck at the office.
- This is your first weekend off in a month!
You need to Treat Yo’ Self!
We’ve all heard this before, maybe even said it. We grind away at jobs that aren’t fulfilling, exhausting ourselves on tasks we would never do on our own accord. It’s a mental beat down and we finish a tiresome stretch longing for an escape. So we treat ourselves.
It could be a night on the town with friends; drinking and reveling as kids are want to do. Maybe you and your other similarly afflicted friends meet for a super fancy dinner. The more introverted and stressed might go for a spa day, 90 minute massage and facial included. If sitting slouched and limp at your computer all day makes you want to move your bones you might play a round of golf at a particular well-manicured course.
We do all of this guilt free under the guise that we deserve it. And I don’t disagree. Forcing yourself to be a responsible adult, suffering through unnatural and stressful work to earn a paycheck deserves some immediate gratification. It’s ok to spring for the meal that’s “market price” or the 4 hour rejuvenation package because I mean you gotta unwind right?
If you do things to treat yo’ self as a direct result of the stress caused by work, but you love your job, then carry on. If you are content with spending the next 40 years toiling to pay for these small extravagancies then by all means, read no further.
But if that’s not you. If maybe instead of these temporary lushes, you pine for a more permanent escape, then maybe you need a new way of thinking about treat yo’ self.
A Vicious Cycle
Spending money extravagantly in an attempt to break the relentless routine of our day jobs only serves to further oblige us to the thing we’re trying to escape. It’s pretty simple, you’re working a job you don’t like so that you can have money, and you’re spending money on things to recover from working the job you don’t like. If it weren’t for that job, you’d have no justification for treat yo’ self spending.
You might feel the urge to argue that these small indulgences don’t make a dent in the huge salary you’re being paid to sacrifice your time. If you make $200 a day then so what if you spend $100 on dinner and drinks on Friday. That is only ½ of 1 day, so you bank the other 4 ½. Pshhhhhh
Do you ever think about the cost of something in terms of how many hours you had to work to pay for it? If you do I’d say you’re ahead of the curve, but I’d also guess you’re doing it wrong. If you simply take the cost divided by your hourly rate you’re way off. Now if you’re real clever you might use your take home pay (after taxes, insurance, 401k contributions, etc.) I’d say you’re on the right track but still not there.
Discretionary Dollars per Hour
When figuring the cost of treat yo self items, relative to the hours worked to afford them, you should really be dealing in discretionary dollars per hour. Basically you need to figure out how much per hour you earn that is available for discretionary spending. Start with your take-home pay and subtract all the non-optional expenses in your life. Take out rent, groceries, utilities, cell phone bill, gas, everything you can’t just quit paying immediately. What’s left is your discretionary earnings. This is the money left over for you to spend on an impulse – your treat yo’ self money.
If you make $1,000 a week and only spend $500 on fixed costs I’d say you are doing fantastic. In that case your discretionary daily earnings are $100. In this scenario going out for $100 of fancy dinner and drinks costs you an entire day of work! If you do a $200 spa treatment to unwind you’ve paid for it with 2 days of work!
We often forget that much of our paycheck goes toward a baseline level of support that we’ve established for ourselves. Any blowing-off steam spending comes out of the much smaller discretionary slice.
So why should you care?
Spending money on activities intended to help you recover from work are causing you to have to work longer! Compounding the problem is that our treat yo’ self items are expensive because of their convenience and not their effect. When we seek restoration from the grind of work we want it quick and easy, that’s what makes it pricey.
I promise you that you can make a steak and a cocktail that are as good if not better than the one you are paying exorbitant prices for at a restaurant. The expensive round of golf can probably be had for half off if you could go on a Tuesday instead of Saturday. The effects of the 90 minute massage could be bested by a regular yoga practice. The problem is we don’t have time to do these things. And the reason we don’t have time? Because our jobs! It’s a vicious cycle.
What to do about it
Start thinking of treating yo’ self in a different light. If your goal is to get out of the rat race then treating yourself needs to look a lot different. Instead of blowing your money for temporary relief apply it toward a permanent solution – save it.
It may not feel like the occasional luxury is hurting your future self, but the discretionary earnings exercise should demonstrate that it really is. Because we have a baseline level of support to pay for, we limit our ability to save. This really amplifies our decisions in the discretionary space. I’m not saying spend no money ever, but I am advocating you make conscious decisions about where that money goes.
Avoid overpaying for convenience, in the end it will cost you a lot more time at work than is being saved by the easy escape. Cooking shrimp scampi at home, mixing cocktails, and organizing a fun night in takes a lot more time up front. It’s the back end where you save.
A new way to treat yo’ self
After that 12 hour beat-down anxiety driven hell of a day… go home. Avoid the urge to blow off steam by spending; instead have some fun in an inexpensive way. Take time to reflect about your horrid day and think about how it is helping your future. Future you isn’t going to have days like that.
Put that money you sacrificed for to work for YOU! $100 compounding year over year is so much sweeter than that soufflé you passed up. Treat yo’ self, increase your net worth, get closer to financial freedom.
A Closing Plug
Do yourself a favor and get Personal Capital. Personal Capital is completely free and allows you to track your net worth in real time. Watching your hard work pay off and tracking your progress toward financial freedom is the ultimate way to stay motivated and validate that you’re making the right choices.