How Do You Balance Savings and Splurging?

“I’d really like that, but I don’t deserve it.”

“It would be wonderful to visit there, but I can’t do it in the foreseeable future.”

“That will be really fun when I’m retired, if I have enough money then.”

Delayed gratification. It’s the mantra of the Puritan work ethic. Sacrifice today so there will be enough tomorrow. (And if you don’t, there won’t.)

Our culture rewards those who sacrifice – to extreme. It seems like our jeans can’t be too skinny and our accounts can’t be too fat.

These messages, ingrained in some childhoods and reinforced by media in adulthood, leave little room for good, old-fashioned splurging. What’s your definition of a splurge? For too many people I meet, it’s the extra week of summer camp for their child. It’s the flight to visit the grandparents, or grandchildren. It’s a toy or exotic trip they’ve dreamed about for decades. It’s the alternative and mental health treatments that nourish their soul.

If these messages are speaking to you, then the message I am hoping you will consider alongside them is, “Trust yourself.” If you don’t have a history of racking up unmanageable credit card debt, chances are one trip or toy is not going to send you there. If you don’t regularly run out of month before money, the occasional treats or therapy for yourself have little danger of becoming your new uncontrollable habit.

In a media world filled with messages about Americans’ overspending and undersaving, there are more than a few who have the opposite problem. And as admirable as it may seem, it has costs – in regret, in relationships with others, and in integrity with ourselves.

How can we know? Ask someone over the age of 90, or who has been given a limited time to live. Our focus on what mattered most to us sharpens considerably when we are told our time and health are now more precious resources than our money.

So if you haven’t taken care of your current self lately because you think your future self will be “poor,”  lighten up and strike some spontaneity in your budget.

I, Holly P. Thomas, Certified Financial Planner(TM), and recovering obsessive compulsive money addict, hereby give all Puritans permission to live more than a little.

And for more on “mindful splurging,” check out this recent article by Susan Johnston Taylor,


Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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