Editorial Policy

When it’s OK to Splurge

Allie Johnson

May 17, 2013

When you’re trying to stick to a strict budget, a splurge can seem like a bad idea. But is it? Not always.

In the middle of a big push to get out of debt, I recently bought a $500 Vitamix blender. I don’t normally drop that much cash on kitchen gadgets — in fact, I’m usually very frugal. My husband and I share an old Corolla, I get most of my books from the library, and I still wear a jacket I bought at a thrift store 10 years ago.

But the blender? I didn’t regret that purchase at all. Why? Well, for several reasons:

  • It wasn’t an impulse purchase. I had wanted a high-powered blender for years, and I had done research, reading online customer reviews and comparing models and features. I also had planned to make sure the purchase fit into my budget.
  • It serves a bigger purpose. The blender doesn’t just make yummy food — it helps me live a healthier lifestyle. Now I can put a handful of kale in my morning smoothie or whip up healthy veggie soups in minutes. I consider the purchase an investment in my health.
  • I get a lot of use out of it. I use my blender every day — and sometimes multiple times a day. It’s not something that sits in the closet and gets plugged in once a year. When I know I’ll use something daily, I tend to think of how much it will cost me on a daily basis, or per use, rather than just looking at the sticker price.

So how do you know when to splurge and when to hold back and save? Here are three questions to ask:

1) How long will my purchase last me? The blog Personal Finance Advice recommends splurging on certain items you’d expect to last a long time, including clothing and tools. These are the certain types of purchases where quality really matters. In some cases, you could actually save money in the long run by spending more initially. For example, a $150 pair of well-made shoes might last you years while you could spend twice as much on lots of cheap footwear in the same amount of time.

2) How much happiness will I get from this? It’s good to think about how much pleasure you’ll get from your purchase before you plunk down the cash for it. If you think it through, you might find that a few smaller — and cheaper — splurges actually bring more enjoyment than one big one, according to money management site LearnVest.

3) Can I afford it? It’s important to plan for a splurge so it doesn’t bust your budget and leave you with regret. You definitely don’t want to come up short on rent money because you bought a fancy grill on a whim. After all, a grill is no good if money is so tight you can’t even afford to buy burgers.

So, what’s the best way to splurge within your budget? Earmark part of your discretionary cash each month for fun and enjoyable purchases, LearnVest recommends. For bigger purchases, save a bit from several months’ allotted “fun” money.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to fit some indulgences into your budget without feeling bad or breaking the bank.