Life Balance

Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.


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If you've read even a few of my posts here, you'll know that I'm constantly drawing parallels between what we do with our money and what we do with our physical fitness and our mental health.

This post follows that pattern because "splurges" might affect any of those areas. So, whether your focus is to achieve better health financially, physically, psychologically, or all of the above, read on!

What's Your Weakness? A Good Start to Diagnosing Splurges.

For some people, it's pastries every morning at a coffee shop. For others, its beer and nachos while watching a football game.

Your weakness could be the big sales -- for shoes, power tools, or whatever -- at your favorite store. It might be wasting whole evenings on junk television, then feeling guilty because you're not caught up on housework.

Think for a minute about what your pitfalls are. In fact, jot down your problem areas for:

  • Money.
  • Fitness.
  • Life management. (I mean anything that affects your mental well-being that's not related to the prior two categories.)

Now consider this: some people need some leeway to "cheat" even when they're being very disciplined. If they push themselves too hard to never have a dessert, or never buy anything that's not in the budget, they feel beaten down. Ultimately, they may abandon the overall plan just because it feels too oppressive. For these people, itty-bitty splurges are like the safety valve on a pressure cooker-- they vent tensions before the whole thing blows up.

Other people know that they must adhere 100% to their diet, budget, or plan. They know from experience that if they deviate even a little bit, they will derail completely. One cupcake becomes six; one new pair of shoes becomes an over-the-limit credit card.

At its most serious, this isn't just a matter of keeping a slim waistline or paying off debts a little sooner. An extreme example: I know two men who come from families of alcoholics. One of them will have a single glass of beer or wine with his dinner -- it helps him know that he's in charge of alcohol, instead of the other way around -- but he watches himself closely. The other is a teetotaler and never touches alcohol at all because he has a reasonable fear of what might happen if he did. I respect both of these men, and I'm sure that each has made the right choice . . . for him.

So, here's my question for you: Can you handle a little splurge?

You don't have to tell me (though you certainly could, in the comments), but it's not a rhetorical question. Pause a moment to answer a few questions like these for yourself:

  • Can I handle one little slice of pie, without bingeing on "cheat" foods?
  • Can I handle taking a little break from my workout routine, knowing that I'll get right back into the gym in a couple of days?
  • Can I handle shopping with a little bit of "fun money," without blowing up my budget?

If you know you can handle these things, then don't feel guilty about tiny splurges here and there; they may just be part of your wiring. But if you can't handle these things, then don't even try to fit them in. Just acknowledge reality and walk away from them.

A Better Approach to Splurges

This one is quick: whenever you do splurge, intentionally or accidentally, do something bigger that takes things in a positive direction. When you have that cupcake, treat yourself to an extra-long walk or swim. When you buy yourself something a little nicer than you can strictly afford, do some moonlighting work so that you can make a double payment on your biggest bill.

The point here is to see things holistically: a little splurge, or even a big one, isn't the end of the world. Step back from the here-and-now to see how the splurge fits into your overall goals, and then treat yourself to an abundance of good behaviors that move you in the direction you want to go.

The Best Antidote for Splurges

You'll notice that I used "treat yourself" a couple of times in the previous section. I really mean that. The best approach to thwarting splurges is to discard the mentality of scarcity or deprivation.

Many people fail on diets because they see them as inherently negative: the diet says you can't have bread and you can't have chips and you can't have cheese and you can't have a glass of wine with dinner. It's all negative.

But people who stick with long-term healthy eating (notice how I don't call this approach "dieting") see their food choices as positive: all those great fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains fuel them to pursue the active, healthy life that they crave.

At first, it may sound like nothing but meaningless semantics: you get to follow a budget to achieve your financial goals instead of having to follow a budget to dig yourself out of a hole. But if you'll give yourself some time to ingrain that mentality of abundance, the results can be amazing. Instead of dreading the time you ought to spend at the gym, you'll look forward to your workouts as an opportunity to sweat away your troubles and pursue your fitness goals.

It's a subtle shift, but a vital one if you're one of those folks who tends to dwell in the self-pitying mode of "But I want my ice cream!" Yeah, sure, I like ice cream, too, and I've learned that I can have a little. But I'd much rather stick with my program 98% of the time so that I can have the level of fitness and vitality that I want even more than I want a bowl of ice cream.

What do you think? How will you shift yourself to an abundance mentality so that splurges no longer have a grip on you?


How to Conquer Impulse Shopping Syndrome

Get off the Shopping Treadmill

The Leaks in the Bucket

Tim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far . Compensated CareOne Blogger

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  • Will you want that same thing a day, week, month, or year from now? Or is it something that will still be available once you are debt free? Will it be that much more enjoyable because you have it free and clear? Only you can decide that.

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