Gulp. The sound of my daily iced oat latte from a trendy Auckland café washes down my throat, quickly leaving the burnt aftertaste of guilt in my mouth. Well, there goes another six dollars, I sigh to myself, disappointed once again by my lack of self-discipline. Someone take my wallet away from me, please. Unable to enjoy the rest of my slightly-overpriced but still delicious coffee, I swear to myself that from now on I’m only drinking that grainy Nescafé coffee gathering dust in the back of the cupboard, and never purchasing another takeaway coffee ever again. Why? Because I’m better than frivolous temptations; I’m responsible with money—right?
Let’s be real here—while it is definitely humanly possible to live without a daily cup of glorified bean juice, every time I pass a cute café my brain can’t help but light up with serotonin. Without thinking, I’m compelled to hand over my hard-earned money for an unnecessary luxury to pretentiously “start” my morning. Yep, I know I have a problem—and nope it’s not the iced coffee. I’m talking about the shame and guilt we’ve been conditioned to feel when treating ourselves.
Before I continue any further, I want to preface this by saying that I am not advocating for careless and mindless spending. Please do not spend your week’s paycheck on one wild night out in the name of treating yo’self. Financial responsibility is also very important. Secondly, while I like to think I’m reasonable with money, I do not claim to be perfect with money or qualified to give out financial advice. I also recognise the incredible amount of privilege I have to be employed, and have a weekly disposable income.
With that being said, I would like to destroy the stigma around allowing yourself to indulge every now and then. I’m talking about budgeting for little things that bring you small but precious moments of joy in your week. Whether that’s paying for a gym membership, or a new lipstick that makes you feel confident, putting money aside to treat ourselves to little pick-me-ups throughout the week is important for overall well being.
There is too much pressure surrounding financial responsibility. We’re taught there’s only one way to “adult.” Many of us carry around toxic and restrictive mindsets taught to us by our parents, the media, and those weird financial guys that appear in obnoxious, too-long YouTube ads (frankly, I don’t care about how you got to live in your flash mansion—let me deep dive YouTube at 3 am in peace thanks).
As practical and logical as these budgeting tips may seem, they often fail to acknowledge the value in finding space for those “unnecessary” costs in our everyday lives. The discourse around budgeting often demonises that odd bubble tea or a meal out as the sole reason we can’t afford a house or a car (let’s just forget about inflation and other economic factors that are out of our control—it’s obviously brunch with the girls doing all the damage).
The restrictive mindset around money not only increases stress and makes finance taboo, it also leads us further away from the true purpose of money. Don’t get me wrong—saving for that future trip abroad or that expensive laptop is great and necessary, but what about the present moment? If we constantly restrict ourselves from little everyday indulgences, we increase our chances of giving up on our financial goals altogether and making crazy irrational decisions further down the road. Forcing yourself to eat stale muesli bars for lunch every day to save money—among other unsustainable financial strategies—only sets you up for failure and avoidable stress. We need consistency, not quick fixes that’ll leave us nutrient-deficient.
Let’s move on to the “b” word. Nope, not the one you’re thinking of—but you’re right, budgeting can be a bit of a b*tch. While I have mad respect for the people in committed relationships with their personal finance spreadsheets, can we all agree that tracking every single expense is unrealistic for most of us? It’s boring, it’s stressful and turns budgeting into a numbers game that easily becomes obsessive and unhealthy. Personal budgeting encompasses so much more than a bunch of numbers in Excel—it needs to reflect and honour all aspects of our wellbeing. After all, isn’t that kind of the point of money? If we aren’t using it as a tool to support our overall welfare, then what’s the point of having savings goals? It is not a flex to compromise your physical, mental, or social wellbeing for the sake of seeing numbers grow in a bank account.
So how does advocating the whole “treat yo’self” message come into all of this? Doesn’t buying little pick-me-ups throughout the week make you less financially responsible? I used to view budgeting in the same light until I gained a deeper understanding of what it means to indulge every now and then. You are an investment. Those small things/services that bring you joy are worth every penny. Whether this means spending a little more on a pair of shoes you know you’ll be wearing every day, or buying supplies for a hobby you’ve been meaning to try—we all need to stop feeling guilty for spending money on ourselves. Who says gift-giving is only for others? If you have the means to reward yourself for that achievement or just making it through another week, please do! We should be proud of ourselves and unafraid to celebrate all of the cool things we accomplish.
Spending money is not the only way to show yourself some love. As great as presents are, being kind to yourself extends beyond material items like a face mask or a bath bomb. Other ways to practise self-love could include cutting down how many hours you work (if you have the means to do so) or taking time out of your schedule to relax, or work on a hobby. Actively being nice to yourself in a society obsessed with toxic productivity and hustle culture is honestly a revolutionary and bad-ass move.
So allow yourself to incorporate little moments of joy in your week. Buy that damn ice coffee! Enjoy every last sip too, because life is too short and hectic not to enjoy the small things. It is possible to be financially responsible and treat ourselves to the things we love.
Artwork by Eric Jang