Splurges: we all know they’re not good for us. To splurge is defined by dictionary.com as “to indulge oneself in some luxury or pleasure, especially a costly one.” For someone trying to achieve financial independence, expensive splurges can be just plain evil sauce. But I’ll be damned if they don’t brighten up your day like a ray of warm sunshine! And therein lies the problem. It’s a conundrum. Here’s my solution: I say quit fighting the urge to splurge. First purge, then enjoy your splurge! Here’s how to purge your urge to splurge:
It’s OK to Splurge
No, I’m not here to give you some kind of sin-shaming sermon. Splurging is only natural. It’s human. Psychologists tell us we do it to minimize feelings of sadness. Sadness sucks – you don’t want that! In fact, even frugal living gurus agree that it’s OK to splurge – it’s all just a question of how big you splurge.
It is OK to splurge on things that don’t break your bank, but splurging on expensive things like new cars, bigger houses, and even frequent shopping trips for useless crap, keeps millions upon millions of people indentured by their financial obligations. And being financially indentured sucks too, probably even more than sadness.
So, the trick, then, is to splurge in a way that doesn’t suck. And this is where the “purging” comes in. Before you satisfy your urge to splurge, you should first purge.
Purging is a great way to moderate your splurges. To purge is to reduce your standard of living in one way or another: get rid of stuff, move to a smaller house. Get an older car. Downgrade your lifestyle. There are a million ways to purge. It’s only hurts a little bit at first, but soon you get used to it. Then you can splurge with less regret for your wallet! Splurge your way to financial freedom!
My Big Purge
If you follow this blog, you know my family and I are taking a “Family Gap Year” in South America. We’re currently living in a small pueblo in rural Bolivia. Moving to rural Bolivia didn’t come without a few sacrifices. We gave up creature comforts like really awesome hot showers, our daily k-cup coffee, and owning a car. We even gave up internet!
Now guess what happens now when we get a really awesome hot shower? Aaaaahhh! When we travel and stay in a hotel, we get hot showers, wi-fi, and good coffee. And it’s amazing! This is our new splurge. But without the purge, these would be no big deal.
I don’t imagine many people want to go through a purge like that. Some might think it’s a bit extreme. But, you might also be amazed how quickly we stopped missing the things we sacrificed. The fact is there are millions of people who live like we do in Bolivia and around the world, and most of them are perfectly happy about it. They don’t view their lack of a daily k-cup coffee as a sacrifice at all.
Your purge doesn’t have to entail moving to another country, or even giving up vital necessities like the internet. Purges can be more moderate and still be effective. In fact, you can purge any splurge.
For example, if your splurge is an expensive shopping trip on the weekends, purge by downgrading to a less notable store. If your splurge is a new car every 2-3 years, then purge by downgrading your car this year before you upgrade to a more moderate model again next year. If your splurge is fancy vacations, purge them by avoiding flights or downgrading your hotels. Then splurge!
After you get through the purge, you will still enjoy your splurge. That’s because splurging is totally relative to your frame of reference.
Your Urge to Splurge Is Totally Relative
Purging works because splurging is totally relative. Whether rich or poor, we all have our wants and desires. Where a middle-class American might want a new wardrobe from a big box store, the average Bolivian puts the same desires into a slightly-used pair of jeans. While the up-and-coming multi-millionaire might splurge on a designer outfit from Paris. But whether you live a modest or an extravagant lifestyle, we all have the same human emotions. Your urge to splurge is completely framed by your standard of living.
One lesson I’ve learned during our “Gap Year” is that that people here in Bolivia are generally just as happy as people in the US, despite having just a fraction of the income of the average American.
That’s because people in Bolivia have access to the basic things people need to be happy: things like good health, shelter, good food, a purpose in life, and close relationships. These things don’t have to cost much money. And generally, having more disposable income doesn’t give you better access to them either (I suppose with the exception of health).
All that extra income people earn in the U.S. is mostly spent on FLUFF that doesn’t contribute to long-term happiness. When you realize this, you just might be ready to purge.
The Lifestyle Creep
Thanks to the “Lifestyle Creep”, if you don’t purge, your urge to splurge may may get out of control.
Investopedia defines Lifestyle Creep as “a situation where people’s lifestyle or standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises…. As lifestyle creep occurs, and more money is spent on lifestyle, former luxuries are now considered necessities.”
When former luxuries become necessities, then your splurges also step up to a higher level. And that makes financial freedom even harder. Lifestyle Creep is the arch-nemesis of an Early Retirement Dreamer.
To make it a bit more personal, I think of the “Lifestyle Creep” as a really bad dude that just wants to part you with your money, without giving you any additional real happiness. If you don’t purge from time to time, the Creep is going to get you.
How to Purge Your Urge to Splurge
So go ahead and splurge. You deserve it! We all do! But first, purge. Keeping the Lifestyle Creep out of your house is one of the key tricks to reaching financial freedom while you are still young. And you deserve freedom, too.