I recently mentioned to a friend that I’d bought a French Connection dress. “Good for you!” she said. “You deserve to treat yourself!”
Deserve? Treat? What did she know about my finances? Or how much the dress cost, or if those two forces jibed — or didn’t?
“Treating” oneself if you can’t afford it isn’t really a treat. If carrying around a new Coach purse also means you have to carry a credit card balance, don’t save enough and burden future generations by running up the national debt, well, that isn’t much of a treat at all. Or that chocolate-molten-lava-thigh bomb? Do you indulge in this “treat” because you “deserve” to be overweight, on the brink of Type 2 diabetes, and bankrupting the national health care system? I don’t care how many makeovers or Louboutins Oprah and her advertisers tell us we “deserve” to “treat” ourselves to. Those messages have nothing to do with your reality (even if you can afford them). Block them out!
Getting a divorce is full of days screaming for a pick-me-up. At least for a while, life can be miserable. Our dreams shattered, our families’ routines and any sense of stability gone, out the window. Many women describe this time as one of their lowest self-esteem and highest stress. Who couldn’t use an $85 massage?
You certainly could use that rub-down, but unless you’ve thought through what that means financially, you don’t deserve it. Sorry.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Say you get a mani-pedi every two weeks at $40 a pop. If you save that in a good, old-fashioned savings account, you’d have $1,040 at the end of a year (add $5 if you want to include a 1 percent interest rate — measly, but that’s the best you can do right now). If you’re scraping by, week to week, month to month, having a cool grand in the bank offers a giant peace of mind. That $1,040 could go for an emergency car repair, medical bills or the rent in the event you lose your job.
Let’s look at that $40 again. If you invest it in a mutual fund that averages 8 percent annual returns, after 10 years your mani-pedi fund could be worth nearly $16,000, according to this Bankrate calculator. Keep at it for 30 years, you’re looking at $129,800. Of course, it feels fantastic to grow your wealth. It also feels fabulous to stop stressing about not saving for retirement. Because if you’re not, you know you should, and every day that you don’t get on it, you feel even worse.
I’m not suggesting that you live the life of a monk. I’m suggesting you look at the big picture. What is the real cost of that treat you’re considering? How does it fit with your goals? Your values? Wouldn’t that gorgeous Burberry coat feel even more wonderful knowing you were worth a million bucks — and not just that the trench made you look like a million bucks?
I always say that the best thing about having money is not worrying whether the rent check will clear. I like pretty things as much as the next gal. But if I dig down — waaayy, waaaaaayyyy down — living within my means and feeling secure and confident about my financial life lends way more meaning and joy to the rest of my life.
Even if my nails look like crap.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.