Reward yourself for good spending habits

Reward yourself for good spending habits - picture of person reading on beach lounge

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Let’s face it. Creating good spending habits can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you are used to buying whatever you want. Cutting yourself off from spending binges takes a lot of discipline. Yet, controlling our spending is a must if we are ever going to whip our finances into shape.

Still, if you’ve ever known – or been – a yo-yo dieter (and who hasn’t?), you know that total deprivation from your favorite things can not only ruin your diet, it can actually make your food binges worse. The same holds true when you put your finances on a diet. If all you ever known is spending deprivation, not only can your enthusiasm suffer, but so can your budget.

Thus, rewarding yourself for good spending habits is a must. It keeps you motivated toward accomplishing your bugetary goals while helping to fill that deep craving to enjoy your money. I am talking mostly about little, cost effective rewards. Obviously, blowing a giant wad of money on a reward in the middle of a budget crackdown can wipe out all of the progress you’ve made. However, allowing yourself a larger reward after reaching a major milestone may occasionally be appropriate.

Deciding when to take those rewards can be tricky. I would suggest rewarding yourself on a set timeframe – possibly once a month or quarter. Also, deciding on what those rewards might be can be difficult as well. What is an appropriate reward? Here are a few ideas:

Make a Star Chart

Remember when you were a kid and your teacher gave you a star for having good behavior for the day? Maybe your parents gave you a sticker on the refrigerator for doing your chores. Why not create a star chart for your good spending habits? Each day you accomplish your (non)spending goals, reward yourself a star! Better yet, combine this with your reward calendar. Maybe you get a spending reward after earning 30 stars. Use the chart for motivation…and have fun with it.

Go Out to Eat

Going out to eat can be a great way to reward yourself for good spending habits. Hell, why not catch a movie while you are out? Just be careful not to let eating out become a habit. For many of us, eating out can be one of the sneakiest and most detrimental spending items on our budgets. So, treat yourself, but don’t let restaurants eat up all of your extra spending money.

Do Something Fun

As a reward for sticking to your budget, why not take yourself out to a sporting event you would enjoy? You can try to attend professional events, but they can end up being spending traps because even if you can find cheap tickets, there is still parking, concessions, and many other things that you’ll be tempted to spend money on. However, local high school events can be a lot of fun, and a lot easier on the pocketbook.  If you’re into cars, take some driving lessons.  Or, go fishing with friends.

Take a Vacation

When it comes to what motivates us in particular, we love to reward ourselves for crossing major milestones by heading out on vacation. Travel is one thing that we truly love and are willing to spend our money on. However, vacation doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of your own money. You can take extended weekend trips to destinations that are nearby. Even better is using other people’s money to go on vacation! We recently used credit card rewards to pay a super sweet vacation to Jamaica. If you plan it right, you can take a great trip for very little cash, and give yourself a great reward all at the same time.

As you can see, rewarding yourself can be a useful tool when you are trying to get your finances in order. Of course, this only works if you are being honest with yourself about your financial performance. So, save up, stop spending, and reap the rewards!

Do you ever treat yourself when you reach a saving goal?  If so, what is your favorite type of reward?

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  1. Great point- if you never stop to reward yourself for all your hard work, how much longer are you going to continue to feel motivated? It’s all about balance I think, and if you never stop to reward yourself it may be an indicator that you’re lacking in that area.

    1. Yep! We like to treat ourselves to vacations. For some reason, that’s our “thing.”

  2. I have rows of sea glass on a dresser and a glass jar next to it. For every $500 in debt I pay down I put a piece of the glass in the jar. Every time I put 5 pieces in the jar I get a small treat.

    These pieces are shades of green for money and pink for happiness. I have another cluster of blue and pink for my current weight loss goals and I get to put a piece in a jar for every pound I lose.

    Friends come to my home and see the pretty glass and play with it and dump the jars out and they all think it is an interactive decoration.

  3. Thank you! Spending freezes drive me nuts because it’s the same as any crash diet. Personally, I like to treat myself by saving up for vacations and the occasional brunch and movie date. Because I live in NYC I use the ScoutMob app as a great way to go out to eat and save some cash! It works in about 12 other major US cities.

    1. I like to treat myself with trips too! Right now I am ready to get the hell out of the Midwest!

  4. Favorite rewards / gifts / treats are vacations, hands-down. Once I have a vacation goal and trip itinerary in mind, I price the heck out of it and can usually muster up the motivation to trim everyday spending in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

  5. I like going out to eat, doing something fun with friends that requires money (i.e. going to a movie, going out downtown, etc.), and vacations as well. We have taken small weekend getaways for just one night at hotels to recharge and this has helped a little bit with postponing vacation fever while also costing us very little because of living social and groupon deals.

    1. We actually rediscovered the movies over the past few years and I now really enjoy going. It’s something that can do pretty cheap as long as we stay away from the $7 popcorn!

  6. Vacation with Aman Resorts is my favorite “treat,” and a dangerous guilty pleasure!

  7. We reward ourselves when we reach personal goals, not so much for reaching savings goals. We like to include the entire family because our kids are part of the team and such a great support. Usually it’s a night out to a special restaurant or a weekend activity. But if it’s a really big goal then we will splurge for a special trip…but that trip is something we have saved and planned for along the way so it’s really not a splurge.

    1. I hear ya. I love weekend activities with the kids!

  8. I am a BIG fan of the rewards system to keep you motivated for good financial behaviors! We had to create a rewards chart for my son at home to keep him focused and it worked wonders on his behavior. I have since done the same with my clients with amazing results.

  9. Emotional awards are very important when on a budget. My wife and I will go out to eat every so often but only if we find a coupon or discount!

    1. I keep getting coupons for my favorite restaurant and it’s killing my budget! Even with the $10 off, it’s expensive. It would be much better if we could do it in moderation!

  10. I have a “star chart”, sort of like those thermometers for fundraisers. It has building blocks that represent a certain amount of money I’ve paid back for debt-repayment. It’s pretty cheesy, and I take it down off the fridge if we have company, but it helps visualize it.

  11. We’re taking the vacation approach. Lately we’ve been really good with our spending, because we have to be. We have a wedding and a honeymoon coming up. We decided to cut back our bills and make some big sacrifices so we could go on an amazing honeymoon.

  12. We took a short vacation half way through paying off our credit card debt and it really encouraged us to get the rest of it paid off so we could do more vacationing. I’m certainly with you on loving the vacations and vacation planning.

  13. I think I’m going to aim for a weekend getaway the next time either I or my boyfriend hit a big milestone with our student loans. It’s nice to get a little break every now and then.

    1. Yep, totally. I personally need a break right about now. It’s freaking freezing out!!!

  14. Holly,
    Agreed on indulging yourself, usually at benchmarks. (X saved etc.) Full deprivation never works, on the flip side though if you’re deep in debt you can’t have the same reward as someone who is debt free.

    1. Yep, I agree! If you do, it might spell out trouble!

  15. I think I reward myself just a little too much. 🙂 I don’t have any particular thing I reward myself with, but I do think if you are so super strict without letting yourself have a little fun, you run the risk of just completely going crazy, or “binge eating.”

    1. Yep, been there Tonya. I think rewarding oneself is good sometimes!

  16. We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner out after hitting certain debt milestones ($50k left on mortgage, and when we got it down to $0). It’s weird, but thinking about the dinner out was kind of motivating, in a way. I know it doesn’t make sense as the reward isn’t commensurate with the achievement, but we didn’t care…it was still fun!

  17. Yup yup! Trips and sushi are my rewards of choice. The reward is a little more awesome when you know it’s a celebration of your hard work. Treat yo self!

  18. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    As soon as we’re done with my high interest loans, we are going on a sweet vacation. I work at a Catholic High School and will use the time I get off at Easter 2015 (which will be right after all the debt is gone) to take a well-deserved vacation!

    1. Boom! Do it Tara. Congrats on knocking that debt out!

  19. We reward ourselves with travel. When we got our first full-time jobs after school two years ago we took a vacation Cancun to celebrate. Wasn’t a crazy expensive but was definitely a huge splurge for college students. What I wouldn’t do to be back in Mexico right now!

    1. IMO – travel = greatest reward EVAH!

      If you go to Mexico, make sure to invite us with you!

  20. Hey Holly and great post!!

    2014 is my year to save and I am doing way less eating out than in the past. My reward for doing so is having the money needed to record a CD of my music…mind you a selfie date night every now and then will also serve as a personal thank you to myself for being thrifty 🙂

    Take care Holly and my best to all.


    ps: I love the star chart idea and may institute that in other areas of my life as well!

  21. I am not doing this currently. I think I need to create a reward system or borrow one of yours. I like the vacation one.

    1. Vacation is my favorite too…but start small and don’t go overboard. Thanks for the comment!

  22. My hubby has one full year to finish his MBA and his looking forward to a vacation we’ll be taking after his graduation to stay motivated.

    1. Oh Joe, you’re the best! I’ve missed you man. Hit me up by email sometime soon!

  23. I’ve made it a habit to treat myself for each new job/promotion I get, but I haven’t done so for reaching my savings goals. Mostly because my savings goals are usually to save money for the “reward” in the first place!

  24. Excellent! I’m all about taking time to celebrate the little victories. It gives you the motivation to keep going. We saved the vacation for when we knocked out the student loans- our white whales. And, it was totally worth it. You have to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

    1. Absolutely. Congrats on knocking those bad boys out Ryan!

  25. A variation on the star chart worked beautifully for me when I was paying off debt. Sounds juvenile but watching each $100 increment get checked off was really motivating.

    1. Totally. We were doing that with our mortgage before we moved into the rental. It really does seem juvenile, but it is a heck of a lot of fun!

  26. Rewards are always welcome to make sure that frugal fatigue (or saving fatigue or whatever you want to call it) doesn’t settle in and risks shutting you down. Everybody needs a reward for an accomplishment, be it winning a tournament or good spending habits.

  27. Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans says:

    Rewarding yourself for good financial behavior is key to sticking with the positive habits. I just need to make sure the reward is enough – not too little, and not too much!

  28. My favorite little reward is definitely eating out. I have no interest in buying trinkets, but a good meal is one of my favorite splurges (along with travel)! I need to reach a goal soon so I can celebrate!

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