Personal Finance 

The Psychology of Splurging

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Money, Money, MoneyThere are times when I just want to spend money.

Spending on something that you didn’t exactly plan for can offer you a high. It’s fun to be a little spontaneous and splurge. And there are other reasons that many of us splurge as well.

What’s behind the urge to splurge? And is it always a bad thing to spend you money on unplanned purchases?

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., is a psychologist and physical therapist, and the author of Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. She recently shared some of her insights on splurging with me, and you might find what she says interesting, too.

Why Do We Splurge?

“We splurge as a way to feel good about ourselves and our lives,” says Lombardo. “Perhaps it is a consolation for a tough day, or a reward that we deserve.”

I know that when I’m having a tough time, there is little that cheers me up like splurging on a book … or two … or three … for my Kindle. When we’re feeling down, or when we feel like we’ve worked really hard, a splurge can be something that serves as a pick-me-up, or a motivation to keep going.

There are plenty of negative triggers for splurging, according to Lombardo. “Stress, low sense of worth, looking for happiness in all the wrong places, anger, resentment, fear, and sadness can all trigger a splurge,” she says.

When you feel that sort of a trigger as the motivation for your splurge, it’s probably a good time to step back. After all, it rarely goes well when you make snap spending decisions based on fear or resentment. Plus, using splurges as a replacement for true happiness can be problematic in the long run, since it doesn’t actually solve your problem.

When It Makes Sense To Splurge

This doesn’t mean that splurging is all bad. In fact, there are times when it can be a good thing. “Splurging can be a good thing when it has meaning that ties into your values and strengths,” Lombardo says. She uses a beautiful cashmere coat as an example. If you know that you will wear it for years to come, and you really like it, splurging isn’t such a bad thing.

Sensible splurges should have true meaning and purchase. What are some examples of sensible splurges? “Organic and other high quality food to prepare a special dinner, or something is that is meaningful, like an engagement ring,” Lombardo suggests. Think about your own values and what you derive the most enjoyment from. If you are going to splurge, don’t make it on something that you think is merely “okay;” instead, splurge on items that really will increase your enjoyment of life.

Lombardo also points to research that indicates that spending money on others can make you happy. So, if your splurge benefits someone else, that can be a good thing, too. There’s no reason that your splurge can’t be a special gift for a loved one, or a donation to a cause that you truly believe in.

What do you think? Can splurging be a good thing? What do you like to splurge on?

(Photo: Daniel Borman)

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “The Psychology of Splurging”

  1. I’m glad you included what makes up a sensible splurge! We all need to from time to time – makes sense to really make our financial splurges count!

  2. Splurging can be a good thing. I think it provides a release for pent up emotions and stuff in your mind or desires. I splurge on food and drinks especially after periods of some concerted hard work and more often than not I come out feeling the experience was worth it. I can it, “treating myself”

  3. I try to channel my splurging to free stuff. Like ebooks or free kindles or printing coupons to get free stuff. It’s not the paying for me, it’s the thrill of the chase.

  4. Sam says:

    I definitely splurge from time to time, but I feel that I can control my splurging.

  5. From what I’ve read over the years, the initial decision to spend comes from deep within our emotions.

    That’s why people who never buy anything non-essential run the risk of making one bad decision which ruins their finances.

    All that pent up emotion suddenly bursts out.

    So splurging can act as a useful safety valve. But as you mention, it’s important to control your splurge to things that will genuinely improve your enjoyment of life over the long-term.

    For example, I don’t imagine that anyone who still has a happy marriage regrets the amount they spent on their partner’s engagement ring.

  6. Thanks for a thoughtful post Miranda 🙂

    I think the occasional splurge is fine as long as one can afford it and it doesn’t affect their life like not having the rent money, or food budget.

    Another aspect of splurging, at least to me, is that it allows us to feel somewhat “normal”. We may feel more connected to the consumer society we live in. it’s kind of like “hey…life’s not all bad” as you make that impulse buy or can spend a little more than you budgeted for.

    I guess like all things, moderation is the key.

    Take care and all the best.


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