When Is It OK To Treat Yourself

Treat yourself. We see this advice all of the time. And yet, it’s all too easy to mistake the meaning. In other words, it’s easy to go overboard with spending as you “treat yourself” which only leaves you later regretting those choices. So, when is it OK to treat yourself? I’d argue that it’s okay any time, all of the time, but only when you keep certain boundaries and considerations in mind.

What Does It Mean to Treat Yourself?

The problem with this idea really stems from the fact that marketing has taken over its meaning. With my own eyes, I’ve seen “treat yourself” (or the more popular “treat yo’self”) on signage and websites for everything from ice cream to spa retreats. Don’t get me wrong – I love ice cream and spa retreats. However, the underlying message here is “buy our thing and you will feel happier.” When we fall prey to that kind of messaging, we’re never truly satisfied.

So, it’s critical that you dig deep inside yourself to ask what it even really means to treat yourself. What actually makes you feel good? When you’re having a hard day, what type of experience lightens the load? Brainstorm the biggest list that you can think of. Keep adding to it every time that you think of something. Then, do me a favor: divide that list into three categories: free things, cheap things, and expensive things.

When is it OK to treat yourself? Anytime. However, focus on using the free and cheap means of treating yourself. Only on rare occasions will you treat yourself with the expensive things. And then, only if you truly feel like that’s the only one thing that will make you happy.

When Is It OK To Treat Yourself?

When is it OK to treat yourself? Any time – under the following conditions:

  • You understand what you really need. In other words, don’t treat loneliness with ice cream. Don’t treat work frustration with Netflix binges. Ask yourself what you really need and then meet that need.
  • You’ve explored a variety of options and chosen the best way to treat yourself in the moment.
  • If the treat costs money, you can afford it. In other words, it’s within your budget or you have discretionary funds to cover the costs. Going into debt won’t make you feel better in the long run. It’s not a way to treat yourself.

In my opinion, based on personal experience as well as my education in psychology, it’s absolutely okay to treat yourself well and often. In fact, I think you should give yourself little treats every single day. Just make sure their the right kind.

Free and Cheap Ways to Treat Yourself

Load yourself up with idea of free and cheap ways to treat yourself. Here are some of my favorites, although they’ll be different for everyone:

  • Pausing everything to snuggle with my pup.
  • Making a phone call to someone who uplifts me.
  • Sending adorable text messages to someone I care about.
  • Looking through old photos.
  • Reading a book in the middle of the afternoon.
  • Taking a nap.
  • Walking through a park, even a small one.
  • Going on a photo walk, letting my camera notice all of the little things around me.
  • Grabbing a coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in awhile.
  • Browsing online through new books available at my library. Then adding them to my “for later” shelf.
  • Listening to True Crime podcasts.
  • Watching reality TV.
  • Making myself a really cozy meal.
  • Scrolling through Instagram, which I’ve carefully curated to include only inspiring things.
  • Listening to music.
  • Crocheting or collaging.

These are all cheap or free things that I like to do. When I do them, I feel better. Therefore, I try to incorporate them into my days. I try to “treat myself” regularly to things that give me pleasure. As a result, I feel less lack in my life. And as a result of that, I don’t get tempted to “buy” experiences or items in order to feel good.

When Is It OK To Treat Yourself With Costly Things?

I believe that if you’re treating yourself daily with small things, then you’ll desire fewer costly things. But, let’s face it, sometimes the treats we both want and need do cost money. For example, I absolutely love getting spa massages. In fact, I love them so much that I work them into my quarterly budget. By figuring out in advance how to pay for that treat, I can enjoy it without any regrets.

Many people like to treat themselves with travel. Some people like to treat themselves with fancy meals. Other people enjoy treating themselves with tickets to concerts, symphonies, etc. These are all great things that you can do for yourself. And you should. Depriving yourself of the joys of life makes life less fun. Moreover, you risk going on a spending binge if you withhold those things from yourself too often.

So, when is it OK to treat yourself with these more expensive things? When you know that it’s the thing that you truly want / need plus you’ve figured out how to pay for the cost.

Keep Refining How You Treat Yourself Well

The most important thing about all of this is that you keep checking in with yourself. Regularly ask yourself if the “treat yourself” experiences are really doing what you want.

For example, sometimes I treat myself with reality TV. If I’ve worked hard, my brain is fried, and I don’t want to do anything except zone out, then that works for me. However, I can also easily go too far with this. I can watch episode after episode to the point where I feel totally numb and brainless and don’t actually feel good anymore. If you don’t feel good, it’s no longer a treat.

Similarly, some people can enjoy a terrific cocktail or two. Other people find that if they’re honest with themselves, it doesn’t feel all that good in the long run. So, that’s not the way they treat themselves.

Whether big or small, expensive or free, your self-treats should be things that really satisfy you. That’s when you’ll feel good. That’s how you’ll know when it’s OK to treat yourself.

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