When you’re in the middle of paying off debt, especially consumer debt, it’s easy to feel like you shouldn’t buy anything you want. I mean, after all, isn’t that generally part of the reason you got in debt in the first place? With that in mind, I was shocked when the debt counselor I worked with years ago said I had the freedom to buy the things I wanted…I just had to be disciplined about it. The problem can be how to do it though and how to do it wisely.
Allow Yourself Fun Money
After setting up a budget, this was the first thing I was directed to do as I was paying off debt. While it seems counterintuitive, it was a life saver numerous times in my debt payoff journey.
Debt fatigue can be as real as it gets and having a little fun money helps you combat that fatigue. How much money this is depends on your particular situation, of course, but set aside that money however often you deem necessary – I did mine once a month along with my budget. That money can be used on anything you want; in my case, it often provided for fun things I was rarely able to enjoy.
Plan Your Purchases
This might seem somewhat obvious, but the point is to develop a discipline that will help move you forward financially. Not only will this require you to save up the money to buy whatever it is you want, but it’ll also help you determine if it’s something you truly want and will get value out of.
More practically, you need to know how to include these “fun” purchases in your debt responsibilities. There are various tools available, from Personal Capital which allows you to track your debt and investments, to plain and simple Excel. The point is to find something that works for you so your planning can be effective. Personally speaking, that makes the purchase I want that much more satisfying and enjoyable knowing that I planned, saved, and worked for it.
Look for Lower Cost Alternatives
We often get ourselves caught in the trap that there is only a certain number of ways to do something. Well, when you’re paying off debt, you’re required to find cheaper alternatives to things you would do otherwise. If you don’t, then you’re likely just going to be disappointed.
Whether you like to go out to eat on occasion, go to the movie theater, or go on a nice vacation I believe you can still get the same enjoyment but do it cheaper – such as:
- Ordering take out or cooking a meal with friends
- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon…you get the point
- Have a staycation or do a local day trip
What I found while I was paying off debt was that I genuinely enjoyed some of these things more than what I’d normally do otherwise. In fact, I still do some of them today. Ultimately, it just requires a little creativity to pay for the things you want while paying off debt as it’s not impossible; it’s just a little more difficult.
Are you paying off debt? What do you do in order to have money to spend on things you want?
This post was originally published on March 20, 2014 and updated on June 29, 2022.