If you’re a fan of Jack Nicholson like I am, then you’re probably familiar with his oft-quoted line from The Shining:

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Well as far as I’m concerned, the same holds true for budgeting. Have you ever stuck to a budget for week after week, month after month, only to tire of all the self-imposed rules and regulations and find yourself splurging without a second thought? I’ve been there and done that, more times than I’d like to admit. The thing is, splurging is ok – as long as you incorporate it into your budget.

Budgeting Your Splurge-Worthy Expenses

Whether you’re setting aside some extra cash for an upscale dining experience or a fancy pair of new shoes, you can get away with a little splurging now and then… if treating yourself is a part of your budget. What do I mean? Well, consider the following two scenarios:

  • Couple A budgets their dining out expenses at $25 a week, which they stick to like one of the Ten Commandments. There is no room for error in this budget. But when the couple’s anniversary rolls around, they don’t want to spend the special evening at their usual (read: inexpensive) watering hole. Instead, they opt to eat out at a restaurant that’s a little over-budget. The next day, they wake up with a bad case of guilt-fueled indigestion.
  • Couple B also budgets their dining out costs at $25 a week, but they also allot for some wiggle room. Birthdays, anniversaries, and special celebrations get a budget all their own, separate from their weekly meal plan. This way, when Wife B gets a promotion, Husband B doesn’t feel guilty for splurging by taking her to an upscale dining restaurant.

It’s a simple concept, but one that’s often overlooked. Heck, the first year that I worked from home as a freelance writer, I meticulously planned my family’s annual budget. By some act of God, we managed to adhere to it – down to the dollar – for the first eleven months of the year. In the twelfth month, we crashed and burned. Why? I hadn’t set aside a special allowance for the holidays, leaving December as just another routine month on the calendar. The same approach works with budgeting for special meals out – you can’t treat your birthday or anniversary as just another day. Well, maybe you can, but do you really need to?

Splurge-Worthy Occasions

You don’t need to make every occasion something splurge-worthy; after all, what cause is there to spoil yourself on a random Tuesday night? Here is the complete list of special occasions that get a little extra in our dining out budget in my house:

  • Birthdays – yes, even the kids’. Hey, I gave birth to them… that’s a feat worth celebrating!
  • Anniversaries – both with my husband, and with my parents (I was adopted, so we call the day I came home our “family anniversary”)
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day – although sometimes, we combine Mother’s and Father’s Day into one big dinner
  • Religious milestones – this includes celebrating Sacraments like a baptism, first communion, confirmation, etc.
  • Educational milestones – think graduation; I know some people celebrate good grades, but that’s always been expected in my family
  • Professional milestones – a new job, a promotion, a raise, etc.
  • Valentine’s Day – it may be a Hallmark Holiday, but it’s a great mid-winter pick-me-up

Reader, how do you budget for special occasions? On which occasions do you give yourself permission to spoil yourself?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke