The only thing I hate more than doing my taxes is spending money. Obviously it’s a little impossible to be a functioning member of society without spending money nearly every day, but I try to do it as little and as cheaply as possible. I love making money (who doesn’t?!) and then putting it into a savings account never to be touched again. Ever.
This smart spending strategy — make money and try not to spend it — has helped me get through my 20s without any debt. Even though a tight grip on my finances has helped me develop many good habits, I’ve also picked up a few bad ones; like not knowing when it’s okay to spend a little extra. My favorite thing to do is to publicly display my mistakes so readers can learn and grow from them. Without further adieu here are things I’ve learned to always splurge on:
1. Car expenses
When I moved to Los Angeles, I went to a used car dealership, gave the salesman $6,000, and said what can I get for this? It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that this was a big mistake. As I had previously written about, he sold me a car that broke down that night. Luckily I bought a warranty and received a full refund. Although I can attribute my mistake to first-time-big-spending-jitters, one thing I purposely avoided to save money was taking the car to an auto mechanic before purchasing. That’s where my biggest mistake occurred.
Had I spent the $150 to $250 on the car inspection, I would’ve quickly learned that purchasing that car was a bad idea. No one is ever in the mood to shell out a couple of hundred dollars on a piece of metal. But when it comes to taking care of your car, you’ll not only ensure a safer commute, but you may even get more money when you’re ready to upgrade.
2. Friends or family
If I had a lot of money, I would give all of it to my parents. I love my parents. In fact, I never think twice when it comes to spending money on my family. This is the only time my “not knowing when to spend” problem doesn’t apply. Unfortunately, I did make this mistake with one of my friends.
A couple of years ago, I missed one of my best friend’s wedding because it would’ve cost me over $2,000 to attend and be in the wedding. (I was living in a different country and I didn’t have enough vacation days to attend.) I have regretted it to this very day. If I had the chance to do it over, I would’ve declined being a bridesmaid, saved that money for my flight and taken time off without pay. If you are saving money, but missing a once-in-a-life-time experience, then you’re doing it wrong.
One of the hardest things to justify spending money on is travel. For one, it’s really expensive and for two, it’s a purely experience-driven cost. Aside from some cool Instagram photos, you probably won’t have a tangible item you can justify spending so much money on. In the past few years I’ve learned that good experiences should be enough to justify the splurge.
One time I found out a friend was going to Japan, which was close to where I was living. I wanted to go but I wasn’t sure if I should shell out the $400 for a ticket. After a couple of months of debating, I finally decided to go, only to find out that tickets were now $600. Last-minute travel decisions can be a huge budget buster. Now whenever I get the travel bug, I make a commitment and buy my tickets in advance.
4. Health insurance
Obviously it’s important to take care of yourself, but it can also be expensive. When I entered the scary, unpredictable world of freelance, I considered going sans health care while I was getting my feet under me. But, then I remembered the nightmare I went through when dealing with a nasty root canal.
In short, I didn’t have health care and didn’t even bother looking into dental insurance before going in to get an unavoidable root canal. I paid $1,900 out of pocket before finding dental insurance for $70 a year. I was able to save $530 on the second part of the procedure. Had I spent the time and money on finding a yearly dental plan, I would’ve saved so much more money when it was time to get my root canal.
Getting on a good health insurance plan should be at the top of your priority list. If you’re not in a financial position to afford health insurance on your own, their are plenty of programs in place to help you out, just be sure to steer clear of medical credit cards.
5. Your career
This one is kind of a weird one. You’d think that making money would make spending money easier — but most people aren’t making that much money in entry level positions. If you’re like me, then you’re working side jobs while pursuing a dream career. I’ve received different opportunities throughout the U.S. that may not necessarily ensure a paycheck. For example, I moved to L.A. from Chicago without a job lined up because I thought there would be more opportunities for me as a writer.
I was right on this one. I’ve taken plenty of financial risks for the sake of my career and they’ve always paid off. If you have the guts to take a risk in order to pursue your passion, employers generally respond well to that.
There are countless articles telling you how to save money and how to cut costs. This one gives you the blessing (well, a stranger’s blessing) to let loose and spend a little money. Even though it’s good to earn and save, it’s also beneficial to enjoy your money. A rule of thumb that I generally have is to spend for the experience. If you get a good story out of where you choose to spend your money, then it’s worth it.