One of the things that I took away from The Happiness Project is that it's ok to occasionally splurge on modest indulgences if they are going to raise your happiness level. I can be rather spartan about spending money on anything that is not absolutely necessary. Oftentimes if I do spend money frivolously I beat myself up about it later. So, at the risk of getting too willy-nilly with my finances, I have decided that my new mantra will be "modest indulgences." It's okay to spend on a few things here and there, as long as they are things I really want and that I will get joy and/or use out of.
My first modest indulgence was to schedule myself a massage. I have been wanting to get a massage forever, and had intended to do this right after the half was over. I somehow did not get around to it and I was talking to my mom about it when I was in Texas and she encouraged me to treat myself. I worked really hard to accomplish that goal and I deserve a reward. A friend was telling me about a massage school she went to where you can get a good rate for a student massage so I went ahead and scheduled myself for a few weeks from now (my first open Saturday). I have something to look forward to, which has been shown to increase happiness, and I will be getting a much-needed massage at a pretty good price. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
I also have an ongoing wish-list of things that I want for myself or for the new apartment. I'd like to have a few more decorations, some nice-looking containers in which to store less-nice-looking stuff (you would not believe how many power cords and other random electronic pieces we seem to have now), and kitchen gadgets to make life easier (a garlic press has become something of a necessity).
I also have been more likely to spend modestly on experiences, which can increase happiness as well. I bought a Groupon for one of our favorite restaurants and took D on a Sadie Hawkins date. I signed up for an 8K that I'm doing with a friend in December. Other than the half, I haven't done an organized race since college because they can be kind of expensive and I am cheap. But, this friend and I have been talking about doing a race together for some time, and I'm excited to get to run with her. We're doing the Rudolph Ramble, which people dress up for, and it supports a good cause. Plus it will keep me running in preparation for the race! I have run a grand total of twice in the two weeks since the half.
So as we are all recovering from the recession, I hope an important less that people are taking away is that it's not that we shouldn't spend at all, it's that we should spend more strategically. I always pay myself first, in ways like contributing to retirement accounts, savings, student loans, and the vacation fund, and then think realistically about what I need, what I want, and what I'm willing to go without. Some people might think paying to do a run is a waste of money. Others might spend more on books that I rely on the library and Goodwill for. I know people who really like to go out to eat, or who are very invested in their gym membership or yoga class. The key is not what other people are spending on, it's what important to you.