Is It OK To Splurge On Something Frivolous When You Have Debt To Pay Off?

Is It OK To Splurge On Something Frivolous When You Have Debt To Pay Off?

Should you put all of your discretionary money toward paying off your debt, or is it OK to splurge on something you’ve been eyeing? That’s what we’re discussing today.

Obviously putting an extra $200 toward your debt rather than another pair of sneakers would have been the financially responsible thing to do. But you can give yourself a break in this case.

Even the most frugal amongst us slip up now and then and while you shouldn’t make a habit of buying expensive shoes every time you have a bad day, getting swept up in guilt will likely only make you feel worse. And feeling like crap isn’t a great motivator, in my experience.

It’s an interesting (read: damaging) reality of life, that we promote consumerism in every form and yet shame each other for buying things we don’t “need” when we have debts to pay or are living payday-to-payday. We equate our worth and morality, to a certain extent, with our ability to have a top-notch credit score and zero debt, maxing out our retirement contributions each year and having a well-stocked emergency fund.

But having debt doesn’t mean you’re precluded from enjoying frivolous things, or that you should be plagued by guilt for every penny you spend that’s not going toward some “essential”.

So you have debt. You’re making the payments — sometimes early — and that’s the important thing. Yes, any bit extra could help dig you out faster, but there’s something to be said for treating ourselves. We all deserve a bouquet of flowers or new pair of shoes every now and then, to be enjoyed without guilt or shame.

We all deserve to have stuff that simply brings us joy.

Curbing Our Spending Impulses

But if impulse spending really does bother you — maybe it’s the reason you have some of that debt to begin with — there are a few strategies you can use to avoid doing it:

Understand your triggers. You said you had a rough day, so you bought the shoes. Is that something that happens often? Is there another outlet you can use instead of online shopping when the going gets tough?

Next time, rather than perusing your shopping list, try taking a walk or writing complaints in a journal (my preferred method of coping) to clear your head. Buying stuff any time we feel like it has never been easier, but ask yourself if you really need it, particularly if doing so will cause you to feel guilty afterwards.

Next, consider your other financial goals. Maybe that $200 didn’t need to go toward your debt repayment, but are there other things that are important to you (say, saving for a holiday or owning a house someday) that you don’t tend to consider when you’re opening emails from your favourite stores? Consider those goals next time you go to buy something impulsively.

Most importantly, make sure you have a plan in place to pay off your debt (snowball or avalanche, or another that you’ve created yourself).

If you’re comfortable with your debt repayment plan, you’re investing a little bit and you’re not digging yourself deeper in the hole, buying a pricey pair of shoes doesn’t spell disaster for your financial future.

And enjoy your new shoes. They’re going to look great on you.


  • A simple rule to follow: needs vs. wants.

    Granted, it’s fine to treat yourself if you have the money; we all need to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

    To me, the exceptions to debt are to purchase property to live or invest, and to take advantage of credit card reward points by managing this debt effectively.

    If you’re already in debt, suffice to say buying more ‘wants’ only spirals you further into debt.

    I never understood why people do that other than those who can’t controlling their urges, ie: impulse buyers.

    Part of this is likely to do with one’s upbringing; lack of discipline or perhaps to oppose the morals that they were taught when they were younger.

    Either way, banks, creditors and debt collectors rub their hands with glee with those who fit this category.

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