How to Save for Your Vices

By Jackie Lam
December 10, 2017

Are these a few of your favorite things? Monthly subscription boxes that end up in your snail mailbox. Wining and dining at the newest hipster haunts in town. Splurging on designer goods your favorite Insta stars rave about. We all have our guilty pleasures that can do serious damage to our wallets. Yet, instead of going full-out puritan and denying yourself the non-essentials you enjoy, why not plan ahead and save for your vices? Here are some ways you can squirrel away funds for those guilty pleasures:

Set Up a Guilt-Free Spending Fund

First things first: Among money nerds, I put myself squarely in the anti-budget camp. Why? Allocating different spending amounts to particular categories makes me feel super boxed in. Instead, I figure out how much I roughly spend on discretionary expenses, such as eating out, groceries, gas, and so on. Next, I set aside a certain amount of spending for groceries and household items  – on one debit card. Then, I set aside money for eating out and entertainment  – on a second card. This gives me the leeway to spend without guilt. To set up your own guilt-free spending fund, figure out how much you can reasonably afford to spend each money on your vices. Then set up an automatic transfer each month to go toward guilt-free spending. If you’re a judicious budgeteer, you can also roll over any “leftover” money from certain categories and earmark this toward your guilt-free spending fund for the next month.

Set Up Auto Transfers

Here at Chime, we’ve long touted the benefits of setting up auto contributions to reach your savings goals like buying a house, going on vacation, and any other big ticket purchases. Why not set aside money each month for your spending vices? It doesn’t have to a huge amount (your retirement savings should still stay top of mind, of course). For example, if you’re a Chime member and have enrolled in Automatic Savings, you can designate your savings account toward your vices.

Allocate Extra Cash Toward Your Vices

“Extra cash” can come in the form of money raked in from side hustles, spare change saved in a jar, a bonus from work, or a cash gift for your birthday. Feel uneasy about putting all your extra cash toward say, your spa fund? Then consider socking away just a portion of extra cash toward your vices.

Label Your Savings Funds

While this is a small thing, labeling your savings funds for specific guilty pleasures will keep you stay motivated to save and keep these funds in the flush. Instead of merely labeling a savings account as “savings 2018”, try renaming it to indicate a specific purpose, like “fancy cool clothes” or “video games.” It will also help you stay accountable for only spending the money designated in these savings accounts.

Reward Good Habits to Fund Your Vices

Okay, so you might be giving the noggin a good head scratching with this one. But hear me out. How about rewarding good habits you’ve developed by allowing yourself to splurge? To do this responsibly, every time you do X (good habit), you can put some money toward Y (vice). For example, if you’re trying to develop better financial habits, each time you spend 30 minutes at the gym, reward yourself by putting a few bucks toward that gadget habit of yours.

Try Less-Expensive Versions

Let’s say you want to spend less on your vices. Instead of stomping out spending on these categories altogether, find cheaper alternatives. For instance, do you have a problem indulging in pricey wine when eating out? Perhaps you can consider buying your favorite bottle of wine on sale at a liquor store and indulging in a glass at home before you go out. Or, do you tend to spend a bit too much on end-of-year holiday festivities? Maybe you can find cheaper ways to have fun this winter without ruining your budget. I did this when I was working on improving my health last year. Instead of swearing off french fries, I looked for healthier alternatives and allowed myself to enjoy greasy fries once a week. Trust me, if you do the same with your money, your pocketbook will thank you. Not only will saving for your vices steer you away from a bout of regret and other ugly feels, but you’ll curb your overspending habits. In turn, you’ll have an easier time making steady headway on your money goals while still enjoying yourself.

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based financial writer whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD.

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