There are so many interesting English phrases that puzzles my mind on a daily basis. Today we'll explore the phrase Guilty Pleasure.
By Wikipedia definition, Guilty Pleasure is something, such as a movie, a television program or a piece of music, that one enjoys despite feeling that it is not generally held in high regard.
Treats like ice cream, chocolate, and cheesecake are generally considered guilty pleasures by many people. People realize these treats are not the healthiest, but people eat them because they taste so good.
When it comes to the finance side of things, things like watching a movie at the theater, eating out, having a latte at a coffee shop, and perhaps owning a pet all have been categorized as guilty pleasures by many financial advocates, because they are considered unnecessary expenses. So when people try to reduce their spendings, entertainment and dining out are usually the first few items that people reduce or eliminate. (You can't just cut your pet lose, that's just wrong).
Think about this for a second... does it make sense to call these items Guilty Pleasures?
Imagine eating a scoop of guilt instead of a scoop of ice cream. Guilt probably doesn't taste that great, does it?
If you keep calling these items or activities guilty pleasures, aren't you simply spending your money on buying guilt?
Shouldn't we all focus on pleasures instead? Pleasure in a good and balanced amount will only bring positive things to our lives.
As someone that advocates living below your means, being frugal, and minimizing spending, what I'm writing now seems very contradicting.
Please allow me to explain.
The human mind is a very powerful tool. If we believe in something, subconsciously we will make all effort to make sure that we achieve what we believe in, whether this is a positive or negative belief. Our subconscious will re-enforce whatever we believe in and make our belief come true sooner or later. Ever wonder why people say: "words of affirmation is a very powerful tool?" Simple, because what you focus on expands. Words of affirmation allows you to keep focusing on the things you want to achieve in life. If you believe in something and focus on it, your mind will put all the energy, consciously and subconsciously, into making it happen. Furthermore, the universe will bend over backwards to help you achieving your goals.
So when you're eating that piece of delicious cheesecake with ice cream on the side and telling yourself that you're having some guilty pleasure, you're telling your subconscious mind that you're eating guilt. Consciously you may feel good, but subconsciously you are making yourself feeling worse and worse.
Instead of spending a solid 2+ hours watching a movie in the theater, having a good time, and not being disturbed, you're telling your subconscious that you're watching guilt and you're missing out on all the different tasks that you're supposed to do. You feel guilty for spending money on the movie ticket and feel guilty for not managing your time efficiently.
When it comes down to it, you're telling your subconscious that you're wasting your hard earned money on buying guilt.
That's probably not the right message you want to send out, right?
I'm all for being frugal and minimizing expenses, but when you decide to spend your money, stop feeling guilty about it and enjoy it fully instead.
Feeling guilty or sorry for yourself whenever you spend money is not the vibe that you want to send out to the universe.
Stop feeling guilty about spending money.
Start feeling good about spending money, start thinking that the money you spend will return back to you in non-monetary value by 10 times. Start thinking that the money you spend is helping out others somehow.
The root of the problem is not about spending money on pleasure. For some, the root of the problem is spending all your money or spending more than you have, on pleasure. This is why some people get into the never ending debt issue. It's a downward spiral.
Sounds great but how do we put this to practice?
What do we do in our household?
The practice that works for us is that we allocate a certain amount of money each month in a category called Play. We spend this amount of money on activities and things that we enjoy and we must spend all the money each month. So we use this money to have a nice dinner, having coffee at a local cafe, enjoying some handcrafted Artisan chocolates, getting a massage, or going for a movie or play. The small amount of play money we spend brings pleasure to both Mrs. T and I. We get to spend quality time together and enjoy a small slice of luxury.
To be perfectly honest, it took me a long time to feel good about spending our Play money. I used to think about not having the $10 lattes so we can save that money for investing instead. But what I failed to see was how much pleasure the $10 lattes provided both Mrs. T and I as we could sit down in the coffee shop for an hour and have a heart to heart conversation. We would be soaked in happiness and joy after. To me, the $10 that we spent was well worth the pleasure that we received. When I changed my belief system and started to truly enjoy the activities that we do with the play money, I felt liberated.
Life is all about balance. We should take our financial independence journey with a balanced approach too. Saving is important, but quality of life is important too. Which sounds like a more balanced approach? Working for 120 hours a week at 5 different jobs so your mortgage can be paid off in 3 years, or working for 30 hours a week at 1 job and pay off the mortgage in 10 years? Since life balance is different from person to person, I can't answer the question for you. For me, the latter case makes more sense to me. Working 120 hours a week means missing out on Baby T's growing up completely. Although the mortgage can be paid off 7 years faster, I probably would miss 3 full years of his life. To me, that is just not worth it.
Live below your means, save, invest, and not to forget to have a little bit of pleasure here and there. Life is all about balance. Don't deprive yourself. Feel good about your choice in pleasures.