On Treating Yo’Self: How to Splurge Without Guilt


I had lunch at Popeye’s – 3 piece platter with 2 sides and a biscuit. I had one of those sugarbomb Starbucks Holiday drinks the other day. I also ate a cinnamon bun. I’ve been known to eat whole huge desserts without sharing. I’ve never counted calories and I hate dieting.

I hate salads.

Judging from what I just wrote, it would seem that I’m overweight and pretty gross. Well, maybe the latter but not the former.

How do I do this? Well, what I’ve listed above are all aberrations to my diet. 90% of my meals are home cooked. I limit my intake of caffeine, snacks, processed and deep fried foods. I also have a very calorie-restricted diet. So when I eat my decadent meal, it’s really an outlier to my normal lifestyle.

I look the way I do because of my normal lifestyle – not because of my outlier.

I think most people in America eat some sort of quasi-healthy dish most of the time and then they splurge. A quasi-healthy dish is like a store-bought salad, but as the Internet is quick to point out, restaurant salads aren’t necessarily healthy. So they feel all of the restriction but get none of the benefits. If they splurge, and the button pops off their pants, maybe the splurge was the tipping point, but it’s the everyday lifestyle that got them to the tipping point all along.

So people may see me eating unhealthily in one instance and think, “she must have really good genes. There’s no way I could do that.” But they’re seeing a snapshot. They have no idea what the whole story is.

It’s the same with spending money.

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The Three Items You Need to Add to Your To-Do List

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Ugh, you must be thinking, three MORE things I need to do in a day? It’s hard enough finding time to complete the things that are already on your list. Why did you even click on this link?

Because you’re a masochist. That’s why. Everyone who has a to-do list is.

The Three Things You Need to Add to Your To-Do List

And I promise, I wanted this to be “The Only 3 Things You Need on your To-do List” but I know that you need to pick up your dry cleaning, fill out that registration form and order more toilet paper. Those are all important and worthy things to put on a to-do list and I don’t want you to run out of toilet paper. In fact, go ahead and pause from reading this post while you order more toilet paper. I’ll wait.

Ok. Ready? Fill in the following blanks and then add them to your to-do list:

Tomorrow, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:
Next month, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:
Next year, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:

Basically, these items are based on the idea of “no zero” days and building habits. I recommend clicking on the “no zero” days link. It’s really inspiring and something I re-read semi regularly.

A typical to-do list is filled with routine tasks that need to be done to keep your life going. And that’s fine. It’s all important. But one should never confuse getting a basic list of routine tasks accomplished with actually accomplishing anything meaningful with your day.

What You Need to do Tomorrow

The first item “tomorrow” really focuses on doing something everyday to make the next day easier. It seems like there are approximately a million productivity hack blog articles produced everyday but we never seem to accomplish enough. Well, you can accomplish this one thing – you can set yourself up for a bright start tomorrow. Some great ideas to start are packing breakfast and lunch, preparing for your morning meeting, setting up your clothes, packing your bag to head out quickly. Once you get that down as a habit, set new goals. Rinse and repeat.

What You Need to do Next Month

“Next month” is about looking far enough forward that it seems far away but close enough that success will be dependent on steps you could and should take today. Because we’re near holiday season, something like vacation or gift planning may be in order. Any type of trip may fall into this category (although to be fair, planning a trip in a month seems a little short notice. Maybe plan to plan a trip). Look back at the previous month and think about what you wish you had been doing for 30 days that would have put you in a better position today. Maybe started an exercise program? Prepared for Nanowrimo? Written a little bit everyday so that you could have 30 days of blog posts now? Taken a risk? Had an adventure?
Think about some habit you want to start and write that down. This goal can stay static for 30 days or you can change it up every day.

What To Do Next Year

“Next year” is a great goal for exactly now. It’s November and I can’t believe this year went by so quickly. I realize I worked really hard at a number of different goals, and didn’t accomplish some others.

For the goals I accomplished, actually writing the goal down was so important, not just as a way to help me to achieve the goal, but also as a memory of my accomplishment. Strangely, you can slip into complacency even when you’re improving yourself. You exercise every day, your body changes gradually, and you don’t even notice how different your body looks from a year ago. You don’t notice your change in attitude. You don’t notice that your language skills have improved. Your lifestyle is completely different and you get used to it. And you forget where you came from. And remembering the change is so motivating, so important to building your self esteem and believing that you can change in the future.

Some of the goals I started with were reading more books (I’m on track to finish about 100 books this year), exercising regularly (biking a few times a week, even in the winter), practicing my Chinese more consistently (I’ve generally done one language lesson a day but it’s still a struggle to be consistent), and traveling more (I’ve been on 3 international trips this year, compared to 0 last year).

So this time in 2018, what do you want to have accomplished that you can remember starting today?

The Ugly Truth about Frugality

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I haven’t done many diets because I hate the idea of restriction. I lasted about 4 days on a no-carbs diet and they were some of the most miserable days of my life. But one that has stuck is the “one meal a day” diet.

I started by skipping breakfast. That was quite easy. I immediately didn’t miss it. Skipping lunch was much more difficult and I could feel the hunger eating (haha) me alive. But it got easier as my body adjusted. And the hunger would subside after 15 minutes, max. And when I finally eat my meal of the day – dinner – I eat without abandon. There are no restrictions. There is always dessert. So it seems like a joyous celebration rather than a constant level of restriction.

I think the parallels to personal finance speak for themselves. I look at other people’s spending, and I’m pretty shocked about the constant frittering of money.

For me, I’m pretty used to wanting something and not buying it. It seems that for a lot of these people, that’s not how they do it. They get the itch and they scratch. I get the itch, and I store the itch in a file and revisit the itch in a week.

Frugality often reminds me of my diet. I’ve heard supermodels complain that they’re always hungry. The truth about frugality is that it often feels like you’re hungry all the time as well. Frugality means you just ignore these “hunger” pangs. If you think about frugality as a whole, you’ll feel like you are constantly living in a state of desire and denial. You’re always craving.

Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re deprived. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t have enough. You will have a list of things a mile long on your “to buy” list. That’s just the truth of denying what you want. It doesn’t get easier. Unless you have a way to tune out all marketing, there will always be new things that make you itch for more.

Of course, giving in to your desires isn’t what you truly want. The problem with scratching every itch is that your skin will be all scratched up. The problem with eating whenever your hunger strikes is that you’ll often eat too much. You don’t recognize the signals to stop eating anymore and you may start mistaking signals for thirst or boredom for hunger. And as your weight balloons, you start to worry about every time you eat, trying to restrict at all times. Sometimes it’s better to restrict from the get-go.

The upside of ignoring your desires is that 90% of the desires will go away and often quite quickly. And rather than having a lot of products that you can barely remember desiring, you’ll have a fat checking account.

It reminds me of co-opting and bastardizing Steve Jobs’ graduation speech motto, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” But here, “Stay hungry. The hunger will go away.” The caveat is though, you still remember to eat and when you do eat, relish every moment of it.

[I thought about submitting this article idea to a personal finance site but figured it would get a lot of backlash because the idea of restricting one’s meals is basically as unpopular as saying “Trump’s doing a good job.” People will accuse you of encouraging eating disorders. Meanwhile, we’re facing an obesity epidemic in conjunction with widespread malnourishment. To the extent this counts as advice, it only applies to people who don’t have an eating disorder. Please take care of yourselves. ]