You just received a raise at work. Or maybe you work for yourself, and business has been great. Your income is increasing. It feels good, right? Congrats. That should feel good!
Now, what do you plan to do with that extra money? What we do next is really important if we’re serious about achieving our financial goals. We have a few options.
Spending for comfort
Knowing we’ve worked hard to earn this money, it’s easy to justify spending a little, or maybe even a lot, on ourselves. We finally go for that gadget we’ve been wanting. A better car. New clothes. A nice dinner out, or maybe several dinners out. Heck, we might start eating out all the time. We have the money, so why not?
Our brains are wired for comfort. Being comfortable might mean we give in to new purchases that seem to make us feel good. In that moment, and maybe for a brief period after, it does feel good, but it can be a trap too. Being comfortable rarely aligns with achieving our goals and being satisfied in the long run. In fact, they may have little correlation.
Keeping your spending level
So let’s discuss a plan B. What if we challenged ourselves not to spend anything extra this month? Say we let this money age a little bit as we think about how we could put it to use in a way that leaves us better off, closer to our goals, and financially stronger in the long term?
To do that, we’ve got to remind ourselves: what are our goals? Where do we want to be in 10 years? If you have them already written out, awesome. Pull that page out and review it. If you haven’t, then grab a sheet a paper and outline where you want to be financially in 10 years. How much might you have saved? What do your debts look like? What big goals do you have that require money?
Maybe it includes paying down some debt. Maybe you want to save for retirement. Maybe you want to take that big trip or to buy a house. That’s awesome! These are great goals. These goals are part of the good life. They’re motivating, and they will require concentration and effort to achieve.
Burn it or stash it
So as we look at this new pile of money sitting in front of us, this pile of money we’ve let age as we take a month to think and plan, we can see that we have two profound options. If we increase our discretionary spending today, we’ll probably never be able to ratchet back that spending. It becomes habit, and our burn rate increases as we become used to that new level of comfort.
On the other hand, if we hold our discretionary spending in place, we can use this new money to make some darn good progress towards our goals. That will shape our destiny. That will help us pay down those debts. It will help us realize that dream vacation. It will help us move closer to our retirement or paying our kid’s college tuition.
It’s your money, and the brilliant thing is you get to choose. You can use your money to make yourself increasingly comfortable today, or you can use that money to achieve those goals you hold dear. Your money. Your choice. Your life. How do you want to spend it?