Focus on what brings you the most enjoyment to identify your unique spending priorities and opportunities to save.
Saving money for the future is very, very important—we know because most financial advice often boils down to “Save money” and “Save more money!” However, most people would like to be able to enjoy their money and their lives in general, while also responsibly building a retirement nest egg and rainy-day fund. The usefulness of saving for big-ticket and arguably necessary experiences, like the occasional week-long vacation, seems obvious. But what about the other things you enjoy? Can you justify setting aside part of your salary for a designer wardrobe, pro tennis lessons, the best seats on Broadway, a professionally designed home, or dinners at exclusive restaurants?
The answer is a resounding “yes.” You can, and should, allocate money to the things you enjoy, no matter how supposedly frivolous or over the top. And you can do so while still paying off your debt and saving for the future.
Focus on Debt While Splurging Responsibly
Now, if you are still paying huge monthly payments towards your law school debt (not to mention credit card debt), you’ll need to make getting rid of that drag on your finances your main focus for a while. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your money, or have to continue to live like a broke law student until you’re completely debt free. You’re simply going to have to show a bit of discipline and not buy everything you’ve been dreaming of right away. If fine food is important to you, go ahead and splurge on fancy dinners—but once a month instead of every week. Get a few designer pieces and mix them in with your existing wardrobe instead of buying a closet full of outfits right now.
For more expensive purchases, saving a bit every month and then extravagantly treating yourself the day you make your final debt payment can be exhilarating—picking out furnishings and finishes alongside your interior designer will feel that much sweeter when you know you don’t have to worry about going into debt or shorting your other savings just to make your home beautiful.
Give Yourself Permission to Enjoy Your Money
Whatever your financial planning style, you need to give yourself permission to enjoy your money—not by spending every cent you make, but by saving for and spending on the things that really matter to you. Save with intention; each person’s intention is unique. You may put a small amount aside every month for lessons or another recurring experience, or you may need to save a large chunk of your paycheck to make a large purchase at the end of the year. The things you enjoy—and whether they are smaller, regular expenses or larger, occasional blow-outs—will determine how you should handle saving for them. A one-size-fits-all approach to saving will not take these differences into account.
The most important point here (after ensuring that you are first covering your living expenses, attending to your debts, and saving for retirement) is that you figure out what you really enjoy. What is truly worth spending your hard-earned money on? It doesn’t have to be what the other associates spend their money on, and you don’t have to aspire to live the same lifestyle as the senior partners. It’s all about you.
Make a list of three things you spend money on that bring you the most joy. List two expense items that you’ll take a closer look at to see if you can justify every dollar spent on them.