NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You've got a budget, but have you worked in some money to burn? It might sound counterintuitive, but having a splurge fund in your finances might mean the difference between sticking to your budget and going way off of it. After all, you work hard to provide for yourself and your family. What's the point of all that hard work if you can't live a little? After all, it's easier to keep to a diet if you allow yourself the occasional decadent dessert.
When it comes to your finances, here's how a splurge account can give you the most out of life -- without driving you into debt or taking money away from your retirement or college fund.
Why You Need a Splurge Account...
Ellie Kay, a family financial expert, says her family has always used splurge accounts for some frivolous spending here and there. She's a big believer that a splurge account can help you and your family to stay on track to your financial targets. "People get really committed and go overboard," he said. "They create budgets that are too restrictive. They create repayment plans to get out of consumer debt that are just too hard to stick to."
Kay compares this to going on a liquid fast diet. Sure, it might make you lose weight fast. But is it sustainable? "You need to create a financial plan that's going to be sustainable year after year for the rest of your life," she says. "That needs to include some fun." That might be saving for a big vacation, an expensive pair of shoes or even a flashy new car.
Characteristics of a Splurge Fund...
A splurge fund is money that you earmark for whatever. One of the most important features of a splurge account is that there's no accountability. Everyone can do whatever he wants with whatever is in his splurge fund. "I don't have to explain how many times I went to get a massage and my husband doesn't have to explain how many times a day he gets coffee," Kay says. Not only will this help you to stay on target by planning for such expenses, it might also mean fewer fights around the house about money.
"Money is so psychological," says Kay. "If you think you're deprived you operate from a deprivation mentality. You're far more likely to just say, 'The heck with it,' and go off the plan. But if you know in the back of your mind that you're not deprived because of your splurge account, you're far more likely to stay on track."
Craig Brimhall, vice president of retirement wealth strategies at Ameriprise, agrees.
"It's a lot easier to discipline yourself to not take money away from your retirement or college savings funds," he says, when you have money that is specifically earmarked for splurging. And while he says that you can keep the money earmarked in your head, it's a lot better to have it in its own savings or money market account.
Funding Your Splurge Account...
So how do you go about funding your splurge account? Kay suggests that one way you can fund it is by taking a portion of your entertainment budget and putting it into a splurge account. You decrease the overall entertainment budget to fund your splurging. Another way is to look for ways to save money, like paying less for auto insurance, clipping coupons or switching cell phone plans, then paying the savings forward into your splurge account.
One way to get the splurge account started is by selling things. Kay says that her family loves to campers. They had a travel trailer but found that they weren't using it much. The money they got from selling that went into the splurge account. She says that you can also regularly sell things on Craigslist or eBay to fund the splurge account. A home-based business is another way to fund the account.
In fact, when Kay first started writing and giving financial advice, that money became the family splurge account. "We had little to nothing earmarked for splurging in our main budget," she says. "But I started getting money for speaking and writing. It became our splurge account, then a college savings fund, then it became my Mercedes-Benz account."
And that's one heck of a splurge.