Retirement. College. An emergency fund. A new home or home improvement project. Check, check, check, and check. If you’ve been saving faithfully each month for some or all of these things, you might feel that you’re on a never-ending financial treadmill. It takes discipline, perseverance, and sacrifice to maintain a robust savings effort month after month, all while meeting your day-to-day financial obligations.
But with such planning and focus, it’s possible to get into a rut of always saving for the future with nothing left for today. If so, it might be time to take a step back and focus on the present. If you can’t remember the last time you felt energized or inspired in your daily life, consider investing in a new asset: yourself. Focusing on yourself from time to time might just give you the extra motivation you need to stick with your long-term savings plan. Think of it as seeing the trees instead of the forest for a change.
If you find yourself with a small windfall from a tax refund, bonus, flexible spending account reimbursement, or simply a cut in discretionary spending, here are some ideas for spending it.
Focus on your health and well-being
Are you feeling sluggish or stressed out? Having trouble sleeping? Watching the pounds creep on little by little each year? It might be time to focus on your health and well-being. Staying active is critical to maintaining good physical and mental health. Regular exercise can help control your weight; prevent disease; improve your mood, sleep, and energy levels; and generally make it easier for you to tackle all the things — financial and otherwise — on your plate each day.
To get on the health track, you could join a gym; work with a personal trainer or nutritionist; or sign up for a yoga, weight, or other fitness class. Or start on your own personal fitness path by purchasing home exercise equipment and workout gear for training trips around the block or a 5K.
Sore muscles? Chronic backache? Neck pain from working at a computer all day? Maybe it’s time to see a physical therapist and invest in an ergonomic office chair, a stand-up desk, or a new bed and pillows.
What about your diet? Do your eating habits need improvement? Consider investing in some new kitchen equipment/appliances, cookbooks, a food delivery service, or even a cooking class so you can try new recipes and discover healthy dishes you enjoy.
Along with better physical health, maybe you could benefit from some inner peace and quiet, too. Consider creating a meditation spot inside or outside your home where you can go to relax and reflect on your day: a bench under a favorite tree, a new chair next to the fireplace, or a small desk near a window.
Expand your horizons, literally and figuratively
Do you feel as though you’re living the same day over and over again? Doing something outside your normal routine can shake out the cobwebs and give you fresh inspiration and a new perspective. Possibilities include taking a trip to a new destination, participating in a short volunteer vacation, enrolling in an adult education class, or getting involved in a new project or hobby and seeing how much fun a creative outlet can be. You don’t have to limit yourself to one!
Still sporting clothes, eyeglasses, or a hairstyle from your younger days? Carrying a worn briefcase or bag to work every day? Trying to accomplish tasks on an old laptop? Maybe it’s time to update your wardrobe and accessories.
When you have many financial obligations, it’s easy to put yourself last. But occasionally, it’s important to put yourself first. In addition to the immediate benefits, investing in your health and interests might pay off in the future in the form of lower health-care costs, a wider social network of friends, fulfilling hobbies, and a new perspective on life.