"We need a weekend away," I declared to my husband after a particularly trying afternoon with our 3-year-old. That was a Wednesday evening, and by Friday we were on our way to the mountains while our daughter went to her grandmother's.
Impulsive? Yes. Expensive? Definitely. But necessary? Without a doubt.
In our eight years together, my husband and I have realized that some expenses are worth every penny, because their benefit to our mental and emotional health is priceless. We have student loans and credit card debt that we’re in the process of paying off, so budget hardliners would argue that we should be putting all our extra money there. But we've learned that our happiness is just as important as being debt-free. And when we do reach that goal, we'll feel even better knowing we still enjoyed life along the way.
Here are the self-care expenses we account for in our budget.
Even before we had kids, my husband and I took breaks from our day-to-day life and reconnected with a short getaway. And this has become even more crucial since having our daughter. We make a point to set aside one-on-one time at home, but something about getting out of town really reinvigorates our relationship.
So we make sure to take a night away whenever we need it (usually about once a quarter). When we were flat broke we made this as cheap as possible: A night in a local hotel with a pool and a pizza ordered to the room was a romantic retreat. Now that we have a bit more cash flow we spend a little more — our most recent getaway was a two-night trip and a snowmobile excursion.
Reconnecting, sleeping in and exploring a new place always leaves us feeling refreshed, and we’ve never regretted spending money on this time together.
OUTSOURCING HOUSEHOLD TASKS
They say money can't buy happiness, but every time I drop $100 to have someone else vacuum and mop my floors I doubt the accuracy of that saying. Last summer, a series of health issues and family losses left me and my husband physically and emotionally spent. So we outsourced what we could to free up our energy and redirect our time toward the things that matter most to us. A cleaning company came biweekly and we started ordering more takeout.
I was expecting some relief, but the instant stress reduction was downright amazing. We weren't bickering about cleaning in our free time, or worrying about who would tackle the mess after dinner. Since I run my own business, I’m able to redirect time to work, which often means that we break even or even make money by outsourcing household tasks. Plus, we’re supporting local businesses, something we believe in strongly.
The research shows we're not alone on this one. A recent study found that spending money to save time leaves people feeling happier than they do after they make material purchases. I, for one, can attest to that.
Just like a weekend away can reinvigorate our relationship, taking time for ourselves leaves my husband and me in a better mental space. That's why we budget for our personal hobbies. For him, it's target shooting. For me, it's personal training sessions or kayaking.
The key to this one is trusting each other's spending. I don't question my husband when new targets or ammunition arrive in the mail, and he doesn't second-guess me when I purchase a paddle or kayak accessory. We respect each other enough to know that we're both taking the time and money we need, without detracting from our family goals.
Of course, we’re lucky to have an income that gives us the freedom to pay down debt and indulge in the things we enjoy. Finances can dredge up lots of complicated emotions, but the ultimate goal for our family is to use our money to reduce stress and increase happiness. That comes with increased financial security, but it also comes from spending on self care. It's about striking a balance between working toward our goals and having some fun along the way.