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"Treat yourself" has become a popular mantra in recent years. The idea is that you should spend money on items and experiences for your own happiness. It may feel good to splurge every now and then, especially when you're feeling down or you've been working hard and want to reward yourself. But if you're not conscientious, treating yourself can quickly get out of hand.

There's nothing wrong with spending money on your own enjoyment. In fact, some people see this as a form of self-care. They're happy to book massages, spa days, and vacations as a means of de-stressing and protecting their mental health.

However, you may end up actually increasing your stress levels if you treat yourself without a budget. The amount you spend treating yourself should be proportional to your income and monthly debts. Self-care shouldn't be a financial burden; it should nurture relaxation and peace of mind.

Here are some ways to financially plan ahead so you can splurge without increasing your debt or stress:

Create a Sinking Fund

A sinking fund is a savings account specifically for something on which you want to spend. If you've been craving a getaway with your college friends, set up a sinking fund that you can contribute to every month. Then you can plan that vacation stress-free, knowing you've set aside money specifically for that occasion.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

You can use your credit cards strategically by using them for necessities and then paying off the balance every month. Ideally, you'll have a card that lets you earn cash back or other rewards on purchases. Treat yourself using the rewards you earned, rather than putting splurges on the card and racking up high bills.

Or Treat Yourself Using Your Debit Card

If you struggle to stay under budget when using a credit card, limit yourself to the funds in your checking account. People tend to spend less with debit than they do on credit, and there's a hard stop when you're only using debit.

Alternatively, consider opening a "sinking fund." or a checking account that you deposit a certain amount of funds in that's used for "fun" things. You limit yourself to spending only what's in the account and can access it through a debit card. It's ideal for things like dining out, clothes, and other smaller, frequent purchases.

Set up Account Alerts for Purchases Over a Certain Amount

It's easy to justify a purchase in the moment, no matter how large it is. Once you tell yourself that what you're buying is essential to self-care, it seems as if the sky is the limit on your spending. Setting up account alerts can keep you grounded. Receiving push notifications every time you make a purchase over a certain dollar amount will force you to confront your spending habits, and it may even keep you in check the next time you go to buy something indulgent.

Find Cheaper Alternatives

If your idea of treating yourself includes all-day spa treatments or high-end dinners with friends, consider budget-friendly versions that fulfill the same need. Instead of an all-day spa package, opt for just the massage or facial — whichever gives you the greatest relaxation benefits. The next time you feel the need to go out for a fancy meal, seek out a low-key but trendy spot that just opened up or split meals with friends. You'll still get the fun of dining out with your pals, but you'll save substantially on the check.

Spending money on yourself doesn't have to be financially irresponsible. When you work hard, you want to enjoy your earnings, and you should. But it's important to do so within your means. Remember, your current circumstances won't last forever. If you're still paying off student loans, there may not be as much left over for self-care expenses as you'd like. Look a few years down the road, however, when your debts are paid down and your income may have increased. Then you'll be able to take treating yourself responsibly to a whole new level.

This information and recommendations contained herein are compiled from sources deemed reliable, but are not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or are offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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