"Retail Therapy" Is Not the Answer — How to Be Smart With Your Money and *Still* Treat Yourself

Figuring out your personal finances is honestly, well, intimidating. It’s this lingering worry in the back of your head—you know you have to get your money sorted, but it’s easier to do it “soon” and until then continue to like memes on Instagram about being broke and still treating yourself (been there.)

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Being smart about financial decisions doesn’t have to be so frightening. Enter Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista and Prudential's Financial Wellness Advocate, who knows exactly how college women can choose the right path when faced with so many hard decisions regarding their finances. And if you’re not sure about taking Tiffany’s word, this should help: She was in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and still came out on top. “Between the ages of 24 and 29, I got my masters, which put me at $50,000 in debt. I bought a condo, which put me at $220,000 in debt. I went through credit card fraud, which cost me $35,000. And then I lost my job. I was nearly $300,000 in debt and I was still in my 20s. I didn’t know what to do. I think it was one of the reasons why I leaned so heavily on financial wellness because I was in a really bad, dark space. Not only did I not want to be in this position anymore but I don’t want anyone else to feel hopeless like I was feeling. That’s why I made it my mission to not only teach financial wellness for myself but to also work for companies as a financial wellness advocate. I know how hard and scary that feels and I don’t want anyone else to be in that position.”  

Courtesy: Prudential Financial

Don’t compare yourself to people on social media because not everything you see is real.

“Social media is like the great magnifier. I think that because of social media we have to be more mindful and diligent about how we’re feeling about our finances. Every time you open social media there is something that can take you off your path.” Friendly reminder: Social media accounts are a highlight reel. If you see someone living large in one photo, they’re most likely not living that lavishly all times of the day. 
 
Tiffany says, “I remember thinking to myself that [social media] seemed so real and fake at the same time and it took a toll on me. I started looking at my life and saying, ‘what am I doing wrong?’ If people who are my age and doing all of these things then I must be doing something wrong and that’s when I think financial wellness became important [to me]. With social media, I try to use it to spread the message that to be mindful about your financial wellness. Everything you see is not real.”

Retail therapy doesn’t keep you happy in the long run; it’s only temporary. Focus on true happiness.

“I think the key is that your sense of wellness is not about the number or the amount. When someone is utilizing retail therapy there’s something else happening in their life. I think in order for us to not to lean into retail therapy we have to acknowledge that something else is wrong. Maybe you’re feeling insecure, maybe you’re lonely. Whenever we lean into extremes like that, there is an underlying issue that’s not being addressed.”
 
The best advice from Tiffany is that sometimes the way to treat yourself at the moment is to treat yourself in the long run. For her, it meant sleeping on an air mattress until she had enough money saved up to buy the bed she really wanted. 
 
“I think the only way to combat retail therapy is to fight it with the knowledge that you’re really trying to achieve, which is wellness. Think, 'how do I live a more holistic life that encompasses using my finances in a way that is responsible and fun so I don’t have to lean on buying stuff?' You buy something and you’re excited about it for about 10 minutes, one day, or maybe one week and then it loses its glitter and then you have to get something else. It’s a never-ending cycle. I think working on what is truly wrong is important and then working on your financial wellness.”

Determine the best way to treat yourself. 

“The journey to financial wellness is deeply personal. When I think of ‘treat yourself,’ I don’t think that buying something on my credit card that I can’t afford to pay off is treating myself. Instead of saying, “I am going to buy these shoes” what you’re really saying is, “ I am going to purchase these pair of shoes that I can’t afford on my credit card and in the end, I’m actually going to spend more with the interest of the credit card.” Is that really treating yourself? So instead, treating yourself is  “I am going to save for the vacation that I want, I am going to put it on my card because I am going to earn points but I’m going to pay it off in full that week.” I think it is really about breaking down what treating yourself really means. I don’t believe in over sacrifice. Over sacrifice has no place in financial wellness. Some of my friends thought I was really cheap because they used to want to go to brunch every Sunday. There’s nothing wrong with brunch but what I realized is that I’m not really a foodie. I was spending my money on someone else’s idea of treating themselves. I couldn’t afford my own idea of treating myself, which is travel, and I realized that this is not wellness. If you stop spending money on things that you don’t care about, you actually have money for the luxuries that you want. What they didn’t realize is that I’m not saying no to brunch, I’m saying yes to Paris. You get to decide your life because your journey is deeply personal. For some people, they would much rather brunch than Morocco. And you’re allowed to choose.” 

Taking a handle of your own finances is now made easier through the Live Richer Challenge.

"I think that now more than ever, financial education is critical, which is why I created the Live Richer Challenge. It is a free, online challenge, and we usually roll out a new one every year. I think now we are on challenge number five every one of them has their own theme. This was my way of helping to close the gap of the necessary knowledge needed in order to live a successful financial life and to achieve financial wellness.”