We all feel the need to reward ourselves sometimes. Maybe we reach a tough goal such as losing fifty pounds, or we accomplish a significant milestone on the way to a larger goal, such as finishing the novel that must now be sent out to agents and publishers. Whatever the reason, rewards can give us something to strive for and keep us going when we’d rather not.
The trick is to not let all this rewarding of ourselves sink our budgets. The best way to do this is to find rewards that are motivating to you, but which are also free or inexpensive. I’ve presented some ideas below.
Yes, they can work for adults. The idea is that you put a sticker on your calendar every day that you do something to work toward your goal. So, for example, every day that you exercise, you get a sticker. The idea behind this is that once you get a streak of stickers going you won’t want to break the streak, so you’ll keep working to earn stickers.
Small grooming products
This one is more for women than men, but something small like a new nail polish, lipstick, hair accessory, loofah sponge, or other beauty product can be inexpensive and motivating.
No, you don’t spend it, you save it. If, for example, you’re trying to give up smoking, you can figure up the cost of each cigarette and put that amount into a piggy bank every time you pass up a cigarette. You can use this saved money to buy your ultimate reward or do something else.
A song download
At around $1.00 apiece, a new song is cheap.
A new app
If you want a new app for your phone or tablet, make this your reward. Most are inexpensive and some will help you save money while others will help you make money.
A trip to a local museum
Many are free or very low cost and can make for a fun afternoon out. There are plenty of ways to save money when going to the museum.
Whether it’s an ebook or paper book, a book you’ve been meaning to read is an inexpensive reward. If it does double duty (such as a low fat cookbook if you’re trying to lose weight) so much the better.
Something pretty for your home or lawn is always inspiring.
If there’s a movie you’ve been wanting to see, buying the DVD can be cheaper than seeing it in the theater. If you’re trying to lose weight, a new workout DVD can be motivating. If you can score a used copy or find a sale, this reward gets even cheaper.
An afternoon with a friend
In our busy lives, it’s sad to say that an afternoon spent with a friend might qualify as a reward, but if you’re constantly pushing yourself and always on the go, taking an afternoon to hang out with a friend can be motivating. And free.
A day trip
Pick a local park, zoo, or lake and spend the day there. Pack your own lunch to make it cost even less.
Pick one you’d never normally buy but are dying to read, or buy an old favorite that you don’t read anymore.
Home spa day
You can buy your own beauty products at the drug store and set yourself up for a nice facial, pedicure, and manicure for a fraction of what it would cost at the spa.
If you’re a crafting addict, only allow yourself to buy new supplies when you reach a certain goal or milestone.
Take an afternoon just for yourself. Send the kids to grandma’s and your spouse to a friends’ house for the afternoon and spend the afternoon reading, soaking in the tub, watching sports, going for a walk, or whatever else you want to do.
As long as your goal isn’t weight loss, treat yourself to some guilty pleasure food that you never allow yourself to have otherwise.
Fun office supplies
If you’re an office supply dork like me, fun pens, tape dispensers, or notepads make good rewards.
Continuing education classes are relatively inexpensive in most areas and you may be able to find some free offerings. Pick something fun you’ve been wanting to learn and sign up.
Maybe your local watering hole has a night with $5 margaritas, or $2 beer. Go, take a friend or your significant other, buy the one drink, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Something for your hobby
If you have a hobby, buy a new supply or something to add to your collection.
Something small and new
Maybe you want a new kitchen utensil, or a new cup for the bathroom. Maybe you see a new towel you love, or a small piece of yard art. Use your rewards to spruce up your house or lawn.
Go to the dollar store, or someplace like Five Below and just pick out something that makes you smile, whether you need it or not.
The other way to keep your rewards in line with your budget is to set and adhere to reward levels that match the level of accomplishment. For example, if your overall goal is to lose fifty pounds and you’ve lost ten, you might want to reward that accomplishment with something, but not something as grand as what you will reward yourself with when you reach your overall goals.
If you consistently give yourself big rewards for even small accomplishments, not only will you spend more money, you’ll also reduce the effectiveness of striving for that, “big” thing that you’ll get at the end of the journey. If every reward is big and showy, what’s the point of finishing the journey? Doling out smaller rewards along the way is a better way to stay motivated.
Your rewards for finally reaching your goal are likely to be bigger, and rightly so. You may treat yourself to that spa day, buy new clothes to celebrate weight loss, take a vacation to celebrate getting that book published, or buy yourself a small piece of jewelry or an electronic item. Some people go even bigger and buy things like cars or motorcycles. Just make sure that whatever reward you choose fits into your budget. Noting stinks more than getting to your ultimate goal and not being able to get the reward you’ve been dreaming of for months or years.
Finally, as you’re working on your goals, keep saving money for your rewards. Most goals take a while to achieve so you have time to save up for that vacation or piece of jewelry or iPad if that’s what you want for your ultimate reward. Watching the money grow in your account can keep you motivated to reach your other goal, as well. As your account balance grows and you get closer to affording that great reward, you may be more inspired to lose that weight or give up smoking so you can go spend that money you’ve saved.
It’s great if you can find the process or journey toward your goal to be rewarding enough that you don’t need anything else to keep you going. But for many people, having rewards keeps them motivated when things get tough and the monster in your head is screaming, “Just give up!” So find what motivates you and use it to propel you forward. Just don’t break the bank doing it.
(Photo courtesy of eyesogreen)