How to Resist the Expensive "Once in a Lifetime" Mentality

By Sarah Winfrey on 13 June 2017 0 comments

I spent part of my junior year of college abroad. While I was there, I got a lot of emails from home asking me if I'd done this or that yet, and many of them ended with the reminder, "You'll only get to do this once!"

While I did do some things that were out of the ordinary, I tried to keep myself in check. I knew I had a limited budget and that there'd be hell to pay if it ran out before I got home.

As it turns out, this "once in a lifetime" mentality gets a lot of people in trouble. They spend too much, take on debt, end up with stuff they don't even want or need, and more. When we think that something only happens once in a lifetime (or, at least, very rarely), we feel like that alone justifies spending more money than we usually would.

As my time in Europe shows, though, it's possible to curb this impulse and still have a memorable, meaningful time. Here's how.

1. You do you

Sure, you may only get to do something once in a lifetime, but that doesn't mean you have to say "yes" to every option. If you're planning a wedding and flowers are important to you, go all out. But if they aren't important to you, there are a million cheaper ways to decorate, and some of them may even reflect your personality better.

Know yourself, and choose how to spend your money based on what you know and like. Put your money into things that will create the memories you want to have, and leave the rest behind. (See also: 5 Mental Biases That Are Keeping You Poor)

2. Know your bottom line

Decide, preferably before you're in the middle of your once-in-a-lifetime event, exactly how much you are willing to spend. If you're going on a cruise, decide before you leave exactly how much you're willing to spend on excursions and souvenirs. Make sure you do your research before you decide how much you can spend in certain categories. This will help you keep your spending in check, because you'll know what is possible and what is way too far out of your budget.

3. Track your spending

I know, you're supposed to be having fun. But the truth is that you will have a better time knowing you're staying within your budget than you will if you're carrying around a nagging worry about money all the time.

You can keep detailed records if you want to, but working with round numbers is OK, too. The idea is that looking at your receipts at the end of the day and adding them up will help you know where you stand with your budget. Sometimes, coming face-to-face with a big expenditure early in your trip or your event will help you to spend less later.

4. Remember why you're here

Keep in mind why you are participating in your once in a lifetime event, and why it's worth spending money on at all. If you're planning a wedding, remember how much you love your future spouse. If you're traveling, remember why travel is important to you and why you chose this trip in particular. Keeping your why in the forefront of your mind will help you make better choices with your money. You will be more likely to choose to spend on things that are important to you, and forget the rest. (See also: How One Nice Thing Can Ruin Your Whole Budget)

5. Put it in the budget

If you like spending a lot of money on once in a lifetime events and you don't want to stop, put that in your budget and set aside some money each month for it. That way, when something special does come along, you can follow the impulse to splurge without putting yourself deep in debt later.

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