You’ve earned it! Rewarding yourself without hurting your goals

24 May 2023

You’ve earned it! Rewarding yourself without hurting your goals

With the rising cost of living, we are constantly reminded to be frugal, save more and spend less. And with good reason. But what if “all work and no play” was actually detrimental for your financial goals in the long run?

Small, well-thought-out rewards along the way can help keep your motivation tank full. So, here are some ways to reward yourself without derailing your financial goals: it’s a delicate balance, but an important one to get right.


Could it be the motivation boost you need?

Unlike many people think, motivation is not just about willpower, or something we are necessarily born with. It’s a skill we need to train ourselves in and cultivate, and one way to do that is by rewarding ourselves when we achieve a milestone – especially the smaller ones that we often tend to overlook.

Celebrating your achievements can boost your morale, reinforce positive habits, and remind you of your progress. It’s all about acknowledging your hard work and determination, which helps you stay committed and makes the whole process a more pleasant experience.

Some experts say rewarding yourself also helps prevent burnout (1). Striving to save and cut costs can become exhausting, and the occasional reward is there to re-energise you. So, the key thing to maintaining a healthy relationship with money is to give yourself permission to enjoy your successes. But how?


Choosing the right rewards for you

When planning your self-rewards, make sure they align with your financial goals and circumstances. Here are some tips to help you calibrate your rewards to match your effort.

  • Set clear milestones: It’s not just the big milestones that matter. In fact, breaking your financial goals into smaller, manageable steps can be the strategy you need to accomplish bigger things. Assigning a reward for each small achievement can make your big goals feel more attainable and helps maintain motivation as you work towards them. Plus, it allows you to celebrate your progress more frequently – and we all like to celebrate our successes.

  • Make it meaningful: Choose rewards that hold personal significance and genuinely bring you joy. What makes you feel fulfilled? It could be a creative outlet, a relaxing experience, or an opportunity to learn something new for example. If your rewards align with who you are, what you like and your priorities, they tend to be much more satisfying.

  • Keep it within your means: Since we are talking about your financial goals, this tip is pretty important. The reward should not put your financial progress in reverse. It can be a good idea to include rewards in your budget, so you can indulge guilty-free because it’s already a part of the plan. In any case, be mindful of how much your self-reward will cost you – or if possible, prioritise those that don’t cost anything.

  • Be creative: Rewards don’t always have to be materialistic. You can find inexpensive or even free ways to treat yourself that still feel special and enjoyable. Whether it’s experiences, personal growth opportunities, or spending time with your loved ones doing something special together can be just as rewarding, if not more so.

  • Spice it up with a dash of surprise: A creative and fun way to celebrate your achievements is by using a rewards jar. The idea is to write down various rewards on pieces of paper and place them in a jar. Whenever you reach a financial milestone, you’ll pick a random reward from the jar to enjoy. To make the most of this system, you may want to include a mix of small, medium and big rewards, and keep it fresh by adding new ideas over time, or removing those that no longer resonate with you.
  • Track your progress: There’s nothing quite like being able to visualise your progress to propel your forward. Using a visual aid like a chart or calendar to mark your milestones, each with its own reward attached, can be another way to keep yourself motivated. Not only you’ll know exactly where you’re at, but you’ll also be reminded of how far you’ve come.

  • Always prioritise your financial well-being: So far, we’ve talked about the importance of rewarding yourself, but that doesn’t mean your financial well-being should take the backseat. Your financial health is what matters most at all times – including being able to pay off debt, contribute to your emergency fund, or investing in your retirement savings. Rewards are there to support you, not weigh you down.


Need inspiration? Reward ideas that don’t break the bank

If you are looking for inspiration, here are some ideas for treating yourself without jeopardizing your financial goals:

  • Explore your backyard: Enjoy a staycation, discovering local attractions or taking a weekend trip nearby to recharge without the cost of long-distance travel.
  • Pamper yourself: Indulge in some self-care, like a relaxing spa day at home or a yoga class.
  • Learn something new: Invest in a course or workshop that piques your interest or helps you grow professionally. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may find some free courses, videos or resources online to get you started.
  • Take a day off: When was the last time you took a day off, and not just from work, but from running errands, cleaning, cooking, and other chores? If it’s been a while, maybe you can reward yourself by carving out a day to do just what you want to do.
  • Share good times with mates: Host a potluck dinner or a games night for a memorable and affordable way to celebrate your achievements.
  • Cook a special meal: Treat yourself to a delicious home-cooked meal with your favourite ingredients. Get creative and try out a new recipe, or prepare a classic Kiwi dish that brings back fond memories.
  • Experience nature: Go for a hike, a bike ride, or a walk on the beach. New Zealand is blessed with stunning natural scenery, so take advantage of it to clear your mind and appreciate your accomplishments.
  • Plan a home movie night: Create a cosy atmosphere at home with your favourite snacks and drinks, and watch a film you've been wanting to see. Invite friends or family over to share the experience or enjoy a solo night in.
  • Support local artists: Attend a local theatre performance, art exhibition, or concert. Not only will you be rewarding yourself, but you'll also be supporting local talent in your community.
  • Volunteer your time: Give back by dedicating your time and skills to a local charity or community organisation. Helping others can be a rewarding experience in and of itself.
  • Start a hobby: Use your achievements as an opportunity to try out a new hobby, like gardening, painting, or photography. Hobbies can be a great way to unwind and express yourself creatively while celebrating your progress.
  • Splurge (within reason): Buy yourself something you like and need, like that nice shirt you saw in the shop window, or a new pair of shoes.

Time to treat yourself?

Saving for the future is the key, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the present. What you need is finding a fair balance between responsible saving and rewarding yourself. By incorporating creative, budget-friendly rewards, you can celebrate your achievements while still staying on track with your financial goals. So go ahead and treat yourself – you’ve earned it!



1. - We are primed for burnout and happiness, but here’s how to avoid it


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance. 


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