My children ask me this question constantly. Well, when they are not demanding "Give me a treat! I want a treat!" I've explained to them that they are called "treats" because they aren't part of our routine, and having them every day would make them less special. They saw the logic in that and are quite understanding. HA!!
I enjoy giving my kids treats. Like any loving parent, I love seeing them happy and excited. They have categorized our treats into: "eating treats", "drinking treats" (juice is a VERY big treat in our house), "watching treats" (they LOVE their screen time) and the highly coveted "special things" (non-consumable items). Other treats include outings and, of course, vacations.
I also believe that grown-ups need treats. And while my definition of "drinking treat" may be a bit different, overall I enjoy the same categories. I am definitely in the camp that believes that occasional indulgences are healthy and necessary. And while you don't need a reason to treat yourself, I like the idea of strategically timing treats to lift you out of a bad mood or as a reprieve from a rough time.
Of course I would use the obvious disclaimer "as long as it does not derail your overall financial, health or other goals". And there is no reason that it should! You don't have to go all Donna/Tom "Treat Yo'self Day" and blow your monthly budget! Treats can be completely free! They can be healthy! My kids are ecstatically happy to get a popsicle, go on a mommy-son outing to the library, or when we get them a new set of colored pencils for their "art". Similarly, adult treats don't have to break the bank or your diet.
Which is why the recent article from our favorite frugal bloggers really irked me on so many levels. If the post had just said that spending tons of money on treats is a bad idea when you are trying to get out of debt or meet a savings goal, and then listed some ways to treat yo'self on the cheap, I would have totally bought it. But to argue that treats are BAD and indicate some underlying problem in your life, and that treating yourself even once puts you on the slippery slope to bankrupcy....its a bit much.
I once read a blog post (years ago, can't recall where) in which the blogger, who was trying to cut down on spending, listed the treat cravings she had and then outlined how she fulfilled those cravings on the cheap. It was creative and quite useful. I like the idea of identifying what you are actually wanting when you get the urge to go out to dinner or buy a new dress. I mean, sometimes you really just want to do those exact things, but sometimes you can fool yourself with something easier on your budget. For example---on really nice spring days, I sometimes feel like going to a restaurant and sitting at a sidewalk table, eating food that I don't have to clean up after, people watching, enjoying the sun and breeze. I realized we can get a similar experience taking a picnic to the park, just packing up our dinner or getting something inexpensive from the deli.
Many treats can be absolutely free. With our suddenly nice weather, I've been envious of the runners I see on my way home from work. I'm trying to work out how I can fit in an evening run on a sunny day. Diving into a new book (from the library) is one of my favorite things to do---I look forward all day to 8 pm when I can head upstairs and lose myself in the story. Taking my morning coffee to the living room and reading for 15 minutes (instead of my usual routine of emptying dishwasher and packing lunch while I drink it), is a treat. Or putting off the chores on the weekend and watching an episode of a TV show. Some people really enjoy things like candles and long baths. A perfect cup of coffee or tea. Going to yoga or dance or anything else you enjoy. Listening to your favorite music. Going to bed early or sleeping in.
But I am also totally OK with spending some $$ to treat myself on occasion. As long as...disclaimer...etc... I don't think its "bad" to spend money on things that are not completely "necessary" but that add joy to your life. We went out to dinner on Tuesday, and it was just what we needed. I also recently bought myself some cuter workout wear and a few spring tops, and I can't wait to wear them! We have a sitter coming Saturday night. We are going to a school fundraiser but may also squeeze in a drink or dessert before/after the event just...because. I am spending a lot of happy moments planning out our summer trip---while I'm mindful of our budget, I am not looking for the cheapest options either. I want it to feel like a modest luxury, since we go on vacation so rarely.
There is absolutely no danger that I'm going to suddenly lose my head and ramp up that hedonic treadmill and start going to dinner every other day or book first class flights & 5-star hotels for our vacation. I am sticking to the budget. I fully remember that having treats all the time will make them less special.
In summary, treats are good. Just don't go nuts. The end. (this whole post seems a bit...duh...but I had to write a counterpoint to that post and the millions of "you are SO RIGHT" comments)