Has Treat Yourself Culture Gone Too Far?

I hate reading about money. More specifically, I hate reading ‘money-saving guides’ – the patronising, holier-than-thou budget-stretching tips that do the rounds on the internet and in cringy women’s magazines. The last thing I want to do when I’m nursing a killer hangover and drinking an overpriced smoothie from Juice Garden is think about the state of my bank statements.

You might feel my pain. Right now we are about to hit the monthly sweet spot. Payday has been and gone, the rent and bills are done and dusted. All that is left to do for 20 days is to try to bear some resemblance to a real adult and not dip into our overdrafts before the next payday. Sounds simple enough. But when you know that Zara has just dropped their new line of very chic Birken-esque basket bags, avoiding the ‘treat yo self’ mentality is easier said that done.


Take me for example. I was told in February I would need a filling that would cost me £98. So what did I do? I ignored the constant influx of letters from my dentist and booked a flight to Spain. You know, just to take the edge off. In the meantime, I’m also struggling to pay my gym fees, I need to deal with rent and I am THIS CLOSE to cutting my card so I can’t go on that H&M shopping spree that’s been on my mind for weeks.

New studies show that I’m not alone. Like me, the majority of Generation X are still figuring out how to make ends meet and the way we spend are spending money is radically changing. A recent US study revealed that last year 44 percent of millennials spent more on coffee that they put into savings. Yup, you read that right. Your morning Starbucks is tasting a little more bitter now ain’t it?

But why is it we’re putting off adult responsibilities (like going to the dentist and saving for our future) in favour of luxury items? By 2035, millennials will have the potential to become the largest spending generation in history, according to marketing expert Pam Danziger.

With increasingly convenient avenues to shop without ever physically reaching a store, such as apps and websites, millennials are spending more than ever on luxe goods. Marketing company Vintel even goes as far as saying millennials have redefined the term luxury thanks to our shopping habits. These days, luxury isn’t keys to your own apartment and a new car – it’s Airbnbs and Uber. We’re replacing big goals with affordable treats, placating our inner child without ever having to deal with growing up.

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But where did this ‘treat yourself’ culture come from? Experts say it’s because most of us can’t afford to climb on to the property ladder like the previous generations which leads us to feel insecure and anxious. To counteract these feelings, we buy ourselves treats because it helps us to feel like we are taking back control in some small way. Treats are a way of reminding ourselves that we still have value, even if the older generations don’t see it.

It explains why the wellness trend has exploded in recent years along with the phrase ‘self-care’. Both feed into our warped guilt – I can’t pay for a house but surely my body is the ultimate home? Excuse me while I grab my credit card!


But it’s not always for internal validation. Sometimes we treat ourselves to match the standards we believe have been set by other people. Despite 18-30-year-olds typically having less disposable income than older age groups, we spend thousands each year so that we can fill our social media feeds with our latest purchases. Seeing celebs jet set to Morocco and bloggers unwrapping new season goodies on Insta can further full insecurities and bad spending habits. We’ve all heard tales of girls wracking up unfathomable amounts of debt in order to maintain a so-called ‘perfect’ lifestyle. For some, treat yourself culture comes at a very high cost.

I’m beginning to realise it is no longer cute to have no clue how much money or to treat the ATM like some mystical money-giving wizard. Yes, it’s boring and it is certainly not Instagramable. But finally being overdraft free? That would be a real treat.

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