The Problem with the ‘Treat Yourself’ Mentality


Treat : verb ‘an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.’


The Problem with the 'Treat Yourself' Mentality, Millennial spending habits, treat yo self, topshop straw bag, topshop mom jeans


Ah, millennials. The generation of soaring house prices, astronomical rent and avocados. We live in a ‘here and now’ age; one unconcerned by pensions or even by savings accounts. I realise that perhaps this is a generalisation, but few people I know in their twenties actually have an emergency fund to their name. Instead, the focus is upon paying the bills each month and then using the excess to facilitate a lifestyle. With credit cards readily available and even ASOS offering finance schemes, do we really need to worry about the future? The ‘treat yourself‘ mentality and the sense of entitlement that accompanies it is damaging us as a generation of spenders, rather than savers, and when that rainy day comes, none of us have any idea whether it’ll be a drizzle or a storm.

I want to put a disclaimer right here before I get a torrent of abuse that I am not referring to those living in poverty. I’ve got no real understanding of how horrific it must be to have no idea how the next food shop is going to be funded or whether rent will be met and if you want to read a good, honest post about that struggle then I suggest Mia’s.


The Problem with the 'Treat Yourself' Mentality, Millennial spending habits, treat yo self, topshop straw bag, topshop mom jeans


Are we too entitled, or just having fun?

Most of the people I know earn enough to pay the bills and have something left over each month. To go out for dinner once a week or so, to get drinks after work and to place that Topshop order without really having to worry about how it’s going to be paid for. That’s great, but if after your Saturday night out and your new boots you’ve got next to nothing left before the next pay cheque lands, it’s arguably a really irresponsible way of living.

There is a sense amongst society that the millennial generation is a very entitled one, and to an extent I’d be inclined to agree. I include myself in that generalisation, by the way. We feel that we deserve nice things, we worked hard so we should treat ourselves and we begin to tie up stuff and money with self-worth. We say ‘yes’ at a moments notice to drinks out or to a weekend away but in doing so we are potentially neglecting our future selves.

Recently I saw an Instagram caption that referenced buying an expensive designer handbag as justified on the basis that the owner would never be able to afford a mortgage in London anyway. It makes a good, ‘likeable’ caption and I absolutely do not mean any negativity to the person who posted it, who was probably semi-joking, but it isn’t actually that funny that we’ve begun to prioritise transient ‘stuff’ over security. I know plenty of people who fully intend to own houses one day, but haven’t actually really stopped to think about how they will afford that or what they may need to sacrifice now to make that even a potential reality. I’m not naive; almost all of the people I know buying properties (especially in London) either have immense family help or have worked since the age of 16 and accessed ‘Help to Buy’ schemes. It isn’t easy and giving up the odd Starbucks isn’t about to amount to a deposit any time soon, but I do find the defeatist ‘fuck it, if I want a Gucci I’ll buy a Gucci‘ attitude a bit uneasy. A recent study in the US showed that 44% of millennials spend more money on coffee than they put into their savings. My espresso just got that bit more bitter…


Treat Yourself

In attributing the way we spend our money to our own self-worth and a sense of entitlement to own nice things, we have destroyed the concept of a ‘treat’. I see the phrase banded about excessively across social media and I’m guilty of using it too. A bad day is an excuse for a Dominos. A date is a reason to buy a new dress. A promotion justifies blowing the weekly food budget on prosecco. We will always find a way to justify unnecessary spending and when it seems that everyone does it, it becomes all the easier to succumb to what appears to be generational behaviour and to blame things beyond our control for why we have no money left at the end of the month.

Buying stuff makes us feel good, but the glow that comes with a new purchase is superficial and short lived and fundamentally money (unless you have an infinite source of it) comes down to priorities. Last year I had to spend about £100 on dental treatment, and recently I spent £152 on glasses. I resented every single penny. Yet I can easily justify dropping double that across the year on takeout food or even in a single transaction on ASOS. The reality is that I don’t know anyone who couldn’t cut back their spending, even a little. I often see people take to social media to vent frustrations about not being able to afford certain things but largely it comes down to considering the ugly truth behind how we choose to spend, or to save, our money.


The Problem with the 'Treat Yourself' Mentality, Millennial spending habits, treat yo self, topshop straw bag, topshop mom jeans



I started earning money as young as I could, and I have always had savings of my own accord. Yeah, I know, ‘good for you Beth.’ Growing up I didn’t come from a wealthy background but I didn’t miss out either. My mum was no stranger to a credit card and when I became old enough to understand the impact of the debt that had been racked up to allow my siblings and I to enjoy a lifestyle, I vowed that I would never own one. That being said, my savings account would be far flusher if I thought twice about hopping in an Uber when its wet and I’m late. One look at my Deliveroo history makes me feel really bloody guilty because the amount of food that I could’ve got at the supermarket for the money spent is almost disgusting.

Personally, I try to put any ‘bonus’ money (freelance work above my usual earnings for example) straight into savings and I have a standing order set up out of my current account each month. If, after the boring bits and the bills are paid each month, we put even 10% of whatever disposable income is left aside most of us probably wouldn’t miss it, but it does slowly rack up. I would probably consider myself an ‘above average’ saver for my demographic, but I only have to print out a months bank statement and highlight all the unnecessary expenditure to shock myself into realising that I’m too blasé about money or too quick to justify a ‘treat’.


The Problem with the 'Treat Yourself' Mentality, Millennial spending habits, treat yo self, topshop straw bag, topshop mom jeans


I realise this post won’t be sitting comfortably with all of you, money is an uncomfortable topic. I am not trying to preach that we should all start staying in all week and scrimping away every penny we have, in fact I don’t want to preach anything at all. Rather I’ve noticed a trend (in myself and amongst my friends, for a start) and I think its important to talk about uncomfortable things. I don’t hope to achieve anything from this post but to open a discussion about a taboo topic and as much as anything it’s my way of forcing myself to think twice and address my own spending habits. I can so easily wave off a £25 Chinese now and then, but four of them is a hundred quid and even just one takeaway a month is £300 a year. On Chinese food. And here I am buying the £10 ASOS version of the Gucci belt I want…


Photography by Kaye Ford


  1. March 15, 2018 / 9:16 pm

    I like so many others am definitely guilty of this from time to time. I actually started putting into a pension as soon as I started work because my firm match our contributions up to a certain % I might be 22 but starting now means that pot will be a lot bigger when I’m old and wrinkly thanks to the wonder of compound interest! Now I’m off to analyse my bank statements and find my dream bag among the Starbucks and trips to Pret!

    • Beth Sandland
      March 15, 2018 / 9:28 pm

      You are a clever chick. Looking in to a private pension is definitely something I need to do, especially being self-employed.

      It’s scary isn’t it when you see it like that! Coffees and trivial things could equal something so much more special.

  2. March 15, 2018 / 9:27 pm

    Such an important topic and you addressed it so eloquently! I have definitely been guilty of treating myself unnecessarily , and 100% use the ‘treat yourself’ excuse 🙈 really made me think more about the money I spend and what I save! Well done gal 👏🏼

    • Beth Sandland
      March 15, 2018 / 9:34 pm

      Thank you lovely! I do it too and the thing is it means it’s not a treat anymore. I’m going to focus on cutting back unnecessary spending and then a real treat will feel all the more special! Xx

  3. Helen
    March 16, 2018 / 7:44 am

    A brilliant read Beth! Credit card debt has a nasty habit of spiralling and it seems painless adding the odd £50 to a piece of plastic until the bill drops on the mat and you realise your mental maths sucks…if you couldn’t afford it this month how are you going to meet the card payment next. You must remember walking around Lidl in your leotard after ballet and adding up the spend on a calculator – I chose to shop there because they didn’t accept credit cards in those days. Love from a very proud Mama xxx

  4. March 16, 2018 / 7:52 am

    Loved this post Beth! Totally agree and relate to all your points. Im so guilty for buying myself new clothes when I’ve had a bag day. I try to save but I’m not great at it and probably still spend too much money in pret haha. Does make me think twice about how I’m spending though, may have to have a highlight through my bank statement at the end of he month to see where I can cut unnecessary spending! xx

  5. March 16, 2018 / 9:30 am

    Love the honesty in this post!
    My fiancé and I have struggled a lot financially since moving into our own place & yet somehow I can always justify a “treat”.
    At my previous job I would almost always justify my morning coffee as a necessity but now I’m in a new position with a higher salary & make my own coffees before I leave and take them in a travel mug. SO many little changes can be made just to have that extra safety net in the bank!
    At first I thought a higher salary meant more money to spend but really, it’s more of an opportunity to save & get out of this financial hole we’ve been stuck in so every penny literally does help! (not to sound too Tesco-y)

    • Beth Sandland
      March 16, 2018 / 12:27 pm

      Definitely! It’s crazy when you realise that a £3 coffee 5 days a week x 48 weeks of the year is £720!!!! Can you imagine!

  6. March 16, 2018 / 1:00 pm

    I think that everything you’ve said here is really fair, but none of this surprises me. There’s an economic concept of the ‘lipstick theory’ that suggests during a recession, cosmetic companies and other things that we might consider a bit frivolous and unnecessary boom. When people have limited money, we’re more likely to treat ourselves to smaller items like lipstick to cheer ourselves up.

    Also I think what you’re talking about refers to a particular group of millennials that are fortunate enough to have steady, reasonable sized incomes and certainly not all of us. Although if you compare our average salaries to the older generations when they were our age, we’re earning pittance. Our proportion of our income that’s disposable is so much lower than our parents were. Generally, our generation doesn’t earn enough to be saving tons, and the property market is a joke for first time buyers, so I totally understand why we choose to enjoy any extra money that we do have. I get really irritated with these articles that you see a lot of that demonize millenials for spending money on things we enjoy, God forbid right? Even worse are the ones that have a go at people in poverty for spending money on anything other than essentials. I do agree with you that if a lot of us gave up our ASOS habits or going out as much or whatever, we’d have more money saved in the bank, but imagine how dull life would be. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does pay for experiences and things that bring us joy. Life is about more than working to pay the bills and to stay alive and I totally understand why people value their short term enjoyment over long term security that feels unattainable anyway. I feel like I’ve gone off on a tangent here, because you obviously are pointing out something necessary rather than bullying millennial for the fun of it like the Mail does.

    That all being said, I am currently working on cutting down my spending habits as I save for a house deposit, but I’ve never been more bored!

    • Beth Sandland
      March 16, 2018 / 1:22 pm

      I agree that it doesn’t apply across the board which is why I was careful to stress that this is purely my observation. That being said I know people in all sorts of positions and I myself have done everything in recent years from purely relying on student loan, to retail, to a low paid office job, to self-employed. In each one of those faculties I could have saved more money.

      I do agree with you that life would be boring if we didn’t spend anything beyond the necessities but I don’t think that’s what my post suggested at all! In fact I even say that in the final paragraph. Rather there is a lot of frivolous spending justified by being a ‘Treat’ or as a way of counteracting dissatisfaction with the housing market, for example. Spending £15 a week on coffee doesn’t actually improve anyone’s lifestyle or ‘bring joy’ in my view! That almost £800 a year could be saved OR spent on something equally as lifestyle orientated but ultimately far more satisfying, like a designer bag or a trip – whatever floats your boat. Equally, I’m not saying that nobody should ever buy take out coffee (I do sometimes) but that they then shouldn’t sit and moan about not being able to afford other things because money comes down to priorities fundamentally.

      Thanks for joining in on the debate!

    • March 18, 2018 / 10:29 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more! You’ve perfectly encapsulated most of my feelings in the topic! X

  7. March 16, 2018 / 1:08 pm

    Love this post! I have a real problem with spending money. I love buying things (especially takeaway) yet I’m living in a council house forever in my overdraft. But I kinda feel like things are a little bleak for millenials. When I lived in London, I felt like everyone was infantilised by the system of house shares, no security, long working hours, fleeting relationships, and the culture of getting super drunk every weekend. It’s difficult to move into the typical adult state of home ownership and babies. But you’re right that things shouldn’t bring so much pleasure and be in place of relationships

  8. March 16, 2018 / 4:02 pm

    I’ve always considered myself a safe spender. I love a good bargain and I try my best to stay away from that slippery road of a take out coffee every day. Although saying that I do quickly fall into the “it’s good to treat yourself trap” just like the rest of us and before you know it that credit card is suddlenly racked up.

    This post has just made me consider alternative ways to “treat yourself” without the massive price tag as I do feel we live in a faster moving world and we do need a break from it and to “treat ourselves”.

    This post has got me inspired.

    Love it
    Much love

    • Beth Sandland
      March 17, 2018 / 10:00 am

      Definitely! A night in with a film and some popcorn is a treat for me 😍

  9. March 17, 2018 / 11:56 am

    I agree with you SO much on this. I’m also very careful with money, I very often find myself lining up to pay at topshop, when it occurs to me that I don’t need that top, and I probably would’t wear it anyway. I’m not kidding I think I probs have second thoughts and put things back in the majority of shops I go where I’m not buying essentials. Yes, I would say that treating yourself now and again is important, but we do need to be careful with how much were spending. Xx

  10. March 18, 2018 / 10:50 am

    I could not agree more!! A lot of my friends do not worry about buying a house when they finish their degree, instead they are blowing money on alcohol, shopping and what not. I live in Oslo and it is quite expensive here. But instead of using public transport (which cost over 50 pounds for a month) I take my bike. We buy groceries for two weeks ahead, and I do not shop unless it is used or it is something I really want (and in good quality). With that being said, I do own a few Mulberrys and Burberry, and I am going to treat myself to a new handbag once I am done with me degree in physics, but it has always been more important for me to save up for a house and that is what i prioritize. And I saw that caption too, thinking it was quite accurate and probably ment to be funny, but I think a lot of people live that way and it is sad.

    I do not know how it is in England, but here in Norway we have this bank account called BSU which is house savings bank account for people under the age of 34. You can get 500 pounds back on your taxes each year for example. It is a good way to encourage young people to save. With that being said, only a few of my friends saves like this and it shocks me. But, when the time comes and they still rent in their late twenties it is them that has to pay the prize.

  11. March 18, 2018 / 8:57 pm

    Completely agree with this post. I think money management should be taught in schools. Some of the trouble, I think, starts with uni – you literally have to get into thousands of pounds of debt just to get a degree to get an entry level job. Then instagram makes us want things. We’re addicted to the instant thrill a new buy gives us. But after that comes the guilt! To think that people are putting more money into coffee than into their savings is shocking though. Money is one of the last taboos i think – rarely do i talk candidly with friends about money – so thanks for writing this post

  12. March 19, 2018 / 11:17 pm

    I’m a firm believer in treating yourself when the circumstances warrant it, but even I can see that some people take this mentality a little too far or think “treating themselves” has to cost money. Sometimes it’s just allowing yourself an extra hour to sleep, or taking an afternoon to read a book just for fun (can you tell I’m a grad student lol). I don’t think the younger generations talk enough about saving and investing and we really should. The economy is not the same that our parents grew up in. It’s going to be more difficult for us to buy homes and save for retirement, especially with the increase in student loan debt (particularly in the US where I live). I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of owning a home. I’m 37 and am about to finish grad school with a 6 figure loan debt. But I’m more likely to treat myself to a couple macrons or a new nail polish than a huge spending spree on ASOS. My treats fit my budget. Anyway, I’m rambling, but this is a great topic and one we definitely need to be talking more about. There needs to be a middle ground being spending recklessly and shaming ourselves (or others) for what we spend and having a healthy approach towards spending and saving.

  13. March 20, 2018 / 4:30 pm

    This is such a great post Beth! Last year I bought my first home age 24 after we had been saving and saving and saving (and without any help from parents or Help To Buy). It did involve pretty much not buying anything that wasn’t necessary for quite a few years (including trips abroad *sob*) but it is SO worth it now that we have our dream home, and it shows that it’s definitely possible for anyone on a pretty standard to low graduate salary! Alice xxx

  14. March 21, 2018 / 8:36 am

    An excellent post, thank you for tackling the difficult subjects. I’d like to think I knew better being a wrinkly old 30 year old. The truth is we saved hard for our first house and did all the things you suggest, we even did £10 limits on birthday presents to each other while we were saving. But as soon as we moved in we switched back to old ways, and being honest I thought I deserved treats having denied myself while we saved. But now we’re a couple of years in and I’m thinking about where the money comes from for upsizing next time. My advice, once you learn the habits of saving – keep it going! X

    • Abi
      April 12, 2018 / 3:37 pm

      I’m 27 and we are currently in a similar position. When your mortgage goes down it’s like Christmas has come early each month and you think you can spend that money when really you should save it or overpay the mortgage. It’s all so tedious and boring! I guess it’s the price we pay for a bloody lovely retirement!

  15. March 21, 2018 / 8:06 pm

    I love this post, it’s so refreshing and down to earth.
    I believe Instagram skyrocketed our consumerism.
    For instance, in 2016 I realized I couldn’t be a regular shopper because there are things I value more that a new dress or new heels – travelling. I often see people complain about how they are jealous of bloggers for all the travelling. Little do they know that if they shopped less and saved more, they too would be able to see the world.
    Our priorities are currently wrong and I hope we as a generation get around that.

  16. March 29, 2018 / 10:41 pm

    I always think that it is ok to treat yourself..within reason! I love going on ASOS and finding things I’d love to have, but then I get as far as the final ‘continue’ button, and I ask myself if I really need another pair of black ankle boots. I prefer to save my money for travelling – if I do buy new clothes I wait for sales!

  17. Abi
    April 12, 2018 / 3:34 pm

    A really well written piece Beth! Honest yet it holds certain pieces of advice without being condescending. You are certainly wise beyond your 22 years! I am one of those you you speak about who owns a house. At age 25 buying a 2 bedroom semi with my boyfriend was impressive but as you said: we were able to live with my parents whilst we each saved over 50% of our graduate salaries. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to my parents for this but we paid rent, food and bills whilst we lived there and both traveled 30 miles each way to work every day. It wasn’t easy but for that year we prioritised our future over lifestyle. I think my point of writing this comment is similar to your point for writing the post – we aren’t doomed yet. Just because we are millenials and we do have this liberal treat yourself attitude doesn’t mean we will be free with money forever. It is worth cutting back on the Costa and the takeaways but I will say – once you have your mortgage it doesn’t end there. You’re tied in for 25, 30 maybe even 35 years and the only way to lessen that is by overpaying.

    Blimey we do have it tough don’t we 🤣

  18. May 11, 2018 / 11:05 am

    Very well written! I do think it’s important to treat yourself, but I think some people take it too far. Treating yourself doesn’t mean that you should avoid making sensible decisions, or that you should live recklessly. I think people who think that treating yourself means living recklessly or spending money on a designer bag because they may never afford a mortgage in London are YOLO types.

    I speak a lot about ‘treating yo’self’ on my blog, but I always link it to self-care and I still make sensible decisions. IMO treating yourself means allowing yourself a lie in on the weekends, buying that lipstick that you’ve spent time saving up for, eating healthily, going out with friends for a meal at a lovely resturant, relaxing, going for walks, listening to music, reading a good book, practising self-compassion, etc. Also, I think people don’t realise that treating yourself doesn’t have to cost a penny at all (but a bit of valuable time). For example, going for a walk, listening to music on the radio or indulging in a good book cost nothing.


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