The Urge to Splurge on a New Numberplate

It doesn’t matter if it’s a £60 hair clip or £6000 number plate, splashing out is good for you.


It’s the best news we’ve heard for ages: new research by the universities of Columbia and Harvard shows that people who splurge on themselves are happier in the long run than those who squirrel away their pennies for the proverbial rainy day. Er, hurrah! Music to the ears of anybody who’s been panic-saving of late.


Dr Ran Kivetz at Columbia University and Professor Anat Keinan at Harvard quizzed people on their feelings about spending money and having fun, and discovered that while “people feel guilty about hedonism right afterwards, over time that guilt dissipates”. If you never treat yourself, however, “what builds up is this wistful feeling of missing out on life’s pleasures”. Which, if you ask me, means it’s time to remind ourselves of the logic behind the feel good purchase.


A splurge can mean many different things, but generally it is spending money on something utterly unnecessary and infinitely desirable. A straw poll in the office throws up the following: “beautiful flowers”; “YSL Tributes”; “silk stockings”; “a cheap ticket to the Alps”; “those Elton John-effect Lanvin sunnies”; Personalised Car Number Plates.


Let’s get one thing straight, however — this isn’t about closing your eyes and blowing the monthly grocery budget on a bit of Balmain. Both Harvey Nichols and Liberty might claim to be selling out of the “must-have” label right now, but, as Sukeena Rao, the head of Liberty style services, puts it: “The women buying Balmain have money to spend — but not money to burn. They’re weighing it up very carefully.” If you can afford it, great. But if you can’t decide if you can afford it, try removing your credit card from the equation.


Anneli Cornhill, the manager and shopping buddy of Alex Curran, calls a cash purchase “a clean transaction”. “If I see it again on my credit-card bill, then it’s like spending the money twice,” she says. She defines a splurge as “anything more than £500”. Her most recent splurge involved a pair of very impractical, very high, python-skin Prada shoes”. But what lessens the guilt is that many of her splurges are virtual. “I log onto and put a load of things in my basket before closing down the browser. That way, I still feel as if I’ve been shopping, but I haven’t spent any money.”


In other words, she is window shopping — key to the guilt-free, because-I’m-really-worth-it attitude. Splurge on only three of the four times you feel like, and you’re on safe ground. While researching her book, Sheconomics, which examines women’s emotional relationship with money, Dr Karen Pine discovered that 79% of women shop “to cheer themselves up”. But she warns against “buyers’ remorse” — that old post-purchase guilt. “Women express the most regret when they know they’ve overspent, or bought on impulse, and never end up wearing or using their splurge.” And how to avoid this? “Splurge on something life-enhancing,” she says. “If you can learn to do it in a controlled, reflective way, you remain in control and free of guilt. It can be very liberating.”


How not to do it is illustrated by the Irish writer Quentin Fottrell, who recently contributed to the new book Sit Tight and Get It Right: How to Beat the Recession Blues in Ireland. “I spent close to £10,800 in December and January,” he laments. “I had a trip to New York, where I stayed in the Hudson, shopped in Barneys and bought cocktails for myself and my friends every night. I had a trip to Las Vegas, another to Paris for my birthday, and bought an oversize D&G hold-all for my ex.” In retrospect, Fottrell thinks he was “trying to spend my way out of depression”, claiming he felt “beaten down by constant talk of the downturn”. And while he still believes that it’s important to keep spending in the recession — “it’s a confidence trick” — he now asks the following question before he parts with his cash: “Do I work to shop, or work to live?” And, indeed, when does splurging end and a binge begin?


Pine also warns against getting caught up in the recession frenzy. “People are being frugal, and it’s catching,” she says. “Take a reality check, and if you’ve cleared your credit-card bill or managed to save something this month, then why not have a bottle of champagne with dinner tonight?” Kivetz, meanwhile, has this advice: “Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s been a depressing winter, but this is a chance to reassess the quality and balance of your life and think about how you’ll feel in the future. As long as you can afford it, it’s not a bad thing to be enjoying yourself.” We couldn’t agree more.




– Ask yourself: “Do I deserve it?” Reasons to answer yes include clearing your credit-card debt, surviving a hideous week at work and not having splurged since Christmas.


– Pay in cold, hard cash. It cuts the guilt factor in half and is the only way to know if you can truly afford it.


– Splash out on something useful. The more you use/wear your purchase, the easier it will be to justify the money spent.


– Spend big at sample sales and outlet stores. Your inner accountant loves a bargain.


– Treat yourself to the most expensive version of everyday basics — tea bags, socks, chocolate. A little bit of luxury goes a long way.

See How Dessie has Splurged out with his new company vehicle!!!!!

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