When a splurge is not a splurge.

In my most recent Get Rich Slowly column, I offer five tactics to keep from spending money — but I also offer permission to spend.

Got the urge to splurge? Use these strategies to fight it (or not)” notes that after months (or years) of budget restriction it’s natural to want to spend money on something that isn’t food or utilities: “Welcome to the cult of the completely human. We’re hunter-gatherers by nature, so it’s natural to be distracted by bright shiny objects.”

What you don’t want? To incur unnecessary debt. However, sometimes it’s really OK to spend. Just do it mindfully, within your budget and using a frugal hack whenever possible.

Meanwhile, over at my day job: I turned my recent encounter with a trio of muggers into an MSN Money column. “The worst part about being robbed” tells you how to do a “wallet audit” and take steps to prevent serious hassles such as fraud and identity theft.

The column includes interviews with financial experts and also with other folks whose wallets were stolen. Some are in potentially a whole lot more trouble than I am, i.e., they had things like Social Security cards and birth certificates on them when they were robbed.

Note: If you carry your Social Security card in your wallet, please take it out and lock it away. Right now. I thought everyone knew this, but on a recent trip I found that a close relative has been carrying his Social in his wallet his whole working life. Yikes.

The article also offers a way to deal with the fact that a Medicare card includes your Social Security number on it. If anyone in your life is on Medicare, please share this information. Seriously: a Social Security number is manna from heaven for an identity thief.

Oh, and there’s a pretty funny coda to the mugging incident. It has something to do with a stolen check. Normally that’s no laughing matter but this time it is. Trust me.

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  1. Good information, especially about the Medicare card. I’m interested to know about the laughing matter with the stolen check!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nicoleandmaggie: Go read it and let me know if you find it as funny as I did.

  2. Hootieman

    I was mugged in the early ’90s. It took a while to get better. I am still very wary, and I much more precautious. I worked around large groups of people all day long, and had just gotten used to them.
    I know it will take time Donna but I hope it gets better soon.

  3. Our convenience store was robbed one night. When the police came to make a report, they found a pager dropped dropped by the thief. They paged him, saying someone had found it and he could pick it up at the police station. It was after hours so he had to ring the buzzer at the police station when he came to pick his pager up.He had just gotten out of prison recently,too.

  4. Not only is that very funny, it’s also a stellar example of what we call “instant karma”. As the song says, it WILL “get you every time”.

  5. Love the ‘hunter-gatherers are drawn to bright shiny objects’ observation. And thanks for the reminder about Social Security cards and numbers.

  6. Great advice in both articles. I’ve never been mugged, but thieves have pickpocketed my purse/coat on more than one occasion. Thieves target students, because students are often more likely to carry laptops and smartphones.
    I recently got my security deposit back after moving to a new apartment. There was a small part of me that was tempted to splurge, but I saved more than half of it and used the rest to pay bills and pay off some of my credit card debt. I am going to splurge a little bit, though. I’m going to buy a new purse for the first time in a long time, because my only two purses have holes in them and their straps are broken.

  7. Nice idea about the Medicare card, which is a rip-off waiting to happen.

    But blacking out four figures in it doesn’t solve the problem of what happens if you have a stroke, a serious heart attack, or an auto accident, any of which can leave you incommunicado. What exactly will the ER staff do when they find a Medicare card in your wallet that doesn’t show your Medicare number? Will they refuse to care for you?

    And for the same reason — stroke or heart attack — you sure had better have your Medigap card with you. Not all trips to the doctor or the hospital are planned.

    Also, your source’s advice to carry only one credit card sounds fine until you realize that many merchants don’t take that credit card. I don’t carry cash and strongly prefer to charge purchases on a Costco AMEX card (yep, paid off in full at the end of each billing cycle). AMEX gives me a nice kickback, including 3% off the cost of gasoline. But I have to carry a MasterCard or Visa for the several merchants with which I regularly do business who just won’t take AMEX.

    LOL! Glad they caught one of the chuckleheads! Under slightly more suicidal circumstances, we could nominate him for a Darwin Award.

  8. Great article on resisting the urge to splurge. Sometimes the smallest of treats will suffice. I think, for me, it’s the idea of the thing, more than the thing itself. I was just reading a Time magazine article that, as you allude to in your post, reports that sales of lipstick and nail polish are up in these trying economic times.. Two very inexpensive pick-me-ups. They are two of my personal favorite actually, along with a cup of coffee and 30 minutes to myself to read a book – right in the middle of the day. The ultimate splurge!

  9. Now A Country Mouse

    Great urge to splurge article.

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