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Do It Now: Spring For A Splurge

Believe it or not, shopping for yourself can be healthy, according to psychologist April Benson, who specializes in compulsive shoppers. She says depriving yourself can be dangerous and can set you up for a shopping binge.

"Splurging doesn't have to be a bad word," Benson said. "It's something that we do and if we plan to do it, it's something that can really enhance our lives."

That's exactly what the Vigilante family of Brookside, N.J., has in mind. They have been saving for six years to enhance their lives by turning their garage into a game room.

"To be honest with you, we have a hard time fitting our cars in here, so it's kind of turned into a shed," Frank Vigilante said. "We really feel it would benefit our family to turn it into a living space off of our kitchen, which is behind the wall."

The family figures the renovation will cost about $25,000. That's a big splurge and it eats up some savings that had been set aside for rising property taxes and college tuitions that are right around the corner.

"You just try to shop smart," Frank said. "We try to put a budget in place every month. This is a lifestyle decision. We're trying to add value to our experience here as a family."

Eric Schurenberg, the managing editor of Money magazine, says the family is on the right track.

"I think it's good," he said. "They're not borrowing to go into debt and are choosing a splurge that has lasting value. It will add value to the house and joy for years to come."

The Vigilantes set aside money and planned for their big splurge. Schurenberg says there are some dos and don'ts to consider — even if you have your financial house in order.

Pick Wisely

"Get the whole family involved," he said. "After all, the family has to make sacrifices to save for it and the family will enjoy it, so they ought to be involved in the choosing of it. Have everyone in the family make an uncensored wish list, then go through each item on the list and say, 'Are we still going to want this a year from now when we saved up the money?' And the next one is, 'Is this the thing that we want most of all?' Then, when you finally get down to the consensus favorite, that's your target."

The whole point is to plan for the splurge so you don't have to go into debt. Schurenberg says you'll enjoy it more if you have really sacrificed and all pulled together for it.

Make Your Goal Real

Schurenberg says it's easier to achieve a goal if you can feel it and see it.

"So don't just say, 'Our goal is to buy a flat-screen TV,' " he said. "Pick a make and model and find out exactly what the price is. And that's your goal. Then tear a picture of it out of the catalog and put it on the refrigerator."

Create A Game Plan

Have a separate account that will help you keep track of the progress. For parents, put bonuses or tax refunds into a savings account. Kids can put change into the proverbial cookie jar.

Once it comes out of the mattress or cookie jar, the money ought to go into a really safe liquid investment like a bank, money market account or money market fund. Don't play around with investments.

Stay On Track

Have a picture of the flat screen on the refrigerator, have a chart with how much you've saved. Every couple of days, write in a few more dollars. You'll be teaching kids a great lesson at the same time.

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