Treat Yo Self

It’s perhaps the most memorable line after seven seasons of Parks and Recreation: “Treat Yo Self.” Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford spend one day each year treating themselves to all the pleasures that money can buy.

Here is a video of it. My reaction is summed up at the end of the video by Ben Wyatt. The 42-second scene is a wonderful piece of art that reflects the state of consumerism in western culture, but I also think we’re treating ourselves all the time without realizing it.

Yesterday I got in my car and drove 15 miles to a coffee shop in East Aurora to do work on my laptop. For two hours waiters brought me coffee, water, and soup. They topped off my coffee whenever it got below half-full. I had free Wifi, a comfortable chair, nice lighting, music, and the space was protected from the 30-degree temperatures.

A fifteenth-century king would marvel at my luxury, and I only paid $10 for the privilege. Most of us live like kings, all the time, without realizing it.

I just finished reading Elizabeth Willard Thames’ first book, Meet the Frugalwoods, the journey of two people who transformed themselves from stressed-out consumers to contented retirees. Willard Thames expresses our cultural ignorance about money:

“Our culture espouses a ‘treat yourself’ mentality that goads us to surrender to all the short-term goodies we can possibly conceive of: lattes, Netflix, a new car. We deserve it, right? But I think the ‘treat yourself’ culture masks a deep-seated fear that we’ll never realize our long-term dreams, so we’d better live it up in the present. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we buy now, the less money we have to make actionable progress toward our dreams later. The instantly gratifying thrills that our consumer culture peddles–everything from snack delivery services to biting-fish pedicures–are nothing more than road-bump opiates: short-term pleasures that only serve to derail our actual goals. And we don’t apply this mentality just to tiny purchases. If we think we’ll never save up enough for a down payment on a house, we might be more liable to rent a ritzy apartment and fritter away our would-be down payment savings.” (p. 220).

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