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Here’s how millennials can avoid giving into temptation.

2 minute read

It’s really, really easy to justify making bad choices in the present.

When you think about the reality of your own mortality, what’s a few extra bucks at the bar? Why not buy that 4K ultra-high-definition TV? You can’t take money with you when you die, after all.

But those choices add up. Every irresponsible expense just digs you further into a financial hole, encouraging even more short-sighted spending to help alleviate the stress you’ve created. Eventually, that care-free attitude will turn to panic.

When it comes down to it, “You Only Live Once” is just a bad approach to take with money.

The YOLO mentality bothers me for several reasons, primarily because it encourages spending money in the short-term instead of saving for the long-term. I get it: Too many people waste their lives stressing about trivial things. But ignoring real problems will just leave you stressing in the future.

Most people already have trouble doing what’s best for their future selves. Whether they’re sitting on the couch instead of exercising or racking up a credit card balance instead of opening a 401(k), it’s in our nature to think short-term. It’s easy to do something that will benefit you now, but it’s much harder to sacrifice for a distant point in time.

YOLO is just an excuse for people to embrace that mentality. But most of us will live into our 70s and 80s — and many young people these days could end up living to be well over 100. If you’ve ever seen an elderly person working a depressing retail job, understand that a lack of long-term planning probably got them there.

Think of it another way. If you only live once, why not work to make sure it’s a comfortable life right up until the end?

How to balance YOLO with saving

I’m not advocating a boring, penny-pinching existence. I love to buy nice clothes, travel, and go out with my friends. It’s all about embracing the balance between living in the present and preparing for the future.

To start with, think about how your actions will impact your future self. For example, if you like eating out every day and aren’t saving for retirement, think about how it will feel to be 70 and still working while most of your family and friends are lounging on the beach.

This trick is how I convince myself to go to the gym when I don’t feel like it. Sure, I might feel better now, but I’ll really regret it when I’m older and unable to walk up a flight of stairs.

The next time a friend asks you to join her for brunch or for a day of shopping you can’t afford, think about how you’ll feel when you want to buy a house but haven’t saved for a down payment. Imagine what being laid off might mean for you. Could you support yourself while you job hunt? If not, then lay off the YOLO.

Another strategy is to write down all the things you love spending money on that aren’t necessities. This should include everything from your morning latte to your bi-weekly pedicure. Then, rank everything from most enjoyable to least enjoyable. Can you give up the stuff at the bottom in exchange for saving for the future?

Once I started doing this, I realized what I was willing to give up to truly live my best life. Choosing my top priorities means I’m still happy — now, and for the rest of my life.

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About the Author

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok

Kumok is a personal finance freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado.

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