How to Celebrate Milestones on a Budget

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Even if you haven’t reached your goal as yet, it’s important to celebrate progress you’ve made.


Repeat after me: It may not be perfect, but my life is a gift.

I’ll be honest. Making strides to get out of debt isn’t easy. Though it’s better than living with debt for the rest of your life, the process to rid yourself of it isn’t fun. It’s time consuming, takes a lot of sacrifice and budget management. Nonetheless, I still maintain that making those lifestyle changes to get out of debt will all be worth it in the end. Thought it’s been slow going I’ve made a lot of progress with my student debt payoff. I’m happy to report that I have paid off two loans. And while I still have many many more to pay off I’m happy with what I have accomplished.   It’s important to remember that debt payoff isn’t about deprivation. Depending on who you ask they’ll strongly disagree. Regardless, I’ve learned that no matter how small the progress I must celebrate the milestone to keep going strong.   The key is to do it on a budget.

The problem is not everyone knows how to do it. In fact, celebration sometimes ends up being the downfall of many when it comes to financial process. Tell me, does this sound like you? –

You and your husband are living paycheck to paycheck on a modest income. Unfortunately, your income is so modest that sometimes you don’t even have money for those little emergencies that come up like fixing the breaks on the car. So you follow the advice of all the major financial pros and save $1,000 in an emergency. When you finally reach your goal, the two of you decide to head to a five star restaurant, and drop a couple hundred dollars on a romantic dinner to celebrate.

Bad Idea. For several reasons. If you didn’t plan accordingly, your lofty celebration may have set you back. Why? Because you didn’t save for it. You saved for an emergency fund and the last time I checked a romantic celebration dinner isn’t an emergency. So unless you budgeted for this expensive dinner that means something isn’t getting done or your whole budget is screwed up now. Then you end up beating yourself up because you can no longer adhere to saving goals, afford to go grocery shopping, etc.

Alternatively, if you fail to celebrate the little milestones such as paying off $1,750 of credit card debt in 7 months you’re bound to get discouraged and give up. After all, life without dinner dates and TV can be a bit boring. Obviously over celebrating and under celebrating are detrimental to budgets and debt payoff.

Unfortunately, I’ve been in both situations. I’ll never forget the time we got so excited about a promotion that we bought a new HD TV but almost lost electric because we totally forgot to pay it before the “Final Notice” letter came in the mail. That was several years ago. I can laugh about it now, but at the time we were so upset and embarrassed. It was an extremely poor and irresponsible decision.

I’ve since learned from that situation and managed to master the art of celebration. I may be the queen of frugal, but I’m pretty proud of the low budget ways I’ve been able to have a life and celebrate the smaller milestones even if it does require I spend some moolah.

Who said you need a reason to jump for joy? Celebrate milestones whenever you can. And do it on a budget!

It’s not always easy, but some creativity helps. My husband calls me a cornball for it, but one of my favorite ways to celebrate is by sipping my favorite sangria over popcorn and sliced mango. And without a toast along with celebratory glass of sangria, it’s just not celebration at all according to my standards. Luckily, I always have all three at home so I never have to come out of pocket.

Don't let lack of funds be the reason to skip out on celebrating your progress Click To Tweet

Of course celebrating for free doesn’t always cut it. That’s where Groupon comes in. Thanks to the steep discounts on Groupon, I’ve never had a problem celebrating even the smallest debt payoff accomplishments on a dime. Groupon has allowed me to see movies for $6.00, enjoy escape rooms, enjoy half off state of the art ice cream at a landmark dessert shop, as well as relax on sunset dinner cruises for $40.

And when I’m looking for the thrill of a purchase to be shipped to my doorstep, I call on Zulily. Zulily is an online retailer that sells various products at rock bottom prices. They are able to do that because they don’t store items in house and don’t accept refunds so they save money on business operations and pass those savings onto you.  Normally, I’m not a fan of the inability to return items but my purchases have always been of great price and quality. One of my celebratory purchases included two pairs of boots, a faux fur jacket and jumpsuit for about $35. The faux fur jacket alone normally retailed for $110 but sold on Zulily for $6. If that’s not a great steal for a celebratory treat, I don’t know what is.

Lastly, Ibotta has always come through for me with my celebratatory purchases. As you may recall from previous posts, Ibotta is a cash back app that allows you to earn money on grocery story purchases. Once you earn $20, the money is instantly sent to your Paypal account. No long waits! This definitely comes in handy when I want to celebrate on a dime without pulling directly out of my wallet. What I earn from Ibotta is usually my  happy money these days used to celebrate my milestones on a budget.

So what milestones should you be celebrating? The ones that truly signal progress. Sure you may not be debt free, but paying off just one loan is a reason to celebrate. Or maybe you’ve committed to picking up extra work on the weekends for months and need a little motivation to keep you going. By all means, celebrate! But let the celebration match the accomplishment. Maybe go the free route and spend the day having a picnic. Or you can treat yourself to an at – home spa day. However, try not to go over board and splurge for bottle service at your favorite club.

Don’t undo all the hard work you’ve done by blowing all your money on a splurge. Sure, you worked hard and deserve it, but one wrong treat can set you way back in terms of progress. To counteract the urge to splurge for days, map out the milestones you will celebrate and how much you will spend. For example, if your goal is to pay off a $2,000 loan in a year, plan to allow yourself a $25-$50 treat after every $500 you put towards it. If you still find yourself, going overboard with your celebration for “working hard” and “being good”, it may be time you reassess your goals and milestones.


Have you celebrated any milestones? How did you do it on budget?


Terrific Quip: The more you celebrate your life the more there is in life to celebrate.

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  1. So many times I’ve allowed the lack of funds steal the joy of celebrating small milestones. Thank you for writing this. Very encouraging

  2. My solution for all milestones is to Travel.. My 21st is was Atlantic City. My 30th is was Chicago. My 40th it was Vegas and my 50th I plan to do international. We did do a major party for parents milestones. We kept it under budget too planning far in advance.

  3. I love finding a good deal for the boo and I. Recently I found a great couples’ massage deal that was fantastic and -felt- more expensive, lol. I am totally down with free fun and as we are both seeking new employment, we have had to improvise our date nights but creativity helps.

  4. At one point in my life if it wasn’t in the budget it didn’t happen. I was working on my debt and young so I didn’t make a ton of money.

    Exploring my own backyard and attending free festivals and such keep the cost of adventure down.

  5. Celebrating a debt milestone by splurging is the quickest way to ensure that you stay in debt. I honestly don’t even have any celebrations, but I like your idea of sangria and mango!

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