Sometimes A Splurge Is Good For Your Health

The economic pundits couldn’t disagree more on how to fix the economy. Most agree, however, that at least part of the crisis was due to consumer overspending and under-saving. Folks thought the equity in their houses would continue to rise forever, so they used that equity, often with disastrous results. But now the experts tell us that people have to start spending again (buy cars! go out for dinner!) so the economy will recover. It’s enough to make anyone feel guilty and confused about spending on anything that’s not an absolute necessity.

But sometimes a small splurge is good for your health. Given the choice of a spa treatment worth $80 or $85 in cash, most people would take the $85. Obviously, $85 would pay for the spa treatment with $5 left over for a latte. But a recent study reported in the New York Times revealed that a substantial minority of the study participants would prefer to just take the treatment. Those folks seem to know that they “need” that spa treatment. They don’t want the option of spending spa money on something responsible and boring, like groceries, the mortgage or their credit card balance.

Even more interesting, it develops that an occasional splurge on a satisfying experience is appropriate treatment for a malady called hyperopia. That’s the medical term for farsightedness (and the opposite of myopia, nearsightedness), because it results from people looking too far ahead. Folks who suffer from hyperopia are so obsessed with preparing for the future that they are unable to enjoy the present. These people end up looking back sadly on all their lost opportunities for fun.

Remember Aesop’s fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant? The industrious (and hyperopic) Ant toiled all summer so she would have a safe and warm winter. Her friend, the fun-loving, carefree (and myopic) Grasshopper, sang the summer away and then had to beg the Ant for food. Although the fable teaches us that we should encourage our inner Ant, sometimes it’s good to savor the present and enjoy the moment like a Grasshopper.

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