The Questions We Ask When Debating Whether to Save or Splurge

posted by Andrea | 01/30/2017
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The term “splurge” often has a negative reputation for being an irresponsible or bad choice — and while there are definitely times when splurging is not nearly as helpful as saving, I don’t think all splurging is bad or irresponsible.

In fact, I think a few carefully thought-out splurges can really do a lot to brighten our mood, lift our spirits, and give us something extra to look forward to (going out to eat, attending a concert, shopping with friends, a small bouquet of flowers, a nice card, something new at home, etc.)

Of course, there is no one right or wrong way to splurge, and we all have individual preferences and ideas of what would be considered a splurge for us. So instead of trying to come up with a list of things we should all “save” on, and another list of things we should all “splurge” on, I’m simply going to share a few questions Dave and I ask ourselves when we’re debating between saving and splurging.

1. Will this hurt our current financial situation?

Dave and I currently have a healthy emergency fund, fully funded Roth IRA’s, and a few investments that have picked up steam over the past few years. Of course, we could always do more, but in general, we feel OK about where we are financially — and if an opportunity arose to splurge on something we really felt would be beneficial for our lives (like another bathroom renovation — hypothetically of course!), we could say “yes”.

However, if we were aggressively trying to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, or save up for something specific (like a car or a family vacation), this might not be the time for a big splurge.

Of course, I would never encourage you to deny yourself a small treat just so you can save every single penny, but spending hundreds or thousands of dollars extra might not be the best splurge if you’re trying to save up for something or pay down debt.

2. Can we afford to pay cash?

Even though Dave and I use our credit card to buy almost everything, we still won’t buy something if we don’t have the money in the bank to cover the cost.

Of course, there are lots of things we COULD technically afford to pay cash for, but still choose not to splurge on them — which is why we have more questions below!

3. How long are we planning/hoping to use this item?

If the answer is “a long time”, then it’s probably worth the splurge — this is the route we took with many of our home renovations since we hope to live here for a long time. We also usually invest in good computers since we both use them several hours every day.

If the answer is “not very long”, then it’s probably better to save — like with vehicles that we usually replace every few years, or furniture that I regularly rotate and/or sell again.

4. How long will we need to work to pay for this item?

The vast majority of our income is not paid by the hour — but we still often use this question to decide if something is worth the splurge or not.

I might consider my rate for sponsored posts — and then determine if money spent on new furniture or new technology is worth the number of hours it might take me to write another sponsored post.

Or I might consider if the cost of going out to eat for one meal is worth an extra 2 hours of VA work, or if it would be smarter to eat food we already have in the house and save up for something “better”.

It might sound silly, but this little math game works well for me in terms of putting the cost of something into perspective for me.

5. How extravagant is the splurge?

To some, a splurge might mean buying a brand new sports car, the most updated technology, a kitchen renovation, or a $500 pair of jeans. To others, a splurge might mean a 15-minute massage, a new lipstick, or swinging through Biggby for a fancy cup of coffee.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am 100% in favor of small splurges as a way to add a little something extra to our otherwise very ordinary days — but huge splurges definitely don’t make the cut for me on a regular basis.

Dave and I don’t make many extra purchases without at least consulting the other person — and we’ve both talked the other person out of potentially bad splurges in the past!

6. Will the benefits be worth the cost?

This is another question that is very hard to answer across the board since everyone gets enjoyment and fulfillment in different ways.

One example from our family is going to Culver’s once a month. Thanks to coupons, we usually spend less than $15 for our entire family to have dinner and frozen custard for dessert… and our whole family really enjoys it.

I enjoy not cooking, Dave loves Culver’s food, and the kids think it’s fabulous to eat at a “restaurant” (we literally never bring them anywhere but Culver’s and occasionally Arby’s!) So $15 is definitely worth it for our whole family to enjoy a night out.

However, spending $100+ for Dave and I to pay a babysitter and go to a fancier restaurant definitely would NOT be worth it for us right now. Dave and I don’t get a ton of enjoyment from fancy restaurants and our kids do not go to bed well for babysitters. So we’d spend a bunch of money and come home to crabby, over-tired kids. Not worth the splurge!

7. Will I be extremely upset if something happens to the item?

I love decorating my home with cute primitive antiques — however, I haven’t done much decorating over the past 3-4 years because know I would be upset if I spent money on a new decorative item, only to bring it home and have my kids break it somehow.

So before I splurge on anything, I consider how upset I’ll be if my kids ruin it. If I think I’ll be quite upset, then I know this is not the season of life for me to buy that particular item.

However, if I realize I wouldn’t care either way, then I know it will probably be an OK splurge.

8. Can we undo the splurge if we change our minds?

I am much more likely to splurge on something I know I can return or exchange if it doesn’t work out for me (new clothing, items from Amazon, new technology, etc.)

On the flip side, I am less likely to splurge on Craigslist since I know I can’t return anything.

9. Are we willing to wait 24 hours?

Sometimes, splurging is confused with impulse purchases — and while they can both be bad for a budget, they really aren’t the same thing.

A splurge CAN be well thought out (as most of mine are after thinking through the whole list of questions above). However, impulse purchases are just that — impulsive, without much thought.

So whenever I’m contemplating a splurge (especially anything pricier) I always ask myself if I’d be willing to wait 24 hours to make my purchase. If I’d be willing to drive back to a store or log back into my computer to make the purchase, then I know it’s probably worth it. If not, I usually let it pass.

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Of course, there are always little factors and individual situations that veer from these basic guidelines… but in general, these are the questions we think through whenever we’re contemplating a splurge (big or small).

Sometimes I make the wrong choice and regret a splurge, but for the most part, this mental checklist of questions helps put my purchase into perspective, resist impulsive spending, and still enjoy regular splurges and special treats for myself and my family (without feeling guilty!)

How do YOU decide when to save or splurge?

NOTE: I did a little research while writing this post, and realized that June 18 is considered our “National Splurge Day” — ironically 2 days after my birthday!

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4 comments

  1. Debbie

    01/30/2017

    How timely this post is! I just recently did a splurge that took months of research before I even pulled the trigger. Your Question #1 is the most appropriate because if it will hurt our current financial situation I definitely wouldn’t even put in the research to do it. Then just this weekend we also had a discussion on another splurge for an item that has been a dream of mine to have because of my love for music. Your Question #2 was a question we had to answer for ourselves. There was a financing option but a cost involved. The cost of financing outweighed the benefit of just paying it by cash so we chose to pay by cash. We charged it but will be paying it off once the credit card statement comes. This way we also get a cash back bonus. The splurge is something that we will be used for years to come and a beautiful addition to our home at the same time. Thank you for the list of questions you guys go through.. I’m glad that we were on the right track.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well it sounds like you put a lot of thought into your splurge and I doubt you’ll regret it!

    [Reply]

  2. Katherine

    01/30/2017

    I just splurged on a new oversized tote bag for myself. It cost easily three times what I have ever considered spending on myself… But. I had the money from Christmas, I had thought about it for a few months before I purchased, and I chose a company that employs women in difficult circumstances overseas.

    I also thought about the price-per-wear factor, thinking about my last purse. When I consider using this item everyday it seemed worth the splurge.

    It came in the mail last week and I am so happy I went for it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    enjoy your new bag! I fully agree that a well-organized, well-made, well-loved bag is easily worth a hefty price tag!

    [Reply]