Saving vs. Spending – It’s a Personal Choice

posted by Andrea | 06/27/2012

I’ve had this post on my blog idea list for quite some time now, but I just didn’t know how I wanted to write it or what exactly I wanted to say.

The idea came to me a long time ago when I received a few emails from readers who apparently thought I was “too frugal” and “needed to enjoy life” a little more.

I brushed off the emails because I knew that we did {and still do} enjoy life — and I really wasn’t worried if others thought I was too frugal.

Over the months, I’ve received a few more comments and emails suggesting that we should “go out to eat more”, “travel more”, “not worry about clipping coupons”, etc. etc. But again, I just brushed them off.

So, when I started talking about our kitchen renovations, our new-to-us car, and our summer travels, I assumed these readers would be pleasantly surprised that we were FINALLY spending some of our money and “doing something fun”.

However, I then started to receive emails from readers who were shocked at how much money we would be “wasting” on a new kitchen, a new-to-us car, and vacations — all in such a short period of time.

Looks like I can’t win! :)

Don’t worry about me though — I’m not offended or upset by these comments and emails. I realize that they come with the territory of blogging… and I realize that these people can’t see the whole picture of our lives… so it’s really not a big deal.

But it does offer excellent content for this blog post!

photo source

I know that even in my own life, I have internally judged friends and family members for what they do and don’t spend money on. I do it without even thinking — and I suspect many of you do too!

I’ll automatically assume someone has lots of money because they drive a nice car — but maybe they just really like cars and that’s the ONE thing they’re willing to splurge on (or maybe they just have a big car payment!!)

Or I’ll assume someone is really “cheap” because they won’t spend money on a decent computer (because that is something that I would spend money on) but maybe they don’t need a nice computer and they choose to donate much of that money instead.

We all make choices for how to save and spend our money. Some of them are good choices, some of them might not be so great — but they are OUR choices; and honestly, I don’t think we should have to answer to anyone… especially not people who don’t know our specific financial situation.

Yes?

Here are a few of our financial choices:

SAVING: 

We always buy used vehicles.

We usually limit our vacations to visiting family or friends, or other inexpensive destinations.

We almost always use BOGO coupons at restaurants and usually get water to drink… we also only try to eat at locations that we have gift cards for.

We hardly spend ANY money on clothing (seriously, it’s almost ridiculous, but we both hate shopping). I’ve even gone an entire year without spending $1 on clothing! Our closet is plenty full.

We search Craigslist before we buy anything new… and you’d be amazed at some of the deals we’ve found!

I clip coupons, shop sales, and try to get rock-bottom prices for groceries (this is actually really fun for me!)

We rarely spend any money on entertainment – but rather rent movies to watch at home or do other free activities available in our area

I make my own cleaning products and hardly spend anything on toiletries or cosmetics.

We save a ton by borrowing baby things from friends and family (or buying them used).

SPENDING:

We spend a lot on home renovations. Yes, we still try to find the best deals and we do much of the work ourselves… but renovating an entire house adds up :) Obviously, we knew this before we purchased our farmhouse — and this is one of the main reasons we choose to be so frugal in other areas of our life.

We have cable — granted, it’s basic cable, but it’s still a monthly expense we don’t NEED {although Dave might say we do}

We fully fund our retirement accounts every year. Since I own my own business, I don’t have any type of retirement account so this is really important for us too.

We plan to send our children to a Christian school so we’re already saving :)

We have nice phones, computers, and other electronic devices; partially because of my business, but also because we both use our phones and computers all day long.

photo source

These are just a few examples from our life… obviously I could go on and on. However, my point is that we all have things we’re willing to splurge on and we all have things we scrimp and save on — and that’s OK.

We have friends who take fancy vacations all the time… but they also don’t spend any money on home renovations.

We have other friends who always drive new cars… but they live in a smaller house and don’t do much traveling.

Then we have family and friends who spend a lot of money purchasing organic food, free-range meat, and other fair-trade products… as you can imagine, they don’t spend money going out to eat.

We have relatives who purchased a massive TV with surround sound and have all the channels you could possibly want, but they have a really old computer and still pay for dial-up internet.

I have a couple friends who splurge on manicures, pedicures, fancy spa treatments, expensive salon visits, and brandname clothing, but they live in small appartements and don’t spend much on furniture or decorations.

While these are not the things I would choose to save or spend money on, they aren’t necessarily bad… just different.

Dave and I were talking about this the other day. We had to laugh because some of the same people (friends/family) who give us a hard time about being so “cheap” are now the ones who have hinted that “maybe we shouldn’t be spending so much on our kitchen renovation”.

Sigh…

We really can’t win.

Have you ever been “judged” for saving or spending?

top image credit

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60 comments

  1. Marina

    06/27/2012

    I like to refer to these personal choices as PRIORITIES. Everyone has their own and I feel everyone’s should be respected. The only issue I really have is when people constantly complain about being broke while they spend plenty of money… very frustrating, especially when I’m the friend or co-worker who they’re ranting to… but it all boils down to priorities in our lives.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Agreed. I usually don’t care how other spend their money — but I do get aggravated when I see them spending it foolishly and then have to listen to them complain about not having enough money.

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  2. PW

    06/27/2012

    People have different ways of spending money–what should be spent and how and for what is very individualistic. Even in our own household my husband spends $ on things I would never buy, and I spend $ on things he would not buy. Those are personal purchases and limited in $ spent. Who cares. We rarely go out to eat, but did splurge on a $120 dinner for the 2 of us, it was in a nice hotel when we traveled. That is a rare expenditure and we had many discussions about spending the $. The meal was not really worth it, but the time together in a nice restaurant with a nice glass of wine is a rarity for us. Maybe once a year. We prefer to eat at home, I can whip up a gourmet meal that rivals that restaurant. But I didn’t want to. We buy used cars and I took a 15 day vacation, and both of us will be taking another week vacation to Michigan soon. We save for these items, and don’t waste $ with take out food, junk we don’t use, cable tv and things like that. We need to re-do our kitchen but July 2011 our finished basement flooded, something that in 20 years has never happened and it was a $30,000 loss for us. $ we had set aside for our kitchen remodel. It will have to wait. Things happen, I advise spend $ on things you really want or need. For some people a weekly trip to McD’s is a good expenditure. For us we took that $ saved it up for an expensive restaurant.

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    Glenne Reply:

    And these choices change over time too. When my girls were little I worked full-time during the day and my husband was home with them. He then worked 2 or 3 evenings a week. Each Friday night my hubby had a night off making dinner and while he was at work I’d take our girls to the local Macca’s. Although now they’re adults they wouldn’t eat it, at the time it was a huge favorite treat. We’d sit outside in the playground after we’d eaten and they’d play, show off to me, and run back to tell me things, it was always a fun evening and time for just mum and the girls. It’s one of the many simple happy memories they have of childhood and though it’s money we didn’t have to spend it was something they looked forward to all week. We also are “homebodies” who apart from that always eat well, simply & at home, so there was no real harm done. My point is we wouldn’t spend money that way now but it was money well spent at that point in time & I would do exactly the same given that time over :)

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  3. Melissa Q

    06/27/2012

    Amen, amen, and amen!

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  4. STH

    06/27/2012

    I have gotten flak from people for being frugal, just like I’ve gotten flak over eating healthy. I think there are those who want to make changes in their diets or spending habits but haven’t and it makes them uncomfortable seeing someone who has. My former supervisor always used to comment on the lunches I’d bring to work: “but doesn’t that take a lot of time to make?,” “isn’t it hard?” And she’d go out and spend too much on lunch, eat too much, and complain about her weight and that she didn’t have any money! See, here I am passing judgment on her choices now. ;) I have a hard time being sympathetic toward people who fritter away all their money, then complain they don’t have any!

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    Anonymous Reply:

    I think you hit the nail on the head there. Other people are uncomfortable because they see you doing what they know they should be doing but lack the willpower to do. That being said, I really don’t mind how people spend their hard earned money if they earned it. It’s the people who live on public assistance, free food, free med/dental yet they have the money for the latest technology, manicured nails, tattoos. I feel no ill will to those who truly need public assistance, but I would say that if you can’t afford to buy your own food, you can’t afford those other things either. And I speak from experience: my sister is one of those people.

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  5. B

    06/27/2012

    Andrea, I too love your blog and appreciate so much your simplicity, sincerity and truthfulness in your writing and your life; it spells CHRISTIAN!! I admire how you and your husband have carefully used and spent your money, you are exactly doing what the Bible says and following His Word, that’s the whole point of life!! Sometimes when people “think” they know how and when you should spend your money, to me that spells JEALOUSY!! Keep doing what you are doing Andrea and at the same time loving it!! You’re on the right track!!! Amen, Amen!!!!

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  6. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    06/27/2012

    Great post. How money is spent is definitely a personal issue, and unless it affects us directly, how someone spends their money is none of our business.

    My husband and I don’t travel but we do work on our house. My sister-in-law doesn’t spend money on our house but she travels. Like you said, we each have our priorities.

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  7. Candis

    06/27/2012

    Hi there, my first post!  I found your website looking for different ways to be organized and ended up finding a blog that offers so much more. My financial situation is not the best to say the least. I am 30yrs and single. I have quite I a bit of debt, credit cards, a student loan that has not kicked that I did not need to take out but did. I said all that to say this, when I first started the blog I tired some of the things that you suggested the cleaning supplies the shampoo. And I started getting frustrated because I like the scent of some of the cleaners and I like the store bought shampoo. I felt guilty because I thought if I was serious about getting out of debit I would do what it takes and while that maybe true, I decided that I will cut back on buy lunch or wasting money at the grocery, planning meals, etc. And I will buy my $8.00 bottle of shampoo and $6.00 Dove soap every couple months. I realize I had to taken in the information and in the end choose what was best for me. I hope to report in a year or so that I am on my way to being debt free. Best regards.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m so glad to read this Candis! Totally fine if you want to splurge on your $8.00 bottle of shampoo or cleaners — I could think of much larger things you could splurge on :) Also, the fact that you are actually working towards being debt-free is more than most people can say… keep it up!

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    Glenne Reply:

    I agree completely; if that bottle of shampoo or nice cake of soap prevents you from saying “this is just too hard, too much sacrifice” & then giving up, then it’s an investment in your savings! All of our caution and frugality needs to be balanced with the fact that our lives need some joy…we need to prepare for tomorrow but also live for the day. So again if that small outlay is enough to satisfy your need for pampering & indulgence then it’s good value and you should feel happy to buy it :)

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    Candis Reply:

    Thank you – it is a little daunting to get out of debt but I am committed to doing so.

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  8. Angela Ferguson

    06/27/2012

    You are doing nothing wrong of course, but judgment will always come as sure as the sun shines. You have “built” your home and set your foundation, now you are building out.. literally! Your home is your haven and the center for most and the comfort and convenience it provides SHOULD be a priority in my opinion.

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  9. Julie

    06/27/2012

    What a great post! My husband and I always buy used vehicles and in the past we have paid cash..no payment. However, my car (that I have had for 10 years and paid less than $7,000) recently broke down while we were out of town. We were at least a 100 miles from home and had to be towed which cost $400. Needless to say I am looking for another car and I will buy a used low mileage car again. The takeaway…I was able to pay the $400 towing bill and get my car fixed because I had no other debt other than my house and monthly bills which is good because…. that same week my bathroom flooded. We are having new tile installed this week and I am able to pay for that. I said all the above to say this….yes I can afford to buy a new car, but why? My friends and family do not understand why, but so what! :) Being frugal is fun and it just makes sense to me!

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  10. Rachel

    06/27/2012

    Thank you for this post. I have recently been frustrated about this exact topic because the complaining comes from my own family regarding how my husband and I spend our money. We choose to go without certain luxuries so that we can enjoy others. We also have the funding to provide for any home/auto repairs or medical expenses as they arise because of these savings. The constant criticism, though, can sometimes make me second guess the decisions we’ve made. Thank you for your encouragement to keep living the simple life!

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  11. Andrea

    06/27/2012

    Andrea, I’m a relatively new visitor to your blog (I’ve been lurking for a while though :), and I can’t emphasize just how impressed I am with your tips and insights! I’m a full time graduate student, having recently left a teaching position, who needs to budget just a little bit better. How true it is that priorities differ based on personal choices and preferences.

    I’ve always considered organization to be my strong point, but your design suggestions are allowing me to do a complete overhaul of my living space. Thanks!

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  12. Jen

    06/27/2012

    Thanks for sharing this post! We all judge each other and it’s hard not too. But we all spend money different ways, way to go for being so frugal! I think it’s great! Can’t wait to see your kitchen when it’s done : )

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  13. jerilyn

    06/28/2012

    SO true! We rarely travel! My husband and I like to do 1 weekend away together a year… otherwise we’ll drive to visit my inlaws and that’s it. We spend money on good shoes that’s something that’s important to us. I’m also not going to feed my family crap because good food is important to me so I spend a bit more on food. To each their own. I can’t believe people email you about that stuff!

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  14. Elizabeth

    06/28/2012

    Great post!!! Clearly what you’re experiencing is not a unique phenomena.

    We get “judged” a lot by our financial choices too. I guess to others they don’t make sense or they can’t understand how we do what we do cause they don’t see the whole picture.

    I stay home (but I worked for 10 years including a 1 year reassignment to a foreign country…talk about overtime!!!). We only buy new cars (but we don’t have any car payments and we keep them until they no longer roll down the hill). We have a home theater, an in-ground pool, an outdoor kitchen, etc etc (noone can see the blood, sweat and tears that went into making each one).

    And they definitely don’t see the little things we do that make a huge difference, I love to hit yard sales and thrift stores. Craigslist is my favorite site. I hit the bakery outlet and the day old bread aisle first. I cook almost all of our meals at home, from scratch and freeze the leftovers. I don’t use paper products (except toilet paper). It’s all small stuff but it adds up quite nicely into something wonderful….like that pool.

    Let them judge. I’m not in debt and I’m having a great life.

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  15. Truffles Magazine

    06/28/2012

    The most important thing to saving versus spending is taking X percent of your monthly income and putting that away for savings.

    As far as spending goes the portion of any monthly budget that is for spending (after savings is set aside) doesn’t matter where it goes. Spending money is spending whether its groceries, designer clothes, a car payment, mortgage, vacations, home renovations, private schooling, etc. Each person/family has different priorities that fit their life style.

    Ultimately where YOU spend YOUR money is up to you and Dave. There is always someone willing to judge or better yet give you some unsolicited advice. I don’t care where other people spend their money as long as I don’t have to listen to it and personally I will tell someone flat out well you can change where you spend your money. Obviously I am not going to tolerate listening to others complain about their foolish choices.

    From reading your blog I can tell this is something that not only you and Dave want but need (the kitchen reno) you spend a lot of time in that kitchen cooking, baking and canning so from a practical standpoint its a room you use and spend lots of time in so it makes sense to renovate it. On the other hand it may not make sense (if you have the money it doesn’t matter) if you were the couple who ate dinner out every night (I know I have friends who do and renovating their kitchen still stuck in the 70s) is of no importance to them because its a room they barely use.

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  16. Caroline

    06/28/2012

    I think in some circumstances the judgement is actually people caught in the comparison trap. Especially when you are a person that believes you are saving enough and you read about others living a mostly frugal lifestyle but they still have more than you, it makes you question things. Tricky thing is none of us know the numbers.

    As so many have already said it comes down to priorities. For me, I believe my money allows me to take a stance. There are certain things I buy because I believe in the product/company and people think I’m being stuck-up and other things I completely do without because I’m disappointed in the product/company and then I’m accused of being cheap! For example, we don’t have cable. Only one company is offered in our area and I don’t agree with their business practices so they aren’t getting my money! And wouldn’t you know we do just fine without it? My in-laws have told us we’re being “cheapskates” but it’s not about that. Not to mention that monthly expense would add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year and that’s just not how we want to spend our money. Emphasis on OUR money. : )

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  17. jan

    06/29/2012

    Great post, well said…no one ever has “enough” money but its what we choose to do with what we have that matters and living authentically to your own values etc and how our seasons and likes and dislikes change!….However the fact remains that many people do not handle money well …love your blog that encourages and inspires us to be good manages and stewards….there are seasons of intense frugality and seasons of spending as family needs, chns ages and life changes….enjoy your fab new kitchen when it comes!! love and care from Adelaide Australia

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  18. Sally

    07/02/2012

    I applaud you for having the courage to be so open and honest about this (delicate) topic. A lot of people aren’t so honest about their budgeting (are they hiding something?) I think our society has certainly placed its value on a lot of the wrong things — big house, big car, big everything (and big usually = expensive). I like your priorities! I think most people have too much stuff, and I think less really is more.

    With all of this said, however, the one are that you and I disagree is about food. A lot of the food that you buy (because of the cost) is not exactly the healthiest. Those big box stores sell food in boxes. Stay away from food in boxes! Those big bottles of ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressing, etc. are all loaded with high fructose corn syrup and preservatives up the wazoo. On the one hand, you’re doing it right by making your own cleaners, but think about what’s going in your body too. I am more than happy to spend a little more on hormone-free dairy and meats, as well as things like no-sugar added peanut butter, whole fruit jelly, etc. Read the ingredient labels – you’ll be shocked! Think about your daughter (a little older) and starting to eat that stuff, and it might give you a little change of heart.

    Those coupons that you clip are usually for foods that are processed. You won’t find coupons for organic carrots, sweet potatoes, hormone-free butter, etc. :) Anyway, just some food for thought! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Sally, but I think you kind of missed the point of this post. The point is that we should be able to spend our money on whatever we want (within our budget) and not worry about being judged.

    So the fact some people want to spend money on a big house, a big car, or organic groceries is perfectly fine — as long as they aren’t going into major amounts of debt to do so. As I mentioned in the post, Dave and I save money on lots of things (like going out to eat, fancy vacations, new cars, and expensive groceries) so we can afford a bigger house with a big yard. However, we have friends who spend way more money on vacations, cars, food, etc. and live in an apparent.

    Neither of us are spending our money in “right” or “wrong” ways — just differently.

    [Reply]

  19. Sharon

    07/03/2012

    My husband and I are often chided by friends for being so frugal. We earn more money than most of them, but live a much more frugal lifestyle. However, we’re in our early 30s, are fully set for retirement and pay cash for everything. I didn’t want to end up like my parents who are in their 60s and still working 50-60 hrs/ week each because they weren’t smart with their money. It’s all about priorities and one of our biggest priorities is peace of mind!

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  20. Joan

    07/05/2012

    My husband and I are often judged for the amount of traveling we have done since getting married two years ago. We are living overseas, both making decent salaries, and not paying for housing, utilities, or healthcare. We have no children, purchased very inexpensive used cars, minimally decorated/furnished our apartment (mostly loaner furniture), and don’t spend a lot of money in our day to day lives on eating out or entertainment. However, we have visited more than 10 countries in the past two years… which is the only thing that most people in our lives are able to see.

    Family members and friends often make comments about how we should be saving for a house or other future expenses rather than traveling, without knowing that we max out our retirement savings accounts, Roth IRA accounts, and save my entire salary on top of that. We have friends in our same situation who have chosen to not travel, but purchased new furniture, nicer cars, and go out to eat and drink on a daily basis. It all amounts to different priorities and ways of thinking. My husband and I have chosen to prioritize travel and savings. We are happy with our choices, living within our means, and preparing for our future. So it really doesn’t matter what others have to say about it!

    [Reply]

  21. Debra

    07/09/2012

    I don’t have any criticism for you. I enjoy being here.

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  22. A Closer Look at Our Minimalist Wardrobe | Super Organized Life

    12/09/2012

    [...] if you love buying and shopping for clothing (as long as you aren’t going into debt doing so). We all save and splurge on different things — and it just so happens that clothing is not one of the things we want to splurge [...]

  23. Amanda

    06/25/2013

    I’m with you 100%. Growing up, we lived in a more modest home than many of my friends, but my parents had nicer cars than their parents. My dad is a huge car guy (has been since he was a kid), and he also spent a lot of time driving for work, so he wanted to be in a nicer, more comfortable car. When I was working, I bought a brand new car because I knew it was going to be something I was putting a lot of miles on it for work, but again, it was a choice. I didn’t buy more car than I could afford, but I did buy new (however, I also plan to drive it for a long time, especially now that it’s paid off)

    It is totally about priorities. I will say the hardest thing for our family was adjusting to life on only my husband’s salary when I went to being a SAHM. We had to re-adjust our priorities and look for places to create more savings so that we could continue to fund our retirement accounts, savings account, and maintain our giving.

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  24. Katie

    06/25/2013

    Hi Andrea!

    My husband and I just started the Dave Ramsey total money makeover and I’ve been so inspired by your blog over the last year. Thanks for sharing, and being an inspiration to live life to the fullest- debt free!

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  25. Sue

    06/25/2013

    Andrea,
    I love your blog! I am a grandmother of two and appreciate your candidness and the information that you offer to young moms and even older moms like me. You are right about money, it is a choice and everyone earns and spends the way they deem appropopriate. Along the way, we learn what works best for our family. I love seeing young people see the value in being frugal rather than thinking they deserve it all now. It is a journey …. Keep up the great writing!

    [Reply]

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