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?

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60 comments

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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! :)

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    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.

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  4. 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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  5. 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!

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  6. Debra

    07/09/2012

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

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  7. 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 [...]

  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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!

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