Note: This post was inspired by Andrea Dekker’s post on how they decide what to splurge on and what to save on.
I think that many people have this idea that if you’re frugal, it means you’re miserable. That you save every single penny and hold onto it for dear life.
In my view, that’s not what frugality looks like at all. Yes, I’m an advocate of never spending more than you need to. Yes, I’m a firm believer in taking time to scout out the best deal. Yes, I’m all about making-do and doing without if you are in a tight spot financially.
But despite all of this, I do not believe that you should become a miser or a tightwad in the name of “frugality.” After all, I believe money is just a tool. The purpose of money is not to accumulate as much of it as you can; it’s to do as much good with it as you can.
This is not just about giving and making an impact, but also about investing and spending your money in a way that is in line with your family’s priorities. It means deciding to save money in areas that don’t matter to you so that you can spend more money in areas that do matter to you.
For the first few years of our marriage, pretty much every extra penny went to paying for making it through undergrad and law school debt-free. We had made a choice: 1) to invest our money into law school and 2) to try to do it debt-free.
By making these choices, it meant that other things had to take a back seat: we didn’t buy anything that wasn’t a basic necessity and we made-do over and over again in order to stay out of debt.
Choices can have either consequences or rewards. In this case, it turned out to be rewards because those choices put us in a position to eventually have wiggle room in our budget to make other choices — like being able to splurge on some budget areas that are important to us.
As our budget has increased, we’ve have lots of conversations over what areas are priorities to us and what really matters to our family long-term. These priorities sometimes change as our seasons of life change — and that’s a good thing! Priorities and needs change over time and so should our budget.
Here are 6 things we have decided are worth splurging on right now in this season of our life:
1. Giving Generously
This is paramount to everything we do and the driving force behind why we want to manage our money well. Truly, there is so much blessing in being a giver!
And the thing we’ve found is that you can’t out-give God. The more we open up our hands and let Him use our resources to impact others, the more fulfillment and joy we receive in return.
2. Children’s Activities/Sports
All of our kids are actively involved in one sport — Kathrynne is on swim team, Kaitlynn takes ice skating lessons and private coaching, and Silas just started baseball. Each of these costs a fair amount of money — from the cost of equipment to the costs involved with competitions and swim meets, to the costs involved with lessons and coaching.
For some families, this investment might not seem worth it — especially when you factor in the time investment (Kathrynne has swim practice/meets 3-4 times per week, Kaitlynn has lessons/coaching 3-4 times per week, and Silas has baseball once per week). For our family right now, we feel that this is money and time well invested because of the character we see our children developing.
Not only do these activities encourage our children to be more outgoing and brave in new situations with new kids and adults, but it challenges them to work hard, learn to listen and follow the instructions of their teachers and coaches, face their fears head-on, and have a good attitude even when they struggle or don’t place well in a competition. We truly believe that the lessons they are learning from these sports will be invaluable for them the rest of their life.
Case in point, just last night, Kaitlynn showed me a large bruise on her arm that she’d gotten from a bad fall in ice skating. I said something like, “Ouch! That had to really hurt!” She quickly responded enthusiastically, “My coach says that if you don’t have bruises, you’re not an ice skater!”
Instead of running from hard things, she’s embracing them as part of the process of perfecting new ice-skating jumps and maneuvers!
3. A Cleaning Lady
I fought against the idea of hiring a cleaning lady for a long, long time. It felt so extravagant and just plain wrong for a frugal person like me to spend their money on.
But Jesse kept on encouraging me to just consider it. Finally, after much coaxing from him, I broke down and tried it one time.
And I was hooked.
For many people, this might not be a wise investment of their money and I honestly hesitated to even put this out here publicly for awhile because I know that some people might be a little put off by it.
But here’s the truth: Jesse and I both work 30-40 hours per week and we are committed to homeschooling our kids, so we’re learning that we have to look for ways to streamline and simplify our lives if we want to have breathing room and margin.
Having a cleaning lady come in a few times per month saves us at least 15-20 hours each month. That’s 15-20 hours we get back to invest in our kids, invest in our marriage, and maybe even to spend sleeping or just enjoying downtime!
When we divided the cost by the number of hours it saves us, we realized that it was very worth this expense for this season of life. Because we make a good income and because we found a cleaning service with good rates, it really only costs us a few hours of our time working to pay for the cleaning service each month. Right now in my life, I’m all about spending a few hours of time working in order to save 15-20 hours per month!
We still have to keep up the daily maintenance — and we all pitch in to help with laundry, pick up, bathrooms, kitchen cleaning, etc., but it’s been incredibly helpful to have someone come in and clean our floors, dust, deep clean the shower/tubs/toilets, and clean our windows.
4. A Good Hair Stylist (for me)
I’ve mentioned this before, but this is probably one of my biggest (and one of the few!) splurges I make on myself.
There’s something about a good hair day that just makes the whole day so much better! Having a good hair stylist means that I have mostly good hair days instead of constantly fussing and being frustrated with my hair when I mostly cut it myself.
When I started going to get my hair done at a more expensive place about five years ago, I quickly realized what a difference it made. My hair looked much nicer. It was much easier to fix. And it needed very little maintenance from me on a daily basis.
In addition, Jesse loves it when I spend time and money on my appearance (he’s the spender in our relationship, remember?!), so investing some money on my hair every other month is actually a way that I show my husband that what’s important to him is important to me.
5. A Gym Membership (for Jesse)
When we moved to Tennessee, Jesse signed up for a guy’s fitness group at a small locally-owned gym here. Honestly, this has been one of the best things he’s ever done for his health!
He’s faithfully gone to the gym at 6 a.m. 3 times each week almost every week since signing up and it’s been so amazing to see the impact it’s made in his life. Not only has he gotten a lot stronger and fitter, he’s had so much more energy and zest for life as a result!
I love to see how healthy and strong he’s becoming and how he’s pushing himself and excelling. The accountability and motivation he’s received from going to the gym and being apart of this group for the past 10 months has been life-changing for him!
6. Traveling as a Family
We keep things pretty simple at our house and don’t spend a lot of money on Christmas or birthdays. Instead, we’ve decided to prioritize traveling and giving our children experiences versus things.
Since we homeschool and Jesse and I are both self-employed and can work anywhere, this allows us the flexibility to be able to travel regularly. And we all love doing so!
We’ve found a lot of ways to travel inexpensively: we look for great deals online and book things when they are at their lowest rates, we almost always use the same airline and hotel chain so that we can rack up points and use these for free tickets and hotel stays, and, as much as is possible, we utilize credit from Swagbucks to cover the costs of some of our travel expenses.
While these tricks allow us to spend as little money out of pocket as possible each trip, we still do invest a fair amount of money on travel each year. However, for our family, the memories we make, the things we get to the see, the history and geography we learn together, the experiences we get to share… are all worth the investment.
Your turn: What does YOUR family splurge on? Or what do you hope to splurge on when you have the wiggle room someday?