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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?
Want to get your finances in order in 2014? Here are some free resources to help you get started.
Download a free copy of Dave Ramsey’s Guide to Budgeting.
Set up a free online Mint.com account to track your income and outgo and stick with your budget.
Free Savings Tracker: Would you like to know how much you’re really saving by using coupons? You can download the free 2014 Savings Tracker and do just that and more!
Create a budget for the year and calculate the difference between your budgeted and actual expenses with this free Yearly Budget Calculator from Vertex42.
Work out a proposed household budget with this Household Budget Worksheet from Kiplinger.
Get out and stay out of debt with the free BudgetTracker.com.
Are there any free online budgeting tools you use not included in this list? Please let us know in the comments.
It’s Day 2 of the 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge and we’re broaching the “B” word. Yes, we’re talking about budgets.
I know, I know. It’s not glamorous. It’s not fun. And it sounds restrictive.
But here’s the thing: A budget can best one of the best ways to save your sanity and simplify your Christmas. Knowing exactly how much (or little!) you have to spend, will help you to plan your gifts and your shopping accordingly. And will guarantee that you don’t begin the new year with the burden of credit card debt from your holiday spending.
A budget gives you freedom. It lets you be in control of your money — not the other way around. You get to choose how much you’re going to spend and then be intentional about spending it.
When you have a plan, you are empowered. No longer do you have to worry whether you’re going to have enough money to cover your expenditures or whether you’re going to max out your credit cards. You know what you have to spend and that’s what you spend.
Approach your Christmas budget with a can-do, creative attitude. Don’t be frustrated or stressed over how little you have to spend and how many gifts you need to buy. Instead, see it as a challenge: how far can you make your budget go? Your attitude will go a long way in whether or not you are successful at sticking with your budget!
You can do this. I’m cheering for you!
Day 2 Project
2. Decide on a workable, realistic Christmas budget. Don’t stress over this — just pick a number that you know is doable with the resources you currently have. If it feels too low but it’s all you have, don’t feel badly. We’re going to be talking about creative ways to maximize the mileage of your Christmas budget in the next week.
3. Come back at around 9 p.m. EST tonight and I’ll have a follow-up post sharing about our Christmas budget, plus encourage you to leave a comment telling us about yours.
Get Your FREE Copy of Celebrating & Savoring A Simple Christmas
Psst! Be sure to download your FREE Christmas ebook. It’s my gift to you this year — and you’ll need it if you want to participate in this challenge!
To get a copy, just fill out your name and email address here. Then, click on the link in your inbox to confirm your email address. You’ll be emailed a download link as soon as you do so. It’s my gift to you this year — and you’ll need it if you want to participate in this challenge!
The Christmas shopping season is upon us! Don’t let your spending get out of hand and ruin your budget.
For a helping hand, check out the new budgeting tool from Dave Ramsey called My Christmas Budget.
More than a simple budgeting tool, My Christmas Budget will help you get and stay organized for this season’s Christmas shopping. The My Christmas Budget website is mobile-friendly, so you’ll always have your Christmas shopping budget at your fingertips.
To learn more, read 5 Ways Our Christmas Budgeting Tool Will Change Your Life from Dave Ramsey.
Today’s question is from Jessica:
We recently moved into a home that needs work, we also received money from our tax refund and do not want to blow through this. Where should we put our money that will draw interest and be able to access if needed? This is the first time we will actually be able to save our tax refund instead of using it on our home taxes as our mortgage now is all included. -Jessica
Hi Jessica, getting a tax refund always feels good. Like you said, it is important not to blow through it and later find you could have used it more wisely instead of buying that big new toy you’ve always dreamed about.
If I were in your shoes, I would make sure our emergency fund is built up to what we would need should all other sources of income shut off for six months, especially if you are looking at making some sizable repairs to your house in the future that could be a drain on any excess income you have coming in.
I have always used either a money market account at our local bank or an online account that ties to my local bank that I could easily get to if needed for emergency fund and other savings. The reason was solely for the ease of access.
I never really took the interest rate into account (except for the fact that it was higher than the usual savings account) because quick access to me outweighed the return I would get due to interest because the account was not set up for long-term use, other than the emergency fund.
Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.
The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting, or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.