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Is it wrong to splurge?

I really enjoyed and appreciated all of the comments on my Is Frugality Really Worth It? post last week (Click over and read it here, if you haven’t already.)

I’m pretty sure most all of us agree that having a purpose behind our frugality gives much more meaning and motivating for saving money. However, while I think it is a wonderful thing to live simply so that others can simply live, I don’t think this means we shouldn’t ever splurge, we should always buy the cheapest of everything, or that we should go without everything unnecessary lest we spend a penny more than we need to.

On the contrary, I think it’s important that we have balance and breathing room in our lives — and in our budgets. If we pack our schedules so full that we never have a moment to spare and can never just stop and smell the roses, we’ll likely end up rushing through life and missing out on some of the best moments of life altogether. We’ll also probably be frazzled, stressed, and exhausted much or all of the time.

In the same way, I believe it’s important that we give ourselves breathing room and find a healthy balance when it comes to our finances. It’s wonderful to be really focused and aggressive when it comes to paying off debt or saving to pay cash for something and it’s absolutely life-changing to be in a position where you can give generously, but I want to encourage you to not become so frugal that you forget to give yourself space in your budget to strategically splurge.

If we scrimp and save so much that we never have any wiggle room to enjoy and savor life, we’ll likely lead a miserable existence. That said, strategic splurging doesn’t have to mean you go and spend hundreds of dollars. It could be something as simple as ordering pizza once a month with a coupon or stopping by the bookstore every other week, ordering a coffee, and browsing books to add to your library list. Or having a fun family outing using a Groupon voucher every few months.

What matters most is not how much or little money you spend, but that you choose to strategically splurge on something that is important for your family, something that you love and enjoy, and something that will boost your morale and keep you going strong on your frugal journey.

Living frugally is not about living so miserly that you can’t ever enjoy life. In fact, going for years without breathing room in your budget will suffocate and frustrate you. So budget for strategic splurging — and then you’re able to enjoy it guiltlessly because it’s a line item in your budget!

*Note: For most of us, there will be seasons in life where there is little or no wiggle room in the budget. If you’re in one of those seasons, don’t lose heart. Constantly remind yourself that the frugal decisions you are making will pay off and be encouraged that you are doing so much better than you would be doing if you weren’t being so frugal. {Read my post here for more encouragement and ideas if you feel like you’re in a really desperate situation financially.}

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47 Comments

  • Your posts are always so encouraging. Thank you!

  • Michelle says:

    With four kids four and under (including a seven-week-old), we’ve found that much of our time is spent (and rightfully invested) in these little lives. One of the things my husband enjoys is cycling and so we recently splurged on a tandem bike (Craigslist find). We’re already looking forward to going on a cycling-date. But in the meantime, we’ve hooked up two trailers to the bike and have enjoyed cycling as a family. This is one area we’re willing to spend a little money since it’s something we all can enjoy together and get some exercise too!

  • The best thing we ever did for our finances (other than going through Crown Financial) was to be okay with our decisions about spending and saving. There are so many personal factors to weigh for each person for his/her budget. Knowing exactly why you are making the decisions you are based on your goals makes “frugality” so much easier. (And it eliminates the frustration of comparing yourself to others.)

  • I can’t say I never splurge and compared to the rest of the world, I have it good…really good. When I want to splurge though, or I get discontent with what I “have”, I try to look for ways to bless others. This video from Vision Trust says a lot about what we really have and who we can really bless from our abundance. It’s convicting, just a warning but such a great “kick in the pants” to give to those in need. http://4our2cents.com/2012/06/live-well-save-well-play-well-give-well.html

  • I agree so much with this post! Being frugal has looked different at different times in life, and so has our “splurges!” When the hubs lost his job a few years ago, we cut back EVERYTHING. However, once every couple of weeks, we walked to McDonalds (no gas to pay for!) and our big “splurge” was a cone and a $1 Redbox movie (which we usually got for free with a code). Sure, we didn’t need to spend the $2-3, but it kept us sane.

    Now, our splurges are a little bit bigger, but I’m sure not anywhere near as big as other’s. But I agree – finding a balance that works for you, as well as figuring out what is important to your family can help keep you going!

    • WilliamB says:

      I found that my splurges were more meaningful when I was broke, then they are now. Not that I want to go back to those days, but it’s worth remembering. The marginal value of a splurge is much greater, when there’s so little to have otherwise.

  • Jody Susan says:

    It’s fun when freebies are your splurges – getting paid for Starbucks with Register Rewards, signing up for text alerts at Sonic for a free ice cream – and my favorite of all – birthday freebies – nobody has as much fun as frugal girls during their birthday month!

    • Stephanie says:

      You made me smile. I am a college student & I love my birthday month. 😉 I feel spoiled. I love it. I feel like my.birthday month is the time when all of the hardwork of scrimping & saving pays off. It’s a month of free food. Ha. So many treats like free ECB and everything. However, my favorite treat is all of the cards I get. Those are priceless 😮 Love is the one thing that money can’t buy!

  • Cassi says:

    Tonight my husband came home for work and I asked him if he was ready to go out to eat…his response was “What?” I asked him if he would like to go out to eat and he looked at me kinda shocked and asked if we had money for that…when I said that we did he went inside to change and off we went to the local grocery store for a nice little family meal where everyone got exactly what they wanted without any fuss. We spent less than $30 and we were all satisfied 🙂 Surprise splurges can be fun too!

  • We splurge on various things, but they are intentional and within our budget. Those are the greatest splurges because then there’s no “buyer’s regret”. Thanks for the reminder, Crystal!

  • I think having some wiggle room in your budget is also great for your marriage. My husband is a spender and I am a saver. I am almost fanatical in finding ways to tighten our budget and stretch our small income. He helps me to remember to stop and smell the roses and not miss out on the best things in life you described. We’re a good balance that way. The wiggle room in our budget allows him to work on creative projects, be generous, or otherwise indulge in ways that I might not do with my cheapskate ways.

    We don’t go out more than a few times a year for dinner or date nights, so one of his favorite splurges (once or twice a month) is a Ben & Jerry’s date night. He picks up 2 pints of our favorite flavors from the grocery store and we watch a movie on our couch after the kids have gone to bed. Another favorite splurge is about once a month we’ll indulge in a $5.99 hot-and-ready carry-out pizza from Little Caesars, and then I get a night off from cooking for our family. 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    i’ve found that my focus has changed since becoming a SAHM. I used to splurge on Coach purses and mani/pedi’s. This weekend, I just splurged on a freezer for freezer meals, etc 🙂

    • Kimberly says:

      Isn’t that the truth! When I was working I had a closet full of shoes and clothes, more than anyone really needs. Now I have an almost minimalist wardrobe (not quite to Crystal’s status though) and am beyond excited over my new bread machine. WHAT?!

      • Christy Carden says:

        I am a working mom and still don’t spend nearly as much money on clothes and shoes as I used to. And a pedicure is maybe a once a year thing, instead of once a moth! My toenails are currently not even painted—gasp!

  • Stephanie says:

    I splurge on 2 things. Yankee candles and Juicy Couture perfume. I am almost done with college . So I want to smell like a lady not a bag of cotton candy. I want.future employers to take me seriously
    not smelling like the state fair! Also, I only buy yankee candles when they are B2G2. I don’t use any other form of scented sprays, oils, or plugins in my apartment. So yes I am a Yankee snob 😉

    • Susan says:

      I can totally relate! Used to be Yankee candle snob — now I’m a Scentsy snob. 🙂

      • Stephanie says:

        I just can’t seem to get into those. I only burn the same scent of Yankee. It’s the only thing I use. My apartment now smells like garlic because I made lasagna roll-ups last night. Ha. Do you just buy the candles or what all do you buy? If I may ask?

  • bobcat says:

    Yes, I think splurging every once in awhile can be a good thing, but not all the time. What I’ve noticed, is that the more frugal you are…your gratitude increases when you DO splurge. So you get more out of the “splurge.” And you are so grateful, you don’t feel the need to splurge as often, because the feeling of gratitude enables a little bit of splurging to go longer (like I only need a $5 mocha once a month, not once a week). In other words, you take nothing for granted because of your frugality! Win-win!

    • Becky says:

      I think this is very true! For the most part, my splurges are pretty minimal compared to most of my friends, but I know that I have the wiggle room to splurge when and if I want to. However, if I’m really pushing to meet an extra financial goal or pay some unexpected bills and I cut back on splurges, the ones I do squeeze in seem twice as fullfilling! Knowing this actually encourages me to keep a stricter budget than I might otherwise.

  • I agree. I remember reading a long time ago in the Tightwad Gazette series that Frugality looks different in every family, since every family has different priorities some rather skimp of food costs so they can enjoy going to the movies. Others might drive beaters but live in big houses. The important thing is using frugality to live within your means. To not dig yourself into debt each month to pay your bills. My husband and I from day 1 of our 17 year marriage have each had a personal amount of money each week that we can spend however we want. We also splurge on various things that make our priority list but still allow us to live our wage.

  • celeste says:

    My Hubby and I splurge…just recently we took a day trip to the beach and got someone to come walk and play with our puppy while away.

    We try to do things out of the ordinary but we do have our horses and it’s a big joy in life.

    My husband has 2 boys and our four legged children are our children together (my choice).

    There are many things that can be a splurge for us. Not cooking and having a wawa night or even Outback carry away. The goal for us is to not let eating out become a habit, but a real treat. That was one of the big things that used to kill our budget and make us wonder where our money went before we became frugal.

  • Meredith says:

    I splurge on getting my car washed at a car wash place. Being a sahm and constantly being busy, it’s worth it. Sometimes a splurge helps you stay sane!!!!!

  • Sarah says:

    The story of Ebeneezer Scrooge taught folks about saving every quarter of a penny. If you look and relook at your budget to cut back in certain areas for a while. We cut back on food (we were hungry and it was not really wise) but we cut other areas too for awhile and we managed to save $25K which helped us to get into a new to us car for cash.

    PS : I can’t agree more with the car wash / I tried to detail hubbies car for him for Father’s day for a gift. I simply could not get it right. I took it to the detail place it was $150 the car looks brand new again, he is having so much fun driving it.

  • karen says:

    Everything in moderation, be it living frugally or splurging, is a nice uncomplicated philosophy!

  • Jessica H says:

    Sometimes our splurges don’t involve money at all, but just extra time set aside as a family to do something we enjoy. This keeps us content with what we have and allows us to keep saving. It is amazing the fun you can have with just a little creativity! It isn’t that we never spend money on splurges. It just helps us be to content with have less.

    • Becky says:

      This is so wise! I realize that I tend to splurge most often when I am trying to do too many things or am short on sleep. It’s an artificial way to keep myself going. Next time I feel this way, I will try to remember to “splurge” by giving myself the luxury of slowing down for a couple minutes or going to bed early to catch up on sleep. Thank you!

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    It’s importanat to have SOME kind of “splurge money” in your budget. My husband and I each get a weekly allowance to spend anyway we want no questions asked. Inevitably half of mine goes on my Starbucs giftcard (so I can earn free drinks) and buy a coffee daily. Not a fancy expensive drink, just coffee. You will see in so many places “don’t buy coffee, drink at home, save this much!”. That is fine and dandy and if you are strapped on your budget I agree. Since I have this amount to spend how I want, this is my daily splurge…I don’t really take the time to do much for myself, because as a working mom I feel whatever free time I DO have should be spent with my kids when they are awake! SO for me, this is my me time AND I get the added benefit of being kept awake to get through the day!

  • Katie says:

    We recently added an “Entertainment” envelope to our envelope budgeting system. In the past, we would just use money from the “Misc” envelope but it seemed like we would run out of money mid-month. I use money from the Entertainment envelope to buy extra food to have friends over for dinner, take our kids to the pool or to get ice cream, or go to a movie. It has really helped to feel like we’re not missing out on anything and still sticking to the budget!

  • Sally says:

    Perhaps the question isn’t “Is it right or wrong to splurge?” but is, “Is it appropriate considering my financial progress and goals?”.

  • Adam says:

    Fantastic article! I couldn’t agree more. Its important to not let frugality become an obsession or at least to keep it as a healthy obsession (if that exists). And the best way to do that, I think, is to blow off steam by splurging–in a rational manner–every so often.

  • Susan says:

    Great article Crystal.

    I “splurge” probably more than many readers of this blog. Right at this moment I’m typing from a nice hotel room. I enjoy traveling and I like to expose my pre-teen-age daughter to different things and places, so we take vacations two or three times a year. Cash only — I never incur credit-card debt as a result of a vacation. I save as much as I can in other areas in order to make this possible.

    I always look for travel deals (my current hotel was only $49/night on an internet special. It’s not fancy but it is clean and comfortable, has a nice pool, and free breakfast in the on-site grille — way better than the usual “continental” breakfasts.

    Anyway, my point is that it is all a matter of priority.

  • Em says:

    We purposely put “fun” categories in our budget each payday. Eating out, vacation, netflix, camping are four of them.
    The vacation one will not be used for three years to save enough for Disney. The camping is only used inthe summer so it builds up over the winter. We started saving $3 a payday before we got netflix so we have some in there to rent a new movie or do on demand at the last minute.

    I also made categories for extra groceries for holidays or when friends come over or want to go out.

    The cushion is so nice so there is not a worry that a bill will not be paid because we went and had fun as a family!

    ( I also agree with a little “no ask” money each payday. My husband gets 20 and I get 10. I get less because I needed to curb my spending and realize how quickly money goes. He rarely spends any money what so ever so it works for us.)

  • Kate R. says:

    Our pastor talks about having a “celebration tithe” where you set aside something to just enjoy life with. If you can only spare $1 a week, go get that icecream cone. Personally, I think a treat, once in a while, helps preserve the sanity. Jesus came to give us life abundantly, and while that can be abused by jet-setting prosperity preachers, having fun that costs money is not inherently immoral. Just like anything else frugality can become an idol.

  • mmmmms says:

    The only splurge I do is window shopping at the new revamped mall, then I walk across the street to TJ Maxx and Ross right next to each other no less and get what my hubby needs, I do pick myself up a nice purse once in a blue moon, all cash and feel great, I get some air from the Mall forced air, never consider purchases or food in the mall, wonder about the people using credit cards to boost their egos only..One can live on far less with cash and those stores Maxx, Ross have good stuff for little money tuesdays 10 or 15 percent off for older consumers, yah yah and more yah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think splurging once in a while is very important.

    I really wanted to take a big vacation this year (read: expensive) but instead we are going camping for nine nights. This is an unbelievably cheap way to take a vacation.

    But at the same time, I might have to splurge for a hot air balloon ride. I really want to go and at $235/person, it’s a big hit to my wallet. But if not now, when? If I have the money, why shouldn’t I? When you’re consumed with being frugal, it’s easy to miss out on the things you would love to do once in a lifetime.

  • Amy says:

    I so agree with your post!
    For our little family we love to travel so our splurges usually involve splurging on gas to get us places. We usually pack a picnic lunch or supper, take the GPS for geocaching or plan ahead and find city parks/playgrounds, trails, or other outdoor activities and make the best of it for just the cost of gas. Every once in a while we find a hidden gem and spend money to get in, like an Eagle Sanctuary or Fort Museum which were our past two day trips. Our splurges usually are just forms of entertainment or things to do to keep our kids (and my husband and I) active and entertained. And I’m blessed with great traveler’s as they love to explore new places now too!

  • Shelly says:

    This is so true for us. We will scrimp and save on certain things but have a little more freedom in other areas on occasion. It is best to have a good balance in life.

  • WilliamB says:

    How do you define “splurge”?

    Having read all the comments to date I’ve seen a number of items I, personally, wouldn’t consider a splurge for the purchasers; the tandem bike springs to mind. Or take food: is a $3 canteloupe at the farmer’s market a splurge? What about a $1.5o one at the supermarket? Or a canteloupe at all given that plums, at $.50/lb, are the least expensive fruit in my area?

    Here’s a different way to frame the question: My mortgage is my only debt (and it’d be financially stupid to prepay it) and I save from every paycheck. Does this mean that nothing I spend money on is a splurge, because I have enough for it?

    I’m not trying to be picky. I’m genuinely interested in what y’all think is a splurge. One thing: please don’t say it’s different for everyone. Because of course it is, right? I’d like to know what makes something a splurge *for you*. Something over a certain dollar amount, like a $100 anything? Somthing fancier than it has to be, like the farmer’s market canteloupe? Something pleasant but entirely unnecessary, like a massage?

    • Ann says:

      I’d define a splurge as something that exceeds your normal budget for a given category. So if your weekly food budget is $50, and your normal allocation is $5 for fruit, that $3 cantelope would put you over budget so it’s a splurge.

    • celia says:

      We would define splurging as something outside of our normal monthly budget. For example, we were visiting my dad and saw a beautiful picture at an art gallery. It was 300 dollars and we bought it on the spot. That’s a lot of money for us, but we love art and we love that we are helping to support an artist. We also consider a one dollar ice cream cone a splurge because we do not buy ice cream out of the house all the time. Mainly because if I am going to feed my son ice cream then I want to buy organic ice cream. related to that, we spend a ton of money at the grocery store on organic food because we feel the high cost is worth it in the long run. So we consider organic food a necessity where someone else might not. It all depends on your priorities. That’s why a budget works so well. budgeting necessities so you know what you can spend on luxuries. I almost never spend money on personal care like a salon, because we can’t afford it. But we could if I fed my family conventional food. So when I get a salon treatment that is really something special to me.

  • Caroline says:

    The last item in my budget is marked “fun money.” It tends to be the same amount each month but if I have any unexpected expenses I’ll adjust it. Not only is this spending money, but I give myself free reign to spend it however I see fit. If I want to go to lunch with co-workers or go to Starbucks several times or buy a pair of shoes, I do. I always like to get the best value for my money, so I naturally make the most of that money. But I do not let myself feel guilty for how I spend that money. I’ve found that I’ve actually been able to save a little bit more money each month because I don’t feel so restricted and rarely splurge on items not in the budget.

  • Patti says:

    I consider a splurge when I am able to do something without thinking how much it costs. We tend to splurge on things that make good family memories – vacations and experiences. I use my skills to plan the best I can, then we go and enjoy it.

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